While many parents see summer as a time of vacation and not education, preschool children need year-round learning. I’m not talking about year-round workbooks or sitting at a desk, but about daily planned learning combined with fun.
My motto for the past 28 years has been, seize the summer and keep children engaged in intellectual pursuits. I do not turn off learning between Memorial and Labor Day. I do turn off textbooks and most intensive lessons, but we “do school” and continue learning year-round.
What does our summer schooling look like? In a nutshell, it includes daily chores (yes, even a 2-year-old needs a daily chore), read-aloud and read alone time, cooking together (this teaches so many skills), and fun. On rainy or dreary days, we watch educational shows via the numerous online delivery systems such as Netflix and PBS. Summer is a great time to take educational vacations, visit museums, and try out fun classes to learn new skills. Many families participate in family summer camps.
DJ Jensen, preschool director and author of Monday Memo, says, “Make plans. Ask your preschooler what are we doing today? What’s first? Can you write that on the list? Let’s check off what we did today.” This easy habit teaches your child to order things, that scheduling things is important (a very important life skill in high school and college), and gives them a sense of control over their environment. If your preschool child is not writing yet, let them help you write it and then check it off the list.
During the summer months many libraries have summer reading programs and give out prizes as an incentive to read over the summer. Sign all of your children up—even the 2-year-old! Attend reading day at the library or coffee shop. Make daily reading for yourself a priority and you will pass the love of reading on to your child.
If your child does not read, or does not read well, continue to read aloud to them. Let them pick out books they have an interest in and also add in classics. Consider getting books on tape and “read” in the car on trips. One of my children was a very late reader and after visiting several specialists, we took their suggestion to get audio books to go along with a book they were reading. The rule was the child had to follow along. It took about a year of audio books plus the book, but at the end of that time the child was reading beyond grade level and continues to like to read.
Ron Fairchild, director of The Smarter Learning Group, said in a NPR Interview, “So, I think we just need to think very expansively about the way we expose kids to learning experiences during the summer, take advantage of the fact that summers are, generally speaking, a pretty nice time of year from a weather standpoint. You can get outside. You can engage in service activities. You can take free educational trips. I think what our job is, as a parent of two boys myself, you try to expose kids to things that might interest them, that might excite them, that might motivate them, so that they see the larger meaning and purpose for why they’re in school to begin with, and why they need to learn to diagram sentences and do math activities—that these kinds of things are very important for what they’re going to do in life.” I fully agree with Mr. Fairchild—children need summer activities to tie together their school year learning.
What can you do during the summer to engage your preschooler in learning and still have fun?
- Read, read, and read some more
- Library and coffee shop story day
- Check out your extension service for free summer programs. There are many great STEM programs to introduce your preschooler to the STEM philosophy of integrating knowledge across disciplines. STEM helps your child to think in a more connected way.
- Look for summer day camps for preschoolers at museums, aquariums, and history centers
- Take daily walks and keep a nature journal of where you went (and your yard is a fine place to start), what you saw, heard, smelled, and felt
- Design a cooking school and menu plan, shop, and prepare special meals (this teaches organization, counting, measuring, and time management)
- Let your child explore delight-directed learning and really dive into something they love (my son is a shark expert and one of my daughters is a penguin expert all because of “summer school”)
- Do all those wonderful art projects you have seen on Pinterest but didn’t have time for during the school year
- Count things, sort things, and organize things
- Check out Pinterest for summer learning for preschoolers—they had thousands of summer activities, and bloggers are always uploading new ideas
- Join a summer learning co-op (or start one) where a group of families come together for weekly learning and fun. If you have 6 families you have 6 activities, but you only plan one!
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.
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