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20 Ways to Keep Your Child's Mind Engaged This Summer
Lindsey Hab, Director of Marketing and Communications
Hello Summer - Watermelon and Berries

Lockers are empty, backpacks put away, and achievement awards received. Those sweet summer days are upon us! There is nothing like sunshine on your face, lazy days on the lake, and fresh-squeezed lemonade. But with the entire summer ahead of us, there is only one thing to decide. How will you spend it? Whether your days are full of vacations and camps, or your calendar is wide open to day-to-day discoveries, we have a few ideas to help your child(ren) stay engaged and keep their minds sharp as they head through the summer months. I asked our incredible faculty to share some fun tips for those summer months. Here's what they told me:

1) Discover the Joy of Reading

"Read, read, read! Go to the library. Read in a blanket fort. Lay under a tree with a good book. Rather than tracking minutes read, keep your child reading books that bring them joy this summer. This keeps them excited to practice the skills they learned this year and reminds them that reading is supposed to be enjoyable." ~ Randi Bowling

Child Reading Under a Tree

2) Enjoy Outdoor Concerts 

"As a family, you can support local musicians by attending the City of South Bend's Potawatomi Concert Series! The outdoor, live entertainment is held at the Chris Wilson Pavillon and features a wide variety of music. This is an opportunity to support your community and have an open discussion on what each family member enjoyed about the concert. Questions to discuss: What instruments did you see? What emotions did the music make you feel? Which song was your favorite? What images came to your mind while listening? Check out the full concert series line-up." ~ McKayela Hornor

3) Take Advantage of the Library

"Get a library card! In addition to offering tons of wonderful (free!) programming, our local public library system can supply your family with an endless stream of fresh reading material during the summer months. We know that 20 minutes of reading a day protects against summer learning loss, and we also know what makes kids want to read: choosing their own reading material. Make a weekly library stop part of your summer routine, or place books on hold and pick them up curbside. Now that SJCPL has done away with late fees and the beautiful new downtown library has reopened, there's never been a better time to become a proud public library patron!" ~ Carly Squadroni

Library Card Services Sign

4) Observe the Moon

"Create a moon journal and observe the moon each day. Draw the phase, record the direction, time observed, phase, and any other observations. Reference a calendar at to find out what phase of the moon to expect each day." ~ Patrick Cobb

5) Send a Handwritten Letter

"When was the last time you received a handwritten letter in the mail? Writing notes to friends and family is a sweet and authentic way for kids to practice their writing skills. Remind them to include appropriate capitalization and punctuation as well as lots of fun details and descriptive language. Writing letters also gives kids a chance to learn the correct way to address an envelope, learn about the price of postage, and the different stamp designs. Who knows, they may get a letter in return from their pen pal and revive the lost art of letter writing!" ~ Maura Visconsi

Handwritten Letter

6) Ask This Question ...

"Unlock your child's full potential this summer by asking them this question: "What makes you say that?" This question helps students begin to learn how to reinforce their thinking in a way that does not require a right or wrong answer. Instead, it helps to reinforce the idea that no matter what they say, you are curious about what they are thinking."
~ George Phillip

7) Find Creative Ways to Incorporate Math

"Math skills are incredibly easy to lose over the summer. There are many fun math activities to keep your child's skills sharp over the break. You could play card and board games, cook or bake together, analyze sports, open a lemonade stand, and practice math facts. No matter what you choose, aiming for a 15-minute math activity each day will help solidify a strong number sense and have your child ready for more complex concepts at the beginning of the school year." ~ Jennifer Mahoney

Box of Dominos

8) Keep Your Spanish Sharp

  • "Get in the habit of watching Spanish movies and shows with Spanish captions on and try to interpret the words you hear to what you read. You can even change the audio to Spanish if you know the story well.
  • Read a Spanish book. Check this awesome free virtual library (it has more than 50,000 titles in different languages and you can hear and read).
  • Listen to a podcast. This website has a list of 10 pretty good podcasts in Spanish for beginners, intermediate, and advanced. The cool thing about podcasts is that you can change the audio speed, and sometimes, you can read the transcript as you listen.
  • When in a Mexican/Latin restaurant, challenge yourself and order your food in Spanish the way you learned in class.
  • Learn a song in Spanish. When it comes to songs, the list is infinite, but here is a list of 40+ authentic songs (once on the site, go to Spanish resources and then songs)" ~ Erica Costantini

9) Offer Open-Ended Materials

"My advice for parents to encourage creativity during the summer months is simple: stand back and enjoy! Offer some basic art-making supplies: yarn, tape, cardboard, paints, etc. These open-ended materials will encourage your child to problem-solve, be creative, and develop important literacy and fine motor skills. Also, be sure to show them that art matters by displaying their work in your home. Tell your children about the art you enjoy most and look for beauty everywhere you go." ~ Sarah Lotter 

Child Doing Art Outdoors

10) Read and Research 

"First grade is a significant year of growth for children; keep your child reading and researching over the summer to keep the motivation and curiosity going. If you are headed out for a vacation, let your child write some questions about the place and then hunt for answers. Make your local library a weekly destination; first graders love picture books, nonfiction, and chapter books. Make a special time daily for your family to stop, drop, and read! Keep a photo journal of all the interesting places you found to read." ~ Heather Kerckhove

