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Episode 008: Summer Learning and Lazy Days

Updated: Aug 5, 2018

Summer is a time for fun, creativity, imagination, and experimentation!

But caution!! Kids are looking for a break from formal studies and a chance to be curious, adventurous, and in many cases, lazy. And that’s not a bad thing!

Parents often feel a need to fill their kid’s time with activities, camps, and new experiences, which can be wonderful and fun. But they can also be tiring and overwhelming when they’ve just spent the last 9 mos with their time filled from morning til night. Be cautious about filling their schedule non stop. Let them have downtime!

Summer is a great opportunity to let kids explore their interests in a low key way and follow their lead to see where it goes. Offer them some ideas but let them decide what they want to pursue. Let them be bored! Boredom is the beginning of imagination!

Parent dread the “draw of the screens” but they can also be a great brain builder too. “In the old days” parents rarely made kids stop reading books but they can think of many of the current computer/video games like interactive books. Kids need to follow instructions, interact with the characters, follow a plot/theme or story line, and think strategically. So don’t dismiss video games immediately, really examine the games they want to play and see what value they might have and be selective in what you choose together. Decide on limits if that’s important to your family and work around them. Some people have specific days that are screen free or daily limits and others have no limits at all. Think about what works best for your family dynamics and discuss the parameters as a family.

Libraries are an invaluable resource year round, but especially in the summer. A regular trip to the library with instructions to choose any books they want can lead to a wonderful variety of books and interests. Don’t forget the audio books and many libraries have other items to check out such as games, science kits, or legos. E books and audio books can also be checked out on line and audio books are wonderful for long trips in the car or even daily commutes.

Even non readers or those that struggle with reading often love audio books.

Don’t forget to check out free apps for audio books as well! These have the pictures and pages of the books but it is still it read it aloud so the child can follow along.

It can be overwhelming to stock up on a ton of activity kits of the summer but I have some favorite tried and true options as a place to start:

(We have used all the items listed and recommend them)

*Subscription kits come monthly and contain supplies and activities related to a specific theme or project.

A few I recommend: is for targeted to ages 3-8 (but can be used for up to age 10) and contains a hardcover book with 10 related activities including crafts, science facts and an experiment, literacy activities, games, and math manipulatives. (approx $40 per month) has multiple crates designed for different ages from 0-16+. I’m familiar with the Tinker Crate for ages 9-16+ which comes with a cool STEM project and all the supplies, blueprints, and extra related activities. These projects have been very engaging and impressive from a working crane to the ever popular trebuchet. (approx $20 per month)

*Science experiment kits:

-Snap Circuits are a fun electronics discovery kit and can be reused in different configurations. Many different sizes of kits. Here’s a basic set:

-Volcano Science kit (though you can make your own with cardboard, paper mache, plastic tube/cup, baking soda, vinegar, and red food coloring)

-National Geographic Dig kits (gemstones, fossils, or shark teeth)

-Clifford the Big Red Dog Young Science kits-bubbles-

-Sun Print paper-use various items to make designs-leaves, cookie cutters, use pipe cleaners to shape, fun foam shapes, etc.

*Science Tools:

-Carson MicroBrite Plus 60x-120x Power LED Lighted Pocket Microscope (MM-300)

We love this one!

-Bug catchers (homemade or dollar store)


-Tweezers/tongs (dollar store)

-Cheap tools (dollar store)

*Unique Art Supplies:

-Melissa and Doug Scratch Art paper

-Water color crayons (color than paint with water to see it transform)

-Wikki Stix (like pipe cleaners but waxy)

Finally, some ideas on how to implement some of these ideas….many time parents want to announce that “today we are doing science” and proceed to outline the day and the kids may groan and feel forced into something they aren’t interested in. Certainly don't buy a bunch of things even if they look cool to you! ;) Talk to the kids about their interests and try to gage what they might be interested in. Buy a few things to see how it goes. Buy more if they indicate more interest.

I’ve found the “strewing method” to be quite successful. Choose a few of the resources, kits, books, etc that you have gathered and leave them strategically around the house. Maybe a few different books are left on the bed, on the couch, on coffee tables, in the car. Leave some of the supplies in a basket or tin on the table or counter.

You are basically leaving things out for the kids to discover on their own so they WANT to engage in the activity. Some things may get no interest now but will in a few weeks so don’t worry if they don’t draw any attention yet. Just put them away and try again in a week or 2.

Think of yourself as a facilitator, not a teacher, in the summer. Offer, guide, support, and snuggle but don't push, over schedule, or stress about "learning". Learning is organic, not manufactured.

(Full disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you order through the link, however, the price to you is the same regardless. Thank you!)

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