State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today offered his annual top 10 tips to help parents keep their children active and engaged in learning during the traditional summer recess.
“The recession and state budget crisis are adding great stress on families in California in the form of program cuts, cancellation of summer school in some districts, and reduced organized summer activities,” said O’Connell. “Instead of letting these economic pressures burden already hard-pressed families, we should take advantage of low-cost activities to do as a family. Here are my suggestions for parents to help keep their kids’ minds and bodies active, so they will be ready to learn when school resumes in the fall.”
Here are O’Connell’s top 10 tips for summer learning:
1. Turn off the television and computer and play outside: Call your neighbors and start a volleyball game in your yard. Dust off the old Slip ‘N Slide and invite some kids over for water fun. Physical activity helps prevent the silent epidemic of childhood obesity. Teamwork teaches children about the values of helping, sharing, listening, respecting, and participating.
2. Watch educational programs: If it’s too hot outside there are several educational programs on television, such as “The Electric Company” or “Sesame Street” on your local PBS stations. These programs are also online and offer activity and educational resources for children. For more information, please visit www.sesamestreet.org or www.pbskids.org/electriccompany.
3. Set aside time each day to read: Read the morning newspaper with your children, or find a good book at the library or bookstore. Reading keeps children’s minds active and engaged and ready to learn when they go back to school. Search the California Department of Education’s Recommended Literature database that will help you find age-appropriate materials at www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/ll/ap/litsearch.asp.
4. Volunteer: Summer jobs for teens are scarce because of the recession. Instead, encourage your children to volunteer at your local nonprofit agency, help some elderly neighbors, or those less fortunate. Find volunteer opportunities through the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/en/volunteertime, or CaliforniaVolunteers at www.californiavolunteers.org/index.php.
5. Encourage children to create their own job: Children can mow lawns, pet sit, house sit, or take care of your neighbors’ plants while they are on vacation. Or they can babysit after getting lessons from your local American Red Cross Chapter. Search for lessons near you at www.redcross.org, keyword “babysitting lessons.” Work helps children learn about responsibility and financial literacy.
6. Start a scrapbook: Find all your old vacation pictures that are stashed away in boxes and work with your children to put together a scrapbook. This helps preserve your fun vacation memories, initiates family conversations, and helps you bond during the tough economic times.
7. Visit your local museums: Families sometimes only go to museums when they’re on vacation and rarely visit their own hometown’s facilities. The American Association of Museums reports attending a museum is very affordable and often free. Search for a museum near you at www.aam-us.org/aboutmuseums/directory.cfm.
8. Go grocery shopping with your children: Let them help you plan your meals. Then you can teach them the value of good nutrition, balanced meals, and making healthy choices. While at the grocery store, let the children add up the price of groceries. This will teach them about math.
9. Cook dinner together: Let your children help you prepare a meal. This teaches them how to be self-sufficient and independent. Let them measure out the ingredients and teach them how the ingredients interact with each other. This allows them to practice their math and chemistry skills.
10. Let your kids teach you how to use a computer: Using technology comes naturally to children who were born in the Internet age. Letting them be the teacher teaches them how to engage their parents in conversation, patience, and makes you listen to each other, which may become a bonding experience.
“When children are inactive mentally and physically during the summer, they often have to take time to get back up to speed in the fall,” added O’Connell. “This wastes students’ valuable learning time and schools’ scarce resources. So get up and go read and play, and we’ll see you back in the fall at the start of the traditional school year.”