Betsy Brown Braun, author of "Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents" and "You're Not the Boss of Me" is a child development and behavior specialist, parent educator and founder of Parenting Pathways Inc. Braun shares ideas on how parents can redefine learning and make everyday activities educational and fun for kids this summer.
The Lazy Days of Summer
First it was red jello. Then it was sugary juice. Now summer is the enemy. And it's getting a bad rap. Summer Slide. Brain Drain. Whatever you call it, what was once the most carefree and welcome season of the year has been vilified as a threat to our kids' learning. Even a recent Rand Corp. study points to the ways in which children fall behind in their learning during the beloved months of summer.
Wait a second! Time out! This doesn't have to be the case. The problem lies in how one defines learning. And it is so much more than the three Rs and all that is associated with classroom activities. Learning is about thinking, exploring, questioning, expanding your horizons, having new experiences and using and growing the skills you have cultivated all year long.
Learning, and learning in the summer in particular, wears so many different faces that it doesn't always fall into the category of "learning" (hear the groan?) as kids come to know it. Learning in summer offers much that the school year doesn't. Summer brings time that is unstructured, schedules that are less encumbered, environments that are untraditional and ripe for discovery, and opportunities to create and follow your own interests and lesson plans. It is a time of year that is ripe with real learning opportunities for kids of all ages, learning that is not limited to the three Rs and drill and kill. Summer gives us the chance to stretch and expand thinking. So, let's reframe and put a whole new spin on that word "learning."
Wherever you are, learning opportunities abound. As parents we can keep our kids' brains active and sparking, with new synapses forming all summer long. Some of this happens with our help, and some happens if we leave our kids alone (and unplug the enemy screens). Remember, kids need time to play, with and without friends. In those unstructured, unscripted, unplanned times, they are growing ideas. Isn't that learning?
In the summer, the parent becomes a teacher of a different sort, seeing opportunities and potential in everyday activities and adventures. Whether you are in your own home, running errands, taking a family field trip, there are learning opportunities aplenty. With a little creativity and a dash of resourcefulness, parents can help children see that learning is fun and active, happens outside of the school walls, and is not limited to workbooks and forced reading assignments.
Car Games for Kids
The car is a learning environment. Instead of relying on the DVD and other tech devices, turn your child's brain and senses on. Old-fashioned car games, giving points for answers, involve the whole family.
Play "I'm Going on a Trip" and practice memory and alphabet skills. (Each person adds an item, going A to Z, and each turn repeats the whole list. Person No. 3 says I am going on a trip, and I am taking an Apple, a Basketball, and a Caterpillar. And then onto the the next person. I am going on a trip, and I am taking a ...
Play "I spy" using shapes in the world that is passing you by (Who can find a triangle shape?)
Play "Out of State License" spotting.
Play spotting games of all kinds: Who can find a license that has a G in it? Who can find a license plate whose numbers add up to more than 10?
Play math word games: Daddy can eat 3 pickles in 5 minutes. How man pickles can he eat in an hour.
Calling All Parents! How Do You Prevent Kids' Summer Brain Drain? Send 'GMA' Your Creative Ideas, Tricks to Sneak In Learning