11) Garden Together

"In the garden, children are naturally curious about the natural world. Help your child start a small garden with a few varieties of seeds or plants. Caring for the plants daily provides opportunities for fine motor development and independence. Discussions about the weather may occur as you discuss the need for rain, sun, or certain temperatures. Discuss the colors, shapes, and sizes as the plants begin to grow. It may be fun to use a ruler to measure the height as the plants grow. Perhaps even start a garden journal for your child to draw and label observations of the plants over time - a wonderful way to nurture drawing and print awareness in a meaningful way. Finally, don't forget to explore new recipes with your harvest or make a special bouquet with your flowers! Gardening throughout the summer is a fabulous way to support everything from science to math to early literacy skills!" ~ Sarah Masters

Child Potting a Plant

12) Memorize Math

"Do you want to start 4th-grade math with a bang? Practice your addition and multiplication facts each week this summer, so you've got them memorized! Knowing these facts will make your whole "math year" easier." ~ Mindy Shenk

13) Cook With Your Children

"Besides reading every day, another way to prevent summer slide is to cook with your children. Cooking with a recipe incorporates authentic learning and covers a variety of skills." ~ Shelly Sharp 

Parenting Cooking with Child

14) Keep a Reading Calendar 

"For years, as summer looms, families have asked me what to do to keep their children from experiencing the "summer slide." And for years, my answer has been READ. Read every day. Read lots of different things. Fun, silly, serious, fiction, nonfiction - it doesn't matter. The response is always, "Oh! Is that all? We can do that!" But then August arrives, reality sets in, and families are busy despite all the good intentions. Families are really busy! Time flies, school is about to start, and Wham! You didn't do nearly as much reading as you planned. One easy way to combat this is a simple calendar in a very visual place - the refrigerator door, closet door, anywhere you look every day. Simply put a sticker on the days your child reads with you, to you, or by themselves. It is amazing how quickly days go by; you look at the calendar and realize, oops, we haven't touched a book in a week (or two). It is more of a visual for parents, but your children should be responsible for putting on the stickers. You can even use a different color or type of sticker for each child placed on the same day. It's easy and fun, and it may even get a little competitive if you have more than one child! Have a wonderful summer!" ~ Vicki Odar

15) Explore Outdoors

"Spending time outdoors in nature is a great way to engage all of your senses. This summer, head to your nearest park and try a color scavenger hunt. Encourage your child to think of every color in the rainbow and see if they can spot it - think blue skies, green grass, brown bark, yellow flowers, etc. For a more hands-on activity, gather paper paint swatches from your local hardware in natural colors. Can your child find an item outdoors in the same shade and match it? Children hone critical thinking skills, creativity, and problem-solving skills as they hunt in the calming environment of nature!"
~ Kara Lewis

"Scavenger Hunt This Way" Sign

16) Collect Loose Parts

"Have you ever noticed how young children stumble upon the smallest treasures? Perhaps pockets are filled with acorns, sticks, pebbles, and flowers at the end of the day. These can be considered loose parts, which are open-ended materials that can be lined up, turned into a story, built with, or even used in pretend play. Find a special collection basket or container for your child to collect nature treasures throughout the summer. As you visit parks, take walks in the neighborhood, travel, or simply explore your backyard, add to the collection basket. As the collection grows, encourage your child to count and sort the treasures. This is a wonderful opportunity for exploring attributes and number sense. Perhaps they can also use the loose parts treasures to create a picture or tell a story. Using loose parts encourages children to problem solve, use creativity, decision making, fine motor skills, and vocabulary and language, to name a few. What will be in your treasure basket this summer?" ~ Sarah Masters

17) Ask Questions While Reading

"Read over the summer and ask your child questions about what they're reading. Questions like - "Why do you think...?" "Can you explain..." "What might happen if...?" Also, practice your math facts over the summer. Students should be fluent with their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts going forward. Middle school teachers support this is one of the best things you can do to help your child in future math classes." ~ Kim Pruett

Child Looking Over a Book

18) Find the Experiences Your Child Needs

"When I look at 8-10 weeks of summer, I think about living a full life. During the school year, our days are packed. The idea of loosening the valve and having time feels like a luxury. So how do we fill time? I don't want to keep my kids busy; I want to allow time for their minds to wander, experience, and explore. I know kids thrive on structure and love learning, playing, laughing, and more! I look at what my kids need and find those experiences. It could be going to the library, park, or farmer's market. It also could be enrolling in a camp. I'm the summer camp director at Clark and truly believe there is time in the day to meet all of your kid's needs. I think about the quality of life - working my body and brain and contributing to my community. Camps create independence, social, physical, and thinking skills. Mental and physical health requires confidence, experience, and what better way to grow these skills than a camp! You can still have the luxury of summertime and help create a foundation for lifelong learning through a camp!" ~ Jess Loyd

19) Read to Your Pet

"Read to your pet. It can improve reading fluency, public speaking, and self-confidence in kids. Best of all, it is fun!"
~ Jenni O'Connor 

Child Reading to Her Pet

20) Give Back to Others 

"Summer is a perfect time to serve others in the community. Mow a neighbor's lawn, serve at your local food bank, host a lemonade stand and donate your earnings to a cause near and dear to you. Whatever you do, serve with a kind, and cheerful heart and leave a positive impact on those around you. Character development is just as important as our other three pillars." ~ Tara Grove

About the Author

Lindsey Hab

Lindsey Hab

Director of Marketing and Communications

  • parenting

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