Whether or not you have taken advantage of the many seasonal adventures only available during the summer months, there are still a few weeks left to use these warmer days to get your children ready for the school year ahead without them even knowing your sneaky intentions for gearing them up the school year. After all, isn’t it the best feeling when you know you have squeezed education into the day without your children knowing it?

Here are 8 ways to sneak in some learning adventures into the last few weeks of summer.

1. Get creative with storytelling around the campfire. Have one person start the story and allow each person to add to the story. The key here is to allow people to add to the story, but if someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking, allow them to simply listen. It is a terrific way to develop story-writing skills (character development, setting, and plot) without the pressure of writing as well. It also improves public speaking.

2. Bring games and a deck of playing cards. Picnic tables can be the ideal place to have a competitive round of Spot-It or Uno, especially while waiting for dinner to be ready, or during the afternoon under the shade of a nearby tree. A family favorite of ours is Cribbage. These activities improve problem-solving, fine-motor skills, and critical thinking.

3. Have a talent show. A couple of years ago some cousins decided they wanted to put on a show for the rest of us. They spent much of the afternoon creating a dance, a song, and a short play. They were focused on developing not just one act, but several. Of course they also invited some of the rest of us to join in. The type of learning skills practiced depends on the talents shared, but allow creativity to flow and be willing to be an enthusiastic audience. Besides the acts, some time could be spent creating set pieces, tickets, or a promotional poster, especially if the trip will include a few days.

Amusement Park
1. Play an impromptu game of I Spy while waiting in line. The time spent waiting in line can be enough to make even the most patient of us become irritable, especially under the sweltering sun. One solution is to play I-Spy. One person scans the crowd and surrounding environment to pick something that can be seen by the others, and then the other people in your group ask questions attempting to reduce the possibilities until they figure out what the first person saw. Besides being a good way to pass time, it also helps develop keen observation and deductive reasoning.

2. Do you have someone in your family who is a big fan of physics or math? I know we have one person like this in our family. This is a great place to allow them to indulge and share their insights with you. Don’t be surprised if they are already doing calculations such as the speed of a roller coaster, the time it takes for another ride to descend, or something similar! While you may bore of hearing about such knowledge at home, this is a perfect setting to show them that who they are and what they enjoy matters. It might help you forget how long you are waiting in line somewhere too. This can also be a good activity to share if your geek doesn’t like going on rides and you find yourself sitting with them while other people in your family ride.

3. What is most important? There is often too much to do during one trip. If someone has their heart set on doing more than can be reasonably accomplished during the available time, or a member of your family finds themselves overwhelmed by possibilities, help them prioritize what matters most. Whether this involves the game-plan for the whole day or making choices in the gift shop, budgeting time and money are both important life skills, and an amusement park provides the perfect real-life scenario for practicing these skills.

Picnic at the Park
1. Lawn games are a great way to improve gross motor skills. Whether it includes horseshoes, ladder ball, lawn darts, or simply tossing bean bags into hula hoops set on the grass at different distances, many muscles of the arms and legs are exercised. They can often be helpful for improving eye-hand coordination too, depending on the game. Many of these games involve keeping tracking of points, so math skills are practiced as well.

2. Introduce your child to relay races. While some of us may not have great memories involving potato sack races or balancing something on a spoon while we attempted to run-walk from point A to point B as quickly as possible, relay races offer a great way to practices many different skills important to learning, as well as teamwork and good sportsmanship. While you may not have potato sacks readily available, a pillowcase will work just as well. Hula Hoops can be set up in a line to hop in and out of, and there are different ways to incorporate partnership without involving the dreaded three-legged race. One example of a partner activity would be the wheelbarrow where someone “walks” using their hands while the other person is behind holding their feet. Something as simple as a race with three or four stations can be sufficient, but you can get creative and come up with something that resembles a miniature version of American Ninja Warrior. Just be sure to consider the ability levels of the people involved and make it accessible for everyone to be able to participate and have fun. 

As you dive back into learning using activities, you may even stumble across some fun activities that can be adapted during your homeschool year to include your topics of focus For example, you could simulate a campfire in your own backyard and encourage your children to come up with stories including vocabulary terms or set in a particular setting. One summer, while filling water balloons using a hose, I came up with the idea to create a bar graph on a whiteboard using the colors and quantity of water balloons as data and then created questions such as: “How many balloons were filled with water?” and “What color was most prevalent in the balloons filled with water?” I admit my children kind of groaned about it at the time, but I think it would have been more appreciated if I had written the questions down and asked them about it during our “school year” rather than when they were anticipating going outside to throw the water balloons at each other quickly. The possibilities are endless. Let this be a springboard for you to develop your own idea and feel free to share some ideas of your own.

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