Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer "bridge" activities for kids

Wanted to pass on to you a few tips that other moms have been giving me on summer "bridge" activities that keep my kids' brains engaged! Hope it helps.

1. For the summer and the school year, I've found the reading lists in Sonlight's homeschooling curriculum to be great guidelines for books to check out from the library--usually with the help of interlibrary loan, which in our library system, is available online.

When possible, I get the books for reading to your children on audio books, and they'll start listening to them in the car (a captive audience) or when they're falling theory...and I soon find them listening to them throughout the day, which they love to do while playing with building toys, like Legos.

2. I also get interlibrary loan ideas by looking in the kids' section at Barnes & Noble. I look for topics my oldest (our only independent reader right now) will love--the recent find was Hungry, Hungry Sharks. I also look for drawing books (great to increase small motor skills for boys' handwriting) and kids' cookbooks, to talk about math and science. A shout out to Barnes & Noble for their new educational toys section, which gives me all sorts of fun ideas for interactive learning. They have some cool at-home science kits, particularly.

3. As a loose schedule, in the morning--our best time for concentration--I have my son read out loud or independently for a certain number of pages or length of time. During the little kids' naptime, he draws a picture of something from the story and writes a summary sentence about what he's read. The idea is to verify comprehension, teach summarization skills, and work on basic grammar, spelling, and writing--in simple, relatively painless fashion.

Then he and his Pre-K little bro complete a few worksheets on their own. I like Hooked on Phonics' Super Workbooks, Brain Quest workbooks, FlashKids complete curriculum workbooks, and Get Ready for [grade level]! binder workbooks, because they're full color with interesting illustrations and not too many brain-numbing exercises per page.

We check out educational videos for use during naptime too: The Magic School Bus (great for science principles), Between the Lions, and Popular Mechanics for Kids are some of their favorites.

I've started to invest in about one new interesting educational computer game per semester/summer that fill up that hot, quiet afternoon. Scholastic's Math Missions is next on my list, but we've enjoyed Zoombinis' Logical Journey (there are other Zoombinis logic games that look great, and check out these Crazy Machines games), Reader Rabbit, and some of Scholastic's Clifford programs. My son is interested in the Typer Island Typing Instructor software I purchased and repeatedly comes back to it to try, but at this point, typing is still a little above his concentration levels! I also keep a "favorites" folder of educational websites.

We build storytimes into our day--each one picks a book for us all to read before naptime, and we've been reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a Bible story before bed.

4. Summer's a great time for impromptu field trips: zoo passes, museum trips on discount days, children's theater trips, and all of those things families normally don't have time for! (Budget-wise, we're sticking to the zoo pass this year...)

5. Swimming lessons have been a fun way to ramp up into a little more discipline of character: trying new things, learning to trust and persevere...all sorts of character lessons, while learning a new skill.

6. My Pre-K'ers are lovin' a new post-nap activity: Popcorn Preschool. We make popcorn and then practice basic counting and addition. I'll write a super-simple addition problem on a white board, then they count out the popcorn, add 'em up, and write the number on the white board. Usually we'll follow with some basic reading skills until they lose interest.

7. For Scripture memory, my kids adore a series of CD's that I actually enjoy playing in the back and the front of our rockin' minivan: Seeds Family Worship. Sample our favorite one here, which also comes with a free CD to share with a friend (since it's the Power of Encouragement). I shared ours with my sister, who's now gone out and bought the rest!

I love that they're straight from Scripture--and that I don't want to bang my head against the wall when their tunes get stuck in there. I love that it makes me meditate on the verses, that my kids sing them around the house and play their imaginary instruments when they listen (my middle son plays the tuba, which isn't really in the band), and that it prompts great discussion.

Your turn to pass on more ideas! What bridge activities keep your kids engaged?

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