Fun Summer Activities

Last week we wrote about what academics you could review with your child over summer vacation. We thought we would follow that up with activities you could do with your child that are both fun and educational. Often times the learning that children remember the most are the ones that are hands on and fun. Summer vacation is a great time to do things with your child to engage them and create long lasting memories. Below are some of the activities that you could do with your child over summer vacation.

FUN, EDUCATIONAL, and HEALTHY things to do:

1) Visit Museums- Children love museums because they are curious about the world around them. Museums also offer a nice cool place to visit during the hot summer days. Most museums have kid sections and/or activities. You could bring notebooks and pencils and have children sketch or take notes at different exhibits. Many museums offer free tickets for children, we suggest you call and ask or check their websites.  

2) Volunteer- Teaching children to give back to their community is important. Children absolutely love helping others, and volunteering their time is the perfect activity for children. Volunteer Match helps match you with different organizations that need volunteers nearby. Habitat for Humanity has opportunities for children of all ages to volunteer. If your child is an animal lover then The Human Society is a great organization to look into for volunteer opportunities.

3) Use Chalk or Bubbles- It does not matter how old children are, from kindergarten to 5th grade, children love bubbles and chalk. We’ve made soapy bubble water with dish detergent in a bucket and used ropes to make huge bubbles. It was a hit with our classes, and the children did not want to stop making huge bubbles. Using chalk to draw, spell words, or make a game is another great activity to do on summer days. You could practice sight words, math facts, or just let them be creative.

3) Visit the Library- Most libraries have a children’s area with picture and chapter books. They usually also have story time where the librarian reads books to children. If you or your child are at a loss about what to read during the summer, the librarians might also have suggested summer reading lists based on grades or ages. Reading is one of the most important thing that you can do with your child to promote fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, so going to the library and checking out books is a really good idea.

4) Go on a Nature Walk- This can be a local hike, park, beach, or even just a walk around the block. You can have your child collect leaves, rocks, sticks or petals and then have them create a collage, sketch them out, or write descriptively about what they collected.

5) Visit a Beach, River, or Lake- This one might be easier for those of us who live near a body of water, but if you are able to find a beach, river, or lake then you could learn about landforms first, and then go and enjoy a day at one of them.

6) Cook a meal together- Cooking with your child can promote health, togetherness, and also can incorporate math and science. During the school year cooking together might be more difficult between homework, practices, and work. During summer, this is a great way to engage your child’s senses and get them to be more adventurous about food.

7) Visit Nature Centers- Check out your local nature centers. They are usually free and might offer a nearby hike.

8) Have Lunch Outdoors at a Park- This is a great, inexpensive way to get out of the house and spend the afternoon in nature. This is also something you can do last minute. Pack a lunch and find a local park! Bring books to read, games to play, or just sit and enjoy nature.

9) Go Camping- while this takes a little more planning and organizing, it is a great way to spend a long weekend. Put down the screens and spend some time disconnected. According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes having unstructured play outside while they spend over 7 hours on a screen. If your child learns to appreciate nature early on, we believe they will become more balanced.

10) Go on Bike Rides- this can be something that is done as a family. Instead of sitting around the TV after dinner, grab your bikes and go for a quick family bike ride. You can even ride your bike to grab an ice cream, or ride to a local restaurant.

We understand that not every single hour of the day will be filled with one of these things. Kids need to learn to be bored, how to entertain themselves, and the adults in their lives don’t need to feel obligated to spend every waking hour entertaining their children. Parents have a lot to do, and they need balance too. We do believe that providing space for children to participate in these types of activities will help them become more balanced and want to make healthier choices when they do have free time.

Some of these activities cost money and some are free. Most cities have events pages as well that you can find free events happening in your city. If you live the Los Angeles are here are some resources to find local events:

https://www.laparent.com/

https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/events

https://www.laweekly.com/

Screen Time and Children

21st Century children have never known a world without smartphones, the internet, tablets, or social media. When we first began teaching, a little over a decade ago, we had to teach children how to use a mouse, navigate on a computer, and introduce tablets. We no longer have to do that. Many toddlers know how to turn on smartphones or tablets, and open to the home screen. They can even navigate Youtube to look for cartoons or videos of other children opening toys. Most, if not all, of our students come into our classes with the knowledge of how to use technology. Often times, it is second nature to them. Devices and social networks are changing childhood in extreme ways and we need to find strategies to help our children develop into healthy and balanced individuals.

The students that come into our classrooms are vastly different than the students we taught at the beginning of our careers. We have noticed that many children today are use to constant visual stimulation and instant gratification. They are not sure what to do with themselves when they do not have a device and many feel uncomfortable being bored. Their social emotional skills are underdeveloped because kids are spending more time on devices and less time playing and interacting with other children.

We are not doctors or psychologists (yet) and we cannot diagnose or treat people. And while there may be a variety of reasons for this shift in children, we believe that the biggest factor in this drastic and rapid change in our children is technology. It is our responsibility to find ways to both educate kids on healthy technology use and offset the effects of this digital revolution.

Now this post is not about how horrible technology is. In fact, we love technology, we use it in our classrooms to augment and enhance lessons, look up information for the class, and connect our students to the world. Yet, we also incorporate cutting, glueing, writing with pencils, cursive, coloring, dancing, performing, and most importantly playing and social skills. This is because there has to be balance in our classroom between technology and real world experiences. Our big theme is balance for children. We advocate balance for children, and the area of technology is no exception in and out of the classroom.

According to Dr. Tovah Klein, an expert on early childhood development, the more you use a device to calm your kids down, the less they are able to do it for themselves because they do not learn that skill. If devices are used all the time by children, they will not actually learn how to socialize, how to behave in different places and with a variety of people. They will not learn how to be bored and they will not be able to figure out a way to entertain themselves. If they have constant access to everything on the internet, they will not learn how to be creative themselves. They will not learn inventive play because they won’t have to. We need to make sure we are creating the space for them to do these things because it doesn’t organically happen like it did when we were kids.

What we can do as parents and teachers:

  • Limit Screen time
    • Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving
    • Find media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms
    • Model device free for them
    • Do not use devices in restaurants and stores
    • Let your child be bored so that they can play and develop social skills and creativity
  • Teach proper device use
    • Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
    • When they use a device, interact with them. Educational apps are great, we use them!

What society can do:

  • Stop judging parents over a crying child
  • Stop giving dirty looks to parents and families on airplanes
  • Stop expecting kids to be silent at restaurants and in public places

There is an immense amount of pressure put on parents today to know it all, do it all, and to have the perfect happy family. Kids have emotions and no matter what we do, we can’t control when they throw a fit, are feeling sad, have an outburst in a restaurant or make a scene in a grocery store. When kids are not quiet and perfect, parents are judged by society. It has become routine to throw a device at a child to keep them quiet in a public space. Let’s work together to make it okay for kids to make noise and be kids. Let’s not be so judgmental when we see a struggling parent or a misbehaving child. We don’t know the full story. What we do know is that these devices that we use to keep our kids quiet are having a real strain on our children and society as a whole. We all play a role whether we have children, are in education, work in the tech industry, or are a childless bystander. We all have an obligation to help kids navigate a world that has been revolutionized by digital media.

Additional Resources

Screen Time Labs

Common Sense

ABC News

Dr. Tovah Klein

American Academy of Pediatrics

CNN

Time