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Thinking Up Fun


Most students lose more than two months of math skills and some students lose the same in reading skills over the summer. But you can’t expect your child to do worksheets on a July afternoon. So how can you enjoy summer and help your child keep his brain busy?

Build math into your everyday routines.
When you cook, ask your child to do the measurements. How many half-teaspoons fit into a tablespoon? She can also make conversions. Give your children a stopwatch to conduct neighborhood crazy races. They can cross the finish line on one, two, or three legs but, however they cross, they can check their times and compute who won and by how much. Give your older child (theoretical) money to invest in a chosen stock and track its progress over the summer months. When you begin to notice how much math is in your daily life, you won’t be able to stop seeing the possibilities.

See math in your bigger events too. Are you going on a road trip? Kids can calculate the mileage and best routes. Driving teens can estimate how much gas they will need based on gas prices, mileage per hour and distance. Or hold a garage sale. Your child can clean out his room and build his math skills by determining pricing, counting out change and saving for a desired item.

Play board, not video, games. Granted, some video games build math skills. Still, board games offer more variety. Old favorites like Monopoly and Scrabble are good for math and verbal skills. Games such as Scattergories, Upwords, Password and Rummikub are also wonderful at sharpening critical thinking and academic skills. Even simple card games can exercise our minds.

Make time for reading. One of the best things you can do as a family for your child is to read frequently. Read aloud at bedtime, listen to books on road trips, start family reading time or form a book club. One friend created a mother-daughter book club with some close friends with daughters of the same age. They switch off between who chooses the book (always aware of the reading level of the daughters) and get together once a month to discuss their latest read. In the summer, you can meet more frequently and discuss books over ice cream.

Feed a passion.
Does your child love baseball? Start tracking statistics like ERA and RBI, or create a fantasy team. Does he enjoy gardening? Give him a piece of your garden and research plants together. Does she enjoy movies? Encourage her to write a scene or short play and perform it with her friends.

Take family field trips.
School field trips are scarce in these financially strapped times, yet experiences like visiting zoos, museums, beaches or parks are important to growing minds. In fact, one aspect that good readers bring to their books is prior knowledge. That means that they know a little bit 

about the book’s topic before they read. This skill is particularly useful on state tests.

Educate yourself. Serving as an example is perhaps the most important thing you can do as a parent. Let your kid see you playing Sudoku or teaching yourself a new software program. Take a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn like dance or pottery. Or take a class with your child. One of my best memories from my teen years was from when my mother and I took a ceramics class together.

Have fun. None of this should feel like nagging or even typical school to your child. If you see your child rolling her eyes as you approach, back off. These strategies touch on the many academic skills a child can use in everyday life—even during the summer. Once you start, you’ll be surprised at how many natural opportunities arise. Your children will have fun and not even notice they’re learning.                      

Emma Kress, a teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, has held a variety of educational posts at levels from pre-K to 12th grade. Send comments about this article to editorial@family

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