For kids everywhere, summer vacation is here. As their focus turns to sleeping in and swimming pools, students work towards the last day of school, where inevitably many will flip an internal switch— LEARNING OFF, PLAY TIME ON! But the two don’t have to be—shouldn’t be—mutually exclusive.
There is a wealth of research that supports the idea that children greatly benefit from learning over the summer. Without educational engagement, students can forget many of the skills they just acquired—in reading, spelling, and particularly, in math. Similarly, the importance of play in child development is a widely researched topic. According to a 2007 report from the American Association of Pediatrics, play helps children reach essential social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones.
“One of the best, most effective, ways for students to learn is through play. It is both a natural and research-supported approach that educators use all the time,” commented Senior Vice President for Curriculum and Instruction for Connections Academy, Dr. Patricia Hoge. “The great thing about summer is that it offers students a lot more time to play to their hearts content—to really explore a subject, ask questions and think – and this helps kids’ brains stay sharp. For parents who are uncertain about where to find the ‘teachable moments’ in play, our teachers have come up with some great tips to get you started.”
In honor of today – which is National Summer Learning Day – the educators at leading virtual school Arizona Connections Academy are encouraging parents to use games to combat summer learning loss. Here are their “Top 10 Summer Learning Tips” featuring games to help give kids an educational boost while enjoying summer fun!
1. Take a Chance!
Monopoly and Monopoly Junior are classic board games that put math skills to the test. Counting money, buying and selling, and making change, all reinforce math concepts that many students are learning as early as first grade and kindergarten. Be sure to stop the game as needed to explain and assist with math problems.
2. Move over Milton Bradley… Invent a Game
Encourage children to get creative and develop their own board game. Use a piece of cardboard as the “board”, break out the crayons and markers, and let imaginations run wild. Refer to favorite games like Candy Land for ideas about structure and format. Kids will have a ball making their own playing pieces and even dice with modeling clay. This activity is an artistic way to boost logic skills. Don’t forget to ask children to write directions – it’s a great way to support reading and writing. Fun Fact: Check out the history of Candy Land on Hasbro’s website.
3. Test your knowledge - Online Trivia Quiz Challenge
Check out an interactive online educational activity that you and your kids can play together. Connections Academy’s free online Quiz Bowl Challenge is available to the public and features 20 trivia questions about “fun & games” – board games, playground games, sports, and more. Visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com/quiz to play – correct answers lead to bronze, silver and gold virtual medals. A challenge feature lets you send to friends.
4. Chalk it up
Replicate and enlarge a word search outdoors (in your driveway or in your favorite park) using sidewalk chalk. Kids will love the giant scale of their word search and will have fun practicing reading and spelling while searching for words. Try using different themes for each puzzle (book characters, presidents, states, etc.) to encourage your child to learn more about that particular subject or topic. Need an extra challenge— have your child make up a word search for mom and dad! Be sure to check park rules to make sure that sidewalk chalk is allowed.
5. Be Wordy
With Scrabble and Scrabble Junior Edition, students can dig deep into their vocabulary for words that will get the highest score—and they won’t even realize that they are practicing spelling at the same time. Ask kids to use vocabulary words from the previous school year, and award extra points if they can use the words in a sentence. When children come across a word they don’t know, refresh research skills and break out the dictionary and explore the definition together. Try making a rule that words must be three or more letters.
6. Deal out the Fun
Pyramid solitaire is a great way for students to keep those basic math skills in check—it’s a great game to play when family and friends are not available. Students will practice their addition finding pairs of cards that add up to 13, and removing them from the pyramid until there are no more pairs left. To learn how to play, visit www.solitairecity.com/Help/Pyramid.shtml. Seems too simple for your child? Try racing the clock! Can your child beat his or her time the second and third time playing? Better yet, let them race you!
7. Jump on it
Add an educational twist to Hopscotch that will challenge children’s math skills. Instead of drawing the traditional hopscotch board with chalk, replicate a calculator large enough for your child to jump on the buttons. Kids can pick a number and then start creating math equations using addition and subtraction! To learn the details of how to play, visit familyfun.go.com, and search for Do-the-Math Hopscotch. Want more of a challenge? Try multiplication and division for a real brain boost.
8. Game (show) on
Trivia-packed Jeopardy is one of the most popular and educational television game shows around. Why not develop your own, modified, version? Children will enjoy coming up with their own trivia categories and can use their research skills to come up with tricky trivia questions to stump their friends. To play, assign dollar amounts to each trivia question. For each correct answer kids are “awarded” the dollar amount. No real money is used, but keeping score of their winnings reinforces math skills. And be sure to encourage educational topics that stretch beyond “The Life of Justin Beiber”.
9. Seek, Look, Find
Scavenger hunts are fun for all ages, and adding an educational element is easier than you think. Instead of using a list of objects, give your child clues that will lead to various objects around the backyard, playground or park. (Example: Find an object that might be classified as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. Answer: rock.) For an extra challenge, use riddles for identifying objects. Kids will be so wrapped up in the hunt they won’t even realize they’re using problem solving skills! For a large group, divide everyone into teams.
10. Read to me
Although it doesn’t possess the same “game” qualities as the other tips on this list, no summer learning tips list would be complete without paying homage to the simple and joyful act of reading to and with children. Take turns reading pages, start a chapter book that can be read in installments, and make up your own stories (maybe even about a magical playground or spooky board game). Parents and children alike will benefit from this activity and it will encourage a lifelong love of reading.
About Connections Academy
Connections Academy is a leading, fully accredited provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual schooling for students in grades K through 12. Through tuition-free public schools, and full-time and part-time private school programs, Connections Academy delivers superior, personalized education for students, with the freedom and flexibility to experience our online learning community from anywhere. The combination of certified teachers, a proven curriculum, technology tools, and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. In the 2011–12 school year, Connections Academy will serve students in 22 states via 23 virtual public schools. It serves students worldwide through the online private school, National Connections Academy. Connections Academy offers grades K through 12, though some public school programs do not offer all grades. Connections Academy is a division of Connections Education LLC. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com.