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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Making Summer Fun and Educational (By Anshu Basnyat, LCPC)

   Summer is in full swing in America.  Now that the anticipation of Independence Day celebration is over, many parents are probably wondering how they can keep their kids busy, learning, and having fun all at the same time.  Research shows that low-income children are at a disadvantage during the summer time because they do not have the resources to explore and learn as their affluent counterparts do.  Students from low-income households lose an average of two months reading achievement over the summer.  This, many assert, is a major contributing factor to the “achievement gap” between the "haves" and the "have-nots" (  Children with resources are enrolling in enrichment programs, visiting museums, reading with parents at home, etc. while those without the resources do not have these opportunities.  Over time, this gap widens and has major implications. All children need to be intellectually stimulated during the summer or they are at risk of falling behind in academics.

    I know what some parents may be thinking: “kids need their downtime, need to have fun, and just be kids.”  I know this because I am one of those parents.  While I believe in this viewpoint, I also believe that children need to stay engaged in “school-like” activities to keep their mind fresh and ready to learn when the new school year begins in the Fall.  The goal of this article is not to argue whether to have year-round school with a cumulative two months break distributed throughout the year or continue with the existing model of having the traditional two months summer break.   Rather, the goal is for parents to work within the current schooling structure so our children can maximize fun and learning during the summertime.  If you know me, you will know that I am all about maintaining “win-win” situations.  This is one of them, where we can enjoy the summer break and still foster learning in our children.  Of course, this will require parents to tie in the academic piece at home while continuing the leisure activities such as going to the pool, bike riding, tv watching, etc.  Like many things in parenting, a balancing act is necessary.

    Here is an example of how I plan to balance between leisure and academics.  This week, we have been having a heat wave in parts of America, including where I reside.  So, just to be funny I put on my Facebook status “Wondering what would happen if I put cake batter in a pan and let it sit out on my deck for an hour or so.”  Then I thought about it, well tomorrow I have both of my kids home, my son asked if we could make cookies, and it is Friday.  The latter part is significant because I am a NPR junkie and one of many favorite shows is Science Friday by Ira Flatow. Therefore, tomorrow will be Science Friday at the Basnyat’s home where we will experiment with cookie dough and cake batter.  We will compare the time and temperature it takes to make yummy treats out in the blazing sun to that of the burning oven.   It will be over my three year old’s head, but my seven year old will learn and enjoy at the same time!

5 Tips for Summertime

1.     Journaling.  Writing down dates and times of trips and activities will not only help in understanding timelines, but your child is practicing writing skills.
2.     Arts and Crafts. This can include a whole host of activities from making cards to making bird feeders. 
3.    Gardening.  Growing and taking care of plants not only teaches about science, but also teaches patience and responsibility.
4.    Baking. All kinds of learning is happening when you are gathering materials, measuring, reading instructions, baking, and the cleaning up process.
5.    Fields trips.  Visiting the library, museums, zoo, and other wonderful institutions enrich a child’s learning experience.  Just this week, I took my son on a field trip on the public bus to the local senior center and the library. He learned so much about how the bus system works, how senior citizens stay active, and used the library’s call numbers to find his books.   



  1. you could also compare cooking outside to cooking in the car... lol (next years science fair project completed over the summer!)

  2. @C: Haha, a great mix of science and art!

  3. Great post :-) Lucas is mad at me because we're continuing to learn throughout the summer. I made a deal to not call it school. The worst part for him is that I'm still doing spelling tests, but I can't get over how much can be lost in two months!

    Anyway, I'm definitely taking ideas from you. Here's something we plan to do, plant the same type of seeds in two pots, one gets water, one gets soda / pop/ soft drink. Watch the difference.

    Lucas loves Curious George and it's easy to try what they do.

  4. @Laxmi13: I love the gardening project with soda vs. water! Not sure how you feel about kids drinking soda with the sugar and caffeine, but this will be a great way to incorporate that discussion. Lucas can even come up with his own hypothesis and see what happens. I have seen this experiment before and the outcome will be on the parent's side :) Enjoy your summer!

  5. Speaking of summer learning, while at the drs today we discusses progress in school and I was telling him that they were ahead of some of the kids, how I liked it that way because city schools standards can be pretty low, and my kids were like "yea, my mom and dad keep making us learn more"

  6. C: That's awesome! I'm sure you both were very proud to hear this coming from the kids :)