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The Informed Parent

Summer Learning

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Jun. 03, 2002

Summer vacation can be a time of learning whether or not a child attends summer school. Stay-at-home moms or dads can provide a rich learning environment in the home with a little imagination. For families that use day care, choosing a program that offers a variety of learning and play opportunities adds value to the child’s months away from school. All families can incorporate learning activities into their evening and weekend time together.

Keeping a calendar of activities and outings organizes summertime and serves as a reminder for families to integrate the activities into each day or week. Without conscious effort, summer quickly passes, and opportunities for enrichment are lost.


All children lose some academic skills during school vacations. Newly learned skills that aren’t regularly practiced diminish most quickly. Skills are retained to a greater degree by creative planned learning into the summer vacation, and children have fun in the process.


Go to the library weekly. Most children enjoy the library’s summer reading program because they earn prizes for reading material that they enjoy. The story hour associated with most summer library programs is an added bonus.

Schedule a consistent reading time at home each day. This time needs to be individualized for the different ages of your children. First and second graders can handle 20 minutes of reading while older children may need up to an hour. Some children, of course, will read endlessly throughout the summer since it is a hobby for them. Preschoolers enjoy having you read to them during family time. You can serve as a role model if you take time yourself to read at this prescribed time.


Start a journal. This can be a family journal, or each child can have his or her personal journal. Accurate spelling and punctuation aren’t as important as getting thoughts onto paper. Children can write about what happens each day or about a trip. They can create imaginary stories. If journal writing becomes a daily practice, most children enjoy the process. Young children and those who have a difficult time with the physical act of writing can dictate their journal entry to an adult or older sibling. Also they can dictate it into a tape recorder.

Other writing activities include letters or postcards to out-of-town family members and friends. Drawing cartoons and writing the dialogue, or inventing skits and plays, which can be performed for the family, are additional good ideas.


There are numerous ways to use math during the summer. Children can draw maps. They can calculate mileage between one point and another on family trips. They can write down the cost of items from a catalogue and compute the amount of money it would take to buy the items. They can write down the cost of items at the grocery store when you are marketing and compute the final cost. Have the children help you measure ingredients when you are cooking. With younger children, play counting games and sing counting songs. Young children can help sort laundry into white and colored piles.

Remember that summer learning is fun learning. Be creative in finding opportunities to use the math-related skills of measuring, sorting, counting, estimating and computing.


Summer provides a rich opportunity to do science-related activities. Nature walks can become learning experiences by priming the children with suggestions of what to discover. “Let’s see if we see any worms, spiders, or butterflies.” Or, “Let’s see if we can find things that are smooth, rough, or shiny.”

Children can make science notebooks on chosen topics by cutting pictures from magazines or drawing their own pictures. Most children like to make rubbings by finding an object, placing it under a plain sheet of paper, and coloring over the top with the side of a crayon. Suggest that they find series of objects and encourage them to create a design for their rubbing.

Water play becomes a science experiment when little ones guess what will float or what will sink when immersed in water. Moving water from container to container assists in discovering differences in volume. Plant and care for a small garden. Watch it grow and talk about the changes that occur. Container gardening is excellent for young children or for families that live in apartments.


Summer is a great time for freely creating. Performing skits and plays is fun for most children. Making notebooks, drawing, painting, and using either potters clay or play dough offer enjoyment. Imaginary play is natural to children when the computer and TV are turned off. They need few materials or props to create rich fantasies.


Assist children to organize their personal space by providing drawers or boxes for each type of belonging. Teach children to pack their suitcase before a trip. Offer choices among a number of options and ask the children to tell you how they made their choice. Create a checklist for completing daily chores. Teach young children to put away the silverware or pots and pans so that each item goes into its designated place.

This sampling of ideas for reading, writing, math, science, creativity and organizational skills will give you a head start in getting your own creativity active. Thus, you will be providing a summer of fun and learning for your children.

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