Some ideas for activities, field trips, and toys that can help promote learning over summer break. These are FUN ideas that your children will love!
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I know many of us struggle with fears that our children will “lose” all they learned during summer break. It’s good to have some solid plans so you can do at least one educational activity each week.
My kids are 2 and 4 years old, and will be doing a couple of preschool classes this summer, but I try to supplement the 2 days a week school with activities of my own. I enjoy doing these activities with them. You might ask, “But Danielle, my kids are older. How will this apply?” To be honest, I am giving my kids a lot of activities and toys that are meant for much older kids. Sooooo… I think this will likely be relevant for the 12 and under crew. My kids aren’t going to take as much out of it as yours will, but they still get something out of it so it’s worthwhile to me.
The real key with these toys is to rotate them out and limit time with them. That way they never get boring. And if you help the kids with them 1:1, then it will be even more appealing to them. My kids use Magnatiles and Legos on their own, but the other toys are ones we use with them and educate as we go along.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Magnatiles or something similar. We really like this set, “PlayMags,” because they’re a bit cheaper and have a LOT of different fun options for variety of pieces.
- Snap Circuits are AMAZING. And rated for way older than 2 years old, but we got them for our oldest when he was 2 and just supervised heavily when he played with them. They have several sets so if you’ve already done the regular set too many times, you can pick up the arcade electronics, the light set, R/C Rover, motion electronics, or the Alternative Energy kit. Honestly, these are really educational. My husband is a computer and electrical engineer so it’s boring for him, but I focused more on bio and environmental science in school so this is very interesting and informative for me. I like to learn with my kids. The greatest challenge is learning with them and trying to rephrase so it’s age appropriate.
- Legos: I know, this doesn’t seem educational, but using the plans to build is a skill. It’s also quiet.
- Stem Robot Mouse Learning Activity: Don’t own this one, but adding it to our wishlist! It looks really neat.
- Learning Resources, Gears: We have something similar and the kids enjoy this!
- Microscope: Pick up a microscope for investigating new things at home. We have a really cool one but it’s older and they don’t seem to be producing it anymore.
- Telescope: We love to check out the stars and planets with our telescope. This is good if you let your kids stay up late. If you don’t want to buy one, you can check to see if there are local events for kids to star gaze. Our science center in Baltimore has this option, as do a few other places.
- Sign up for the Groovy Lab Box for the summer (or beyond)! This is SO much fun. We received one to review and it’s something I may buy my oldest for his 5th birthday because he LOVES science activities. My 2 year old was too young for it, but my 4 year old really enjoyed it. It’s intended for older kids (8+), but I helped him with it so it worked for us.
Getting it addressed to your child, then sitting down to work on it with them each month will help make this a really fun option for them. Because it’s mailed monthly, it will keep you on track too.
This setup includes a lab book with reading about the topic and places to answer questions related to the lab. This teaches organization in science- which if you’re ever done science, you know this is a VERY important skill.
Here’s a video of us playing with the lab:
- YouTube: Yes, it’s electronics and we “don’t want to have our kids sitting on a device all day” but I want to remind you- electronics can be HELPFUL. Educational. It’s all about how you use them. If my kids have a question, we look it up. If I think of something interesting, we look it up. There are some really neat YouTube channels that are educational. There are a few that show awesome science experiments…. we watch them and sometimes do them ourselves at home. So. Much. Fun. And it doesn’t NEED to be “made” for kids… my kids enjoy videos intended for grownups too.
Here are some good channels:
- Start a Garden: Gardening is an important task. It provides food to eat. You learn about how important water and sunshine is for growth. You learn how important it is to weed in order to save nutrients in the soil for your crops. Want to get your kids really involved? Forget selling lemonade- let them grow their crops all summer and sell them lemonade stand style.
Educational Field Trips
Trying to take an educational field trip once a week or so is a good idea. Make sure to let it be an educational experience- read the information on the signs, answer the kids’ questions, and check out the special events where the staff talk to groups and answer questions.
Pro Tip: Many memberships (for public sites like the zoo, aquarium and science center) are tax deductible! Save your receipts for tax season. Want to go while it’s quiet? Go after 1pm. The field trips usually are clearing out by 1 or 2 pm. I love the indoor museums for when it rains or is super hot.
- The Library! You’ll like the price tag on this one. It’s free. Head to the non fiction section and look for things your children are interested in. We like to read about bats, how things work, and astronomy. Of course, we also pick up some fiction. Our library also offers classes so keep an eye out for a library schedule.
- Local science centers. We have the Maryland Science Center which we have a membership too because it’s really fun and affordable. But we’re also close to Washington D.C. so we can hit up the Smithsonian museums for free. I LOVED Air & Space with the kids. The DoSeum and Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio are both awesome. And we also loved the Science museum in Dover, NH.
- Zoo: Lots of educational information is available at the zoo. They also sell memberships.
- Aquarium: Ditto to the above two.
- Go for a walk! Look for animals and trees and bugs. You can even bring a list of local flowers, trees, animals, etc to look for and identify. Make sure to look up how to identify poison ivy first though.
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