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Summer school (the fun kind)

For kids, summer is a time to play, have fun and relax. Educational activities aren’t typically on the top of their list, but it’s important to find fun ways to keep them learning during their off months.

There are plenty of fun things they can do to keep learning, develop new hobbies and build on skills they’ve been working on in school. Hoping to keep your child’s academic skills sharp this summer?

Take a look at these seven fun ideas.

1. Record family adventures.

Summers are filled with plenty of great activities, from days at the beach to family vacations. Have your child create a scrapbook that includes souvenirs from each trip, such as postcards, brochures and items they pick up at tourist attractions. Have your child write descriptions of what you did and where you went, and have them describe some of the adventures that happened on the trip. You can use sites such as Shutterfly or KodakGallery to help you create really nice looking photo books. Not only will it help them with their writing, but it will also be a great item to have for years to come.

2. Use technology.

Kids loves technology. Why not have them use it to continue learning during the summer months? There are plenty of great websites out there that are interactive and helpful. Check out Storyline Online to watch videos of actors reading children’s books out loud, or Smithsonian Kids Collecting, where kids can start a collection over the summer with the Smithsonian’s program. Funbrain is a great site that uses games to keep your kids learning – they won’t even realize they’re fine-tuning school skills.

3. Encourage theater.

summer-schoolIf your child enjoys drama or the arts, encouraging them to create their own puppet theater is a great activity, according to Great Schools. Begin by cutting off the finger-ends of old gloves, and then draw faces on the fingers with felt tip markers and glue on yarn for hair. You can also glue on felt strips if your child wants to make a cat, dog or other animal face. You can push their creativity even further by having them create a story for the puppets to act out. If your child is older, find books that have play scripts so they can create their own plays with friends. They’ll get to plan the performance, create tickets and then enjoy acting it out for friends and families.

4. Participate in reading programs.

Libraries are a great place to take your kids during the summer. They are plenty of fun events, and many have reading programs, which encourage kids to read for prizes. For example, Milwaukee Public Libraries have a Super Reader program for kids 12 and younger. They record what they’re reading and earn fun rewards along the way. They have an endless variety of summer programs as well, including o.m.g. I’m smart at their Capitol location, which focuses on learning new techniques when making art. There are several of these classes held throughout the summer, including 2 p.m. July 8, 3 p.m. July 15 and 4 p.m. July 22. Check out the Milwaukee Public Library website for a full breakdown of events.

5. Have them find their inner chef.

There are also some great sites out there that encourage children to cook and learn about the various ingredients they’re using. Cooking with Kids is a good one; it has lots of recipes for snacks and meals that kids can whip up themselves (with a little supervision). Spatulatta is another goodie, featuring plenty of healthy options for your kids to cook.

6. Explore science.

You’d be surprised at the everyday activities you can utilize to help keep your kids learning. For example, Family Education suggests having your kids examine their shadows. Ask your child to look at her shadow at different times of the day, so he or she can see the connection between the sun’s position in the sky and the length of their shadow. You can also have them use chalk on a sidewalk or a stick in the sand to trace their shadow, enabling them to see how it shrinks and grows with time. If your child is older have them measure and chart their shadow, adding explanations about when it’s shortest and why.

If they’re fascinated by critters, encourage them to use their curiosity to learn more about insects. Have them leave a piece of fruit outside, and then study what types of bugs it attracts. As long as they’re bugs that aren’t going to sting, younger kids can observe them with a magnifying glass and describe what they see, while older kids can work on classifying the insects.

7. Take advantage of museums.

There are so many wonderful museums in the metro-Milwaukee area. The Milwaukee Public Museum, Discovery World and the Waukesha County Museum are all great places to spend the day. With endless educational displays and interactive activities, your kids will be flexing their brain muscles all day without even realizing it’s happening. Also keep an eye out for events. For example, on July 11 Discovery World is hosting a CSI expedition, which is a series of fun-filled, crime-solving scavenger hunts where participants are the sleuths and the suspects. Your kids can solve the mystery by searching for clues, and can see how real crime-solving technology is used in the process.

About Kirsten Yovino

Kirsten Yovino is a Milwaukee-area resident and co-owner of brewcityparent.com.

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