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EAST COAST MOMMY: Simple opportunities for summer learning

Kids bored this summer? Try encouraging their entrepreneurial spirits. Gina Bell’s son creates and sells “Joy Jars” during the summer months.
Kids bored this summer? Try encouraging their entrepreneurial spirits. Gina Bell’s son creates and sells “Joy Jars” during the summer months. - Gina Bell

The “summer slide” (i.e. decline of academic skills during the summer break from school) is real. Parents often struggle with keeping kids away from screens and trying to get them to engage their brains during the summer months.

It may sound like an impossible task, but there are many unstructured and fun ways to make it happen.

The relaxed summer schedule provides the perfect opportunity to encourage kids to engage in free play. Some of the best learning is done when children are allowed to “just play”. Unstructured play fosters decision making skills, helps kids to build relationships and learn negotiating skills, and allows children to use their imaginations. Organized activities (such as day camps and evening sports) are great, but the “lazy days of summer” shouldn’t be scheduled from start to finish.

Crafting is another way to embrace learning in a fun way. Some kids enjoy being creative more than others, but there are simple ways to make it appealing to everyone. Try setting up a competition between friends or siblings. Kids can compete to see who can build the best boat (that can float) using supplies they find around the house. Alternatively, kids can build catapults out of popsicle sticks and elastics, and they can use them to see who can make marshmallows travel the greatest distance.

Challenging kids to learn a new skill can be fun too. Children can choose to learn to knit, cook, or do a magic trick. Camps are great for learning new things, but for a less structured option, the library and YouTube videos can provide inspiration and tutorials. Let the individual interests of the children lead the adventure!

Reading is an important skill, and it’s one of the areas that declines most during the summer months. Summer reading programs, creating summer reading lists, and offering incentives for time spent reading can help keep kids motivated. I like to take my boys on a trip to the library or bookstore at the beginning of the summer. Helping kids find books that interest them is the best way to get them excited about reading.

Another great opportunity for learning comes from helping kids start their own summer businesses. Even small businesses like babysitting, dog walking, and lemonade stands can be educational. Summer businesses teach children about work ethic, time management, marketing, money, and math.

My oldest son started a simple summer business called “Joy Jars” and sells jars of cookie mix to neighbours, family and friends. He shops for the ingredients himself (checking prices and shopping sales), creates the jars, and thinks of ways to market his product. He even goes door-to-door, looking for customers. Although his enterprise is small, he has learned a lot about what it takes to operate a business. He even decided to donate a portion of his sales to charity… which made his mother proud. Running a small summer business has been an invaluable learning experience for my son, and I highly recommend encouraging your kids to be entrepreneurs this summer.

The number one priority of summer is to have fun with family and friends, but it’s also possible to sneak in a bit of summer learning. When the kids head back to school with their summer memories AND academic skills, you’ll be glad you did!

Gina Bell is a writer, content creator and mom of three. She lives in Antigonish, NS with her husband and three sons, and she is constantly on the lookout for easy and inexpensive ways to have fun with her family. Follow her adventures at EastCoastMommy.com.

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