Keep kids active, entertained and learning this summer

By John L. Reilly - District Executive Director, Indian Valley Family YMCA
Region - posted Mon., Jul. 1, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Summer: For kids, it’s the season of sleeping late, hanging out and forgetting everything they’ve learned for the last 10 months (well, at least a lot of it). For parents, it’s the season of scrambling for childcare, trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, and keeping kids in some sort of mental shape that will get them back to school with more than “Sponge Bob” reruns floating around in their heads.

While many kids are enrolled in summer camps or school programming that will keep their brains active, there are many more who are set to have a more casual summer - meaning the structure and organization that go along with school have come to a screeching halt. The unstructured summer experience can provide opportunities for families to enjoy recreation time together that not only keeps kids occupied, but also maintains the brainpower they’ll need for a successful start to the next school year.

It's up to you to incorporate activities into your family's day that require more than a few minutes of attention. Teachers hope (but don’t really expect) that students will return having not lost the Pythagorean theorem, the periodic table of the elements, and a breadth of knowledge of comparative analysis of the works of William Shakespeare.

Teachers do expect kids to return to school ready to learn - meaning that they’ve still got the attention span, stamina and organization skills to get the job done.

This summer, make sure you’re kids are on the right track. Schedule a visit to your local library at least once a week. Not only can you help your child with summer reading, you can find book discussion groups, foreign language groups, Lego activities, chess clubs and more. Plus, most libraries offer residents free or discounted admission to area museums, zoos and science centers - places like the Connecticut Trolley Museum, The New England Air Museum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and the Lutz Children's Museum. You never know what new discovery your child will make while visiting someplace new. And if you've never checked your local library's museum pass program, you'll be amazed at the number of places you can visit at no charge thanks to library boosters who provide support to education programs.

If you or your kids are addicted to apps like Words with Friends, make it real and invite friends to play a real game of Scrabble. Rather than the 30-seconds-and-done game play of online word games, a real game of Scrabble can keep a group together and focused for hours. Don't forget the classics like Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly. There's a "right" game for every age and family.

No matter what you're child's age or ability, toss a math problem out there whenever you can. Even if you get a few minutes of math once a week, you can keep the neurons firing. Websites like generate problems your child can answer online. If you've got a high school student preparing to take the SATs, you can have the SAT Question of the Day e-mailed for extra practice. (SAT Question of the Day is like the learning lottery. You never know if you're going to get a math or language question - and for extra fun, you can have it e-mailed to mom or dad, too.)

A busy summer will make the back to school transition smoother for your kids and your family. What are you doing to keep your kids active and engaged during the summer months? Post your ideas on our Facebook at Indian Valley Family YMCA.

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