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Expert tips for summer enrichment learning

Every child is unique in their abilities, strengths and interests. With multiple options for online learning and academic programs available for purchase, it can be overwhelming to decide how to best support your children and their continued learning in the summer months.

Stephanie Lorenze and Ashley Martucci, service associate professors in the College of Applied Human Sciences, School of Education, have offered a guide for summer enrichment options.

Continue reading. Encourage your child to continue to read over the summer months and make it enjoyable for them. Allow them to choose books, magazines, comics or other sources on any topic that intrigues them. You can have them read alone, read to you, read the same book and discuss it or check out an audio book from the library to listen together. If they are reading, try not to be picky about what they are reading.

Encourage your child to design, build, and create. Offer your child time, space and materials to produce unique writing, experiments, inventions, art, music, performances and more. These opportunities often yield problem-solving skills and perseverance. They may take it a step further and become young entrepreneurs as they share or sell their design or product with others.

Find a way to serve others or the community. Talk to your child about what they notice in their environment, in their community or in their school. Spend time observing at a park in your neighborhood or by a creek. Develop a plan that centers on improving or helping that space or its people. Consider inviting others to join you and put the plan into action. Then, repeat.

Talk about math together. Math is something we all do, but it is also something we can observe and talk about. As you go about your summer, challenge your child to notice the different ways they experience and interact with mathematics. Talk out counting change in the grocery store line, ask how far your child thinks the hike they are on is, challenge them to recognize patterns in numbers or designs or notice how many triangles they can find on your evening walk. Then, ask why. Have your child explain their thinking. Include older children in your conversations as well.

Spend time outdoors. The outdoors can be used for unstructured play or as a learning space. Encourage your child to be outside where they can create games, work with friends and get exercise. Urge your child to notice things in nature and ask questions. Consider taking a walk with your child to connect the outdoors to your child’s learning. Look for different natural objects to sort, create obstacle courses or use as part of a mosaic. Add chalk or paint and you can create checkerboards or rock paintings. They can use the outdoor materials as part of their design to build and create work.

Grow something. A garden is an extension of the learning space. It is an easy way to connect to nature and the environment. Use a small planter or a small area of land. Let your child decide what they like to eat and grow that. Use the rocks from outside to create plant tags with either a picture of the plant or the name of the plant. Encourage your child to explore trial and error in the garden. What if they water one plant daily but the one beside it every other day? What if they stake this plant but not this one? Put your child in charge of watering and weeding. Most importantly – have fun and get messy.

Write. Write a letter to a family member who lives in another state or establish a pen-pal relationship. Grab a postcard on your trip and have your child send it to a friend. Is your child just exploring writing? Grab a paintbrush and a water bucket to allow them to write on a wall or the ground. Take pictures and have your child write a caption for the pictures and put them into a book. Make your child responsible for writing or drawing pictures of the grocery list. Does your child want to buy a toy or request a later bedtime? Have them write a letter convincing you why they should be allowed to do so.

Explore free activities in your community. Go to the library and get a library card. Discover the free activities at the library (storytime, teen activities). In the Morgantown area, head to the WV Botanic Garden to explore. Check out the free music series in your community. Visit the local parks and take a picnic lunch. Walk, run or bike along the Rail Trail. Have a cooking challenge with only the food you have in the house. Try camping out in your backyard. Let your child direct the activities for one day. Having ice cream for lunch or playing outside in pajamas are examples of creative minds.

Eat a meal together. Take time to share a meal together without cell phones. Eating together can encourage communication, teach dining etiquette and boost better eating habits. It is a time to pause and have a conversation about the day. Questions can range from ‘guess the ingredients in the meal tonight’ to ‘if you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?’ Let your kids ask you questions to show you value and respect them. Have your child help in making dinner, setting the table, serving the food or cleaning up. This makes them an active part of the family meal experience.

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