After the 2020-2021 school year, I can honestly say students and teachers alike are BEAT. My tired is tired. Usually, at this point in the summer, I’m working on lesson plans for the upcoming school year. I can’t even bring myself to think about it. I know there’s a push to “make up for lost learning,” but that does not have to come in the form of packets or book reports. In fact, I can think of at least 10 things that have more value than assigned summer work (and I guarantee your kid won’t fight you on any of these).
1. Playing outside
Do you know what schools need more of? Recess. Do you know what your kiddos get over the summer? Tons of opportunities to play outside. When my son needs a reset, outside is the best place to go. Whether it’s running around with his neighborhood friends, fishing in the pond, swimming, playing fetch with his quarantine puppy, or kicking around a soccer ball, getting outside is a guaranteed mood booster.
2. Free choice reading
I hear so many students tell me they never read because they hate it. Besides the fact that it breaks my English Teacher heart, I know that’s not true. They probably think of reading only counting if it’s a novel. Comic books, magazines, informational texts, and news articles all count as reading! Go to the library or local book store and let your kid choose what they want to read. I would love for my kid to pick up a novel, but sometimes he wants to read Adventure Time comic books, and I am OK with that because I know he’s reading.
3. Game night
We have an entire closet dedicated to our love of board games. Not only does this offer a chance for you to spend quality time together (and off the screens …) but it can help with math skills, reading, creativity, and critical thinking. Some of our favorite games include Monopoly, Clue, Phase 10, and UNO Attack.
4. Sleeping In
Does sleeping improve learning and brain function? You bet. There’s a huge difference between when my son sleeps well and when he needs a nap. Also, I teach high school, and I can tell you what most of them need is a good night’s sleep. I know teens have a tendency to become nocturnal, but make sure their late nights aren’t interfering with the amount of sleep they need.
5. Building LEGOs
Yes, I have a love-hate relationship with those tiny plastic bricks, but I’ve seen my son spend HOURS creating something either from his own ideas or following a book of instructions. He’s creating, thinking, and focusing on a task for an extended period of time. I believe all of those skills will benefit him when school starts in August.
6. Movies / TV Shows
I am not the anti-screen police. In fact, the iPad received a Mother’s Day card from me in May (kidding!). Joking aside, there can be value to some screen time. There are so many shows and movies where your kid can explore their interest or learn something new. Are they reading books about sea animals? Find a documentary on those animals! When my son finished reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, he was all about watching the film version. Movies are one of our favorite family time activities, too. (Side note, have you seen Luca yet? It’s a must-see!)
7. Drawing / Art
My son isn’t a huge fan of coloring books or paints, but he will spend so much time drawing and creating comic books (Thank you, DogMan books!). You don’t need anything special — I just bought a pack of printer paper and pulled out some colored pencils. That was all he needed to get started! Provide the supplies, and the artists will come.
Lately, a lot of my dinners have been InstaPot or sheet pan dinners. There’s not a ton of prep that goes into it which coincidentally makes them the perfect meals for my son to help with. He likes to help chop the veggies, season the meat, or dump the ingredients into the InstaPot. Not only is learning to prepare meals a great life skill, but it also involves reading, math, and problem-solving.
9. Explore a new place
You don’t have to go on an elaborate vacation for this one. We like to find new nature trails in our area or take a drive someplace new. Even if it’s picking sunflowers or taking a walk along the lakefront, a change of scenery and giving your kid a chance to see someplace new is a great learning experience!
10. Free afternoons
It might be because I’m an introvert, but the best way for me to unwind is a completely empty afternoon — a nice block of time to do whatever I want. No scheduled activities or obligations. For my kid, he needs time to himself, too. So, I make sure to keep at least one afternoon a week free and clear for him to hang around the house and do whatever he wants.