Summer may be just beginning, but before we know it, the first day of the dreaded “s” word (school!) will soon be around the corner.
While some kids may be bundled off to camp, downtime at home can lead some parents (and grandparents and babysitters and willing/unwilling adult caregivers) to search for what to do next, other than parking kids in front of the television, especially in a heat wave.
Here are some ideas to keep those noggins active:
Bake and Cook
I used to work on a kids cooking show, so I’m definitely a biased proponent for getting kids in the kitchen. However, cooking and baking can be a great way to teach and learn fractions (“how many 1/8 cups do you need to make a half cup?”), accurate measurements, and life skills, all at the same time. If kids can develop a passion for eating healthily and making conscious nutrition decisions, then everybody wins. Get kids to search for recipes through cooking apps (like the Jamie Oliver apps) or online for recipes that they’d like to try (though you should give parameters, like “nothing that has foie gras or caviar in it”), then you can adapt accordingly to what’s in your kitchen.
For older kids with higher reading levels, I highly recommend using Yummly.com since you can filter out ingredients in the search for recipes, but there’s also Epicurious.com and my favourite (because I worked on it), Tastebudstv.com, which can also be great for younger kids. For sites specifically dealing with co-cooking with kids, try articles by Food Network, and Canadian Living.
You can also take advantage of farmers’ markets or visit grocery stores together, introducing kids to new kinds of produce. Grocery stores are also a great place for kids to learn how to budget (“you only have $20 to spend on additional ingredients”), use math for tallying, read labels, and learn about ingredient substitution (i.e. ground beef on sale is cheaper than the turkey originally needed for the recipe).
As long as the material is age-appropriate, encourage young readers to absorb whatever interests them, even if you think comic books have less text. (It’s still reading!) Summer is a great time to explore libraries at a more leisurely pace than rushed Saturday mornings, and many are now adopting mobile apps so searching for, reserving and renewing items is made slightly easier, more so when an automated email is sent to remind you.
Visit Tourist Attractions
If you can, opt for more educational attractions (as opposed to purely fun or recreational) like zoos, farms, aquariums, science centres, museums and sites of historical significance. With mobile apps and renovations to appeal more to kids, tourism boards and the establishments themselves are making a concerted effort to make attractions more … attractive.
If there are images of soldiers with weapons on the cover of a video game, there’s a good chance that it’s not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18. For school-aged kids, try opting for virtual worlds with an educational slant, word games, or puzzle games. Board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly can encourage social skill development for things like taking turns, helping, sharing, and fair play, as well as math (for calculating points or money) and literacy.
Playing outdoors and getting active in the sun is always a big part of summer, but for rainy days, using a Wii, Kinect or PlayStation Move can help burn off some of that excess energy.
Kids can do stuff like build volcanoes during the school year, so what I’m really suggesting here are things that have cool end products, like rock candy, lemon-powered clocks, pickling, and sand castles. For starters, try sites like the Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking site.
Attend Concerts and Performances
Summertime is filled with opportunities to take advantage of free outdoor concerts and festivals. Introduce kids to classical and other types of music with a brief overview of the different instruments. Likewise with dance performances, an introduction to the intricacies of costumes and technique may help to appreciate different art forms.
Overall, school breaks are a great time to introduce kids to things that they wouldn’t necessarily experience in school, such as a tourist attraction in French (aquariums and zoos are great places to build French vocabulary), a particular museum exhibit, a tango performance or opera. But even at home, schools don’t always have kitchens, nor the materials or resources, or the individualized attention that some kids may need. Thinking about “what’s different from school” may help in planning and keep summer a breeze!