How to keep your kids sharp and have fun

  • By Mari-Jane Williams The Washington Post
  • Friday, June 29, 2012 5:46pm
  • Life

With constant pressure to have kids do more in school, and do it sooner, parents who spent their own summers playing outside until the streetlights came on might feel compelled to push academics over free play.

Good news: You can do both at the same time.

Keeping your child’s mind sharp in July and August doesn’t have to mean sitting at a table doing work sheets or flashcards.

Educators recommend that parents incorporate learning into play and plan fun day trips to give kids a chance to stretch their minds while still enjoying summer’s more relaxed schedule.

Here are some suggestions:

Read and read some more: Read along with younger kids. Read the same book as your older child and then talk about it together.

Bring back writing: Elementary school students can write letters to relatives, either by hand or e-mail, using the proper format: date, a greeting, a body and a closing, as well as correct spelling and punctuation.

Older children could interview a relative about her own childhood, then write a memory book to give as a present,

Make a photo album from a trip or summer vacation, and write captions to go with each photo.

Beach classroom: Go beachcombing with a book to look up things you find. One suggestion: “Beach: A Book of Treasures” by Josie Iselin.

College prep: High school students in any grade can spend part of their summer preparing for college: a community college class on their chosen major, an SAT or ACT study class, even a campus tour.

Get a move on: Invent inexpensive or free street games to keep kids moving: an obstacle course with things from the garage, or capture the plastic bag (everyone stuffs a bag in their pocket and the “it” person has to snag as many as possible).

Travel math: Ride a train and estimate the number of people it holds or its average speed. Calculate how long your car trip will take based on average speed, or calculate the area and volume of the motel pool.

Practice planning: What steps does it take to clean his room and calculate how long. Have her plan a trip to the moon and research online or at the library what she will need and how long it might take.

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