I have read a lot about kids experiencing a "summer slide" where they forget things they learned the year before while off on summer break. Experts will give you a million different ways to practice reading and math skills with your children, and while there's certainly nothing wrong with that, there are so many better things you can do.
In my experience, we should worry less about "skills" and more about "curiosity". Summer is an important time for kids. They need a break from the day to day grind just like we adults do. They need time to be kids. Time to play outside, make up stories, make up games, use their imaginations, be creative - and it doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, the most important thing you can do for your kids during the summer months is to require them to create their own fun - with supervision and within reason, of course.
Whether we, as educators, like to admit it or not, kids often lose their excitement for learning during the school months. They get tired of studying, practicing, writing, reading, etc. Summer time is the perfect time to re-ignite their love of learning by giving them the opportunity to find their own sense of fun.
When we were kids, our summers were spent outside. We knew better than to come into the house and profess, "I'm bored!" to my mom who was always ready with a list of chores to be done to cure our boredom. Instead, we were out in the backyard making up adventures, climbing in trees and pretending that we lived in them, riding our bikes in our neighborhood, playing games with our friends. We were at the swimming pool where we'd spend hours pretending to be mermaids or playing Marco Polo for hours upon hours.
Times have changed, for sure. We can't let our kids out of our sight the way our parents could let us roam the neighborhood. We can't just send them off on their bikes for the day reminding them to return home when the porch lights come on. It's sad...but reality. But there are things we can do to give them the same opportunities we had as kids.
The Mid-Continent Public Library has a wonderful summer program and it's all completely free. Your kids can earn prizes for reading books - doesn't get much better than that. The library is the perfect place to lose yourself on a rainy day, then come home with a pile of books as if it were Christmas. Let your kids choose whatever books they want - regardless if they are too hard or too easy. Designate a portion of each day as "reading time" where everyone finds a comfy spot, all electronics are shut off and put away, and the entire family reads!
Composition notebooks and spiral notebooks can be found at the dollar store for one dollar. A brand new journal with some fun pens or crayons can give you hours of creativity. Take a walk, find a place to stop and ask your kids to draw or write about what that see. Go in the backyard, throw out a blanket, lay down and look at the clouds. Ask your kids what they see in the clouds - a dog, a car, a dinosaur maybe? Then have them draw it and write a story about it. Or, simply hand out the journals with some art supplies and say it's "Art Hour" where everyone has one hour to create!
Have lunch outside, picnic style. Find a tree to sit under or any other shaded spot. Make sandwiches, bring water bottles, keep it simple. Let them talk - about whatever they're willing to talk about, because I can assure you the day is coming when getting your kids to say anything will be a challenge.
Hold a "Cooking Class". You can find tons of them on YouTube if you're feeling uncertain. Lay out the supplies (keep it simple) and allow your kids to make dessert that night...or an afternoon snack. Have fun with it! Maybe let them create their own video of their own personal cooking show!
Let them create a lemonade stand! They can earn a little money or give it away for free! Either way, they can design posters, make the lemonade, become little entrepreneurs! Then call up your friends and family and beg them to come by for a cup. Great memories can be made with lemonade!
Summer doesn't have to be filled with expensive activities or fancy trips to make it magical. Staying up past bedtime, watching movies on the living room floor with sleeping bags and pillows, eating dinner out in the backyard under the stars, taking hikes, exploring new places, spending hours at the swimming pool - those are the things that your kids will never forget! And the best part is, you'll be encouraging them to learn, getting them excited to investigate and explore, and making some really great memories along the way!