Cut Yourself Some Slack: Your Kids Are Still Learning Through Play This Summer

With distance learning and school cancellations, parents are definitely feeling the pressure not to let their kids “fall behind.” This summer, however, try to remember that you don’t need structured schooling: Children can play and learn. In fact, there are any number of activities that your kids can do this summer—and year-round—that feel like just having fun but actually reinforce learning.

I know this idea would have helped me relax and enjoy the summer days with my kids. I wouldn’t have felt so guilty about time spent making mud pies, building forts, dressing up Polly Pockets, or just daydreaming on the couch. Since then, I’ve learned that play develops skills tied to patience, collaboration, following directions, self-sufficiency, and more.

Think about it: play is the way babies first learn, and that doesn’t stop as they get older. Designing blanket forts promotes spatial reasoning and STEM skills. Drawing, coloring, and painting reinforce concepts like color and line. Pretend play exercises those all important creativity and problem-solving muscles.

To enhance opportunities for summer learning, you can take three simple steps:

Identify their interests. What does your child like to do? Tailor activities to their interests and passions. Nature lovers can explore outdoors and track their findings in a journal. Got builders? Supply them with blocks or LEGOs and challenge them to create a tower, castle, or bridge. For performers, encourage them to put on a show complete with sets and costumes!

 

Brainstorm together. Ask your child: “If you could make one thing, learn to do one thing, explore one thing this summer, what would it be?”  Or maybe: “Let’s make lists of the things we want to learn/make/do this summer!” Maybe they want to learn how to juggle or learn a new language. The more kids initiate the ideas, the better. Let them lead. 

 

Plan for a more involved activity. Break the project into steps and have your child try and do some on their own, providing lots of encouragement along the way. For younger kids, you might bake some cookies. Talk through the steps (gathering ingredients, mixing, etc.) and find things they can do by themselves (like cracking eggs). Help older children make a plan to run their own lemonade stand or make a bird feeder. 

 

So if you’ve been worrying about coming up with daily lesson plans for your child, I hope this reminds you that you likely already have all you need for them to have an engaging, fun, and educational summer. Keeping a positive, flexible attitude—and teaching them to do the same—is a lesson already.

 

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