Fun, educational activities help children keep learning
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Summer vacation gives children a break from school, but that does not mean they should stop learning or that summer has to be boring.
RAND Corporation researchers found elementary school students’ academic performance falls by about a month during the summer.
But continued learning does not mean math worksheets, vocabulary lists and tests. Summer is a great time for children to discover learning is fun and can happen anywhere.
“With encouragement and planning by parents, children can discover learning isn’t something that only takes place in a school setting,” said Louise E. Davis, Mississippi State University Extension Service professor and director of the Early Years Network. “Summer is the perfect time to encourage children to try new things and explore new interests.”
Summer learning can take place in the backyard or on a family trip to a new place. And summer learning activities can help parents keep children from becoming restless.
Davis said there are many fun and educational activities for children that make summer memorable without watching television or playing video games.
“One activity children often enjoy is toy making, and parents can use common household items to make them,” Davis said. “Cardboard boxes can become forts or blocks, round oatmeal containers make great musical instruments, and refrigerator boxes can turn into space ships or trains with a little imagination.”
The key, Davis said, is to allow children to use their creativity and for parents to provide encouragement and support.
Reading and writing are important skills for children to use during the summer months. An adult or older sibling can read to young children who are unable to read.
Parents can also take children to the local library to pick out books together and participate in summer reading programs.
“Books provide children of all ages the opportunity to use their imaginations to explore and meet many new and interesting characters,” said Chad Allgood, associate director of the Early Years Network. “During the summer, many libraries offer reading programs for children and families.”
Summer is also a great time for parents to encourage children to partake in outdoor activities. Exploring nature gets families moving together.
“Go for a walk together outside, and look for spider webs, watch birds or catch lightning bugs,” Allgood said.
These activities are not only fun for children, but also educational, simple to do and low cost. For parents seeking more activities to do with their children this summer, the Early Years Network has an abundance of suggestions. For more information, visit the Early Years Network Facebook page or http://earlyyearsnetworkms.org.
Families can also visit the Early Years Network Resource and Referral sites. There are 17 centers located across the state. Much like a lending library, these facilities offer parents, educators, students and community members the opportunity to check out educational books and materials for free and return them in two weeks.
The Early Years Network is a program housed in the MSU Extension Service and funded by the Mississippi Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood Care and Development to provide early care and education programs and materials for teachers, directors, children and families to improve the well-being of Mississippi’s children.