As kids start to focus more on sleeping in and swimming pools, 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, and the importance of play in child development is a widely researched topic. During the summer, kids usually get more time to play and really let their curiosity lead them to explore and ask questions, which helps kids' brains stay sharp.
In celebration of National Summer Learning Day, enjoy these ideas for games that help give kids an educational boost while enjoying summer fun!
- 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.
- 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.
- Test Your Knowledge — Online Trivia Quiz
Play Connections Academy's free online “Quiz Bowl” Trivia Challenge that features 20 trivia questions about “fun & games”—board games, playground games, sports, and more. Kids can play and then challenge their friends to beat their score!
- 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.
- 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 to explore the definition together. Try making a rule that words must be three or more letters.
- 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. Learn how to play here. Try racing the clock! Can your child beat his or her time the second and third time playing? Better yet, let them race you!
- 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.
- 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 create 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 Bieber.”
- 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.
- 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.
Do you have other ideas to encourage learning through fun and games? Share with us here!