I do feel very strongly that kids should have a lot of unscheduled fun over summer break and days filled with swimming, picnics, playdates, and popsicles. Our family (like most!) is heavily scheduled throughout the school year with school commitments and extra curriculars, and the kids need some time to rest and relax! However, academic regression over the summer months is a real concern – in fact, studies have shown that kids achievement scores decline over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning. While I do allow my kids a lot of unstructured, fun time – I do have a few summer rules at our house to make sure that we are still making time for some educational activities every day.
My biggest rule is – the kids are required to read for a minimum of 20 minutes a day. Typically we will sit down together at night and read as a family – and it is something the kids really look forward to (and most nights we read well beyond our minimum time)! Video games are restricted to Friday-Sunday all year, and we continue this during the summer months. We also take advantage of numerous library programs offered over the summer (the kids just finished their first reading challenge and already each earned a free book!), and I typically will buy the kids inexpensive toys/games that have some educational value as I see things throughout the year to give them over the summer months. (I also try to think ahead at holidays like Easter & Christmas for gifting things they can play with over summer!). We also visit our local zoo and Discovery Center several times over the summer, and am also thinking about looking into the Art Museum for kids’ activities as well. In today’s post, I wanted to share some great games and activities for fun learning at home this summer!
GAMES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
My older kiddo (he’s eight!) loves playing Battleship with his dad. This game is great for critical thinking as well as some math skills (like axis awareness). Hi-Ho! Cherry-O is a great game for younger kids teaching them basic math skills like counting, addition, and subtraction. Spot It! is a great game you can take anywhere with you, and develops focus, visual perception skills, speech-language skills, and fine motor skills. Chickapig is an award winning game for ages 8 and up. The game takes a bit longer to play, but it is simple to learn while still being highly engaging, competitive, and teaches strategy! Zingo is another award winning game which is great for teaching pre-reading skills.
You certainly don’t need to spend any money to simply get kids outside and observing nature. That said, having a fun exploration kit can help kids connect with their inner explorer and encourage them to find bugs, learn direction with a compass, and look for all kinds of critters with binoculars! I love the simplicity of this scavenger hunt which makes it perfect for even little explorers. And if you weren’t already aware – June is a great month for stargazing! Jupiter is visible to the naked eye (it’s located right by the moon!) this month. We went stargazing the other night and with our small telescope, we were even able to see Jupiter’s 4 largest moons! I also highly recommend the SkyView app for finding constellations and planets (it is so cool!). Boise also has a few great (and free!) outdoor educational opportunities like the MK Nature Center and the Oregon Trail walks.
For Easter Cole was given a similar gemstone dig kit and he had an absolute blast excavating and learning about the types of stones! He was also gifted a similar, smaller snap electric circuit to this one, and it is a super fun and educational toy (this one above was a toy of the year nominee!). Both of my kids absolutely LOVE playing with magnatiles. This is one of their favorite toys that they both reach for over and over. Legos are always another favorite option, and they can spend hours coming up with their own creations! And if I’m going to allow my kids iPads during the week – it must be for something educational. Osmo has been a huge hit in our house for several years now!
Both of my kids really love to draw, and it’s something they do nearly every day. My younger one has fun using the easel, while my big one uses an art set that has everything a budding artist needs! My older one also likes writing and illustrating his own short stories and comic strips, so I am loving this kit which also includes printing and delivery of their very own book! Both of my kids always have fun taking photos with the iPad, and I think upgrading them an actual camera they can pack around with them this summer would be a lot of fun for them.
My kids love slime. As in they are literally entertained by it for hours. Play-doh is also a lot of fun, especially a kit like this that includes cutters. These water beads look so cool and have a ton of different educational activities you can do with them (sensory, sorting, counting, colors, hand/eye coordination) and there is even a fun gun you can buy to shoot them (if you have boys you know how guns make everything more fun)! My little one has a water table at his preschool, and it is his absolute favorite thing to play with on the playground! We have an old one that has seen better days, and I’ve been eyeing buying this one.
LETTERS & NUMBERS
Cole’s teacher this past year was really big on the kids learning their math facts very early on in the year. We are now working on multiplication and division facts at home to give Cole a little head start for 3rd grade! Early reading activities are something we are working on with Evan this summer, and we just recently purchased this chalkboard we can take with us to practice writing and simple word recognition. And of course lots of reading for everyone and these books are a few favorites we’ve been reading on repeat!
Giving kids time and opportunity for imaginative play is so important! I love seeing my kids using their imaginations and coming up with games! My little one absolutely loves playing dress up, shopkeeper, play (or real!) cooking, and he has this exact tool set and is completely obsessed with it.
Here’s to a fun and educational summer!