Educators often bemoan the loss of learning in their students over the two-month summer break in the school year. Indeed, children do forget some facts and learning strategies and may take a few weeks in the fall to bounce back into classroom routines. One way to keep kids in a learning mode during the summer break is to give play center stage, something that should be an intimate part of school life in the early years.
For parents planning for summer, I suggest structured activities such as art workshops and camps. These provide for adventurous learning with more opportunities for self-expression and recreational skill development than the school year usually can offer. But unstructured time’allowing for the natural flow from boredom to activities invented by children themselves or suggested by parents’provide special learning opportunities. Keeping materials, such as safe scissors, glue, washable paints and markers and paper, accessible allows for these sorts of spontaneous projects.
One colleague, a child psychologist, suggests providing children with a section of the family garden or a few pots on a patio or windowsill. If space permits, raising cherry tomatoes, which ripen fast and are small enough to be plucked and served by the child, is a particularly apt choice. Talk with them about the process of growing things and read them books with garden themes. These activities can enrich a child’s sensitivity to the pleasure of the outdoors as they learn.