It’s important to have a rest from school over the summer, but we can still combine holiday time with fun activities that will support our child’s learning and help get them ready to go back to school. Remember it is easier to learn when you are having fun. Experiences in the first five years of a child’s life have the biggest impact on how their brain develops. This is when children grasp the fundamental skills they need to do well at school and develop as happy, confident individuals.
Things to master before going to school: holding a pencil, using scissors and being able to cut, jump, hop & skip, recognise own name, partly write own name, get dressed by themselves, put on their own shoes, know a certain amount of numbers and sit still for a minimum of 15 minutes.
I have put together some activities which you may enjoy with your little ones over the summer to keep them learning and have fun at the same time:
- Baking: make children read out the recipe or try to do it together. Make a double portion and ask the child to divide it by 2. Talk about ml, grams, kg etc.
- Starting reception: have fun and write 20 names on cards, one with your child’s name on. Make them find their own name card. Maybe even try to read the other names out. Support your child in writing some of the letters in their own name, maybe even their full name.
- Concentration: take some time to do a craft activity or play a board game for a period of a minimum of 15 minutes. It has to be an activity that enables your child to sit still. Remember to praise them for sitting still and concentrating on the activity.
- Reading with young kids: choose a book with pictures and ask your child to ‘tell you a story about the pictures’. Or if they know a few words, find a book with short text and you can read out every second word. Make sure you read for your child every day and maybe trace the words with your fingers so your child can follow and get used to reading. Have books or magazines lying around the house for your kids to pick up and read. When you are out walking encourage your child to notice signs and read them out loud. If your child can’t read you can ask what they think the sign means and then you can read it out. Reading out road names is a great way to learn new words such as street, road, avenue etc. They will quickly recognise the words – and they LOVE to be able to ‘read’ it out loud even though they merely ‘recognise’ it. Sticker books are another great way to introduce books in a fun way. For older kids: allow them to choose some summer reading; magazines or newspapers are a great way to explore new topics. If your first language is not English you can choose a book in your native language to read out loud. No matter how old your child is they are never too old for a story.
- Numbers: try to familiarise your child with numbers by playing a ‘number-spotting’ game. Spot numbers everywhere and say them out loud on houses, speed limit signs etc. Support your child in writing out their age. Monopoly is a great way to learn numbers, your child can be the banker and in charge of the money! You can also use real money and have fun stacking up coins i.e. 10 x 10 pence = £1 etc.
- Play school: In essence, you can “play” school with your child. It should be in a room without distractions (i.e. no TV or video games) and geared towards learning (i.e. den, family library or home office). Your child can even be the teacher!
- Fine motor skills: fine muscle movement of the fingers will be needed for drawing, writing, cutting and holding a knife and fork. Do a little bit of craft every day where you support your child to use their fine motor skills. Help them to cut, draw small objects, glue small objects and make beads. Helping you to cut fruit and vegetables is another great way to develop fine motor skills and independent eating habits.
- Get dressed: try to encourage your child to get dressed by themselves over the summer. Put on their shoes and jacket. Put books in their bags. Have fun timing how long it takes.
- Fun educational games: dot-to-dot drawings, matching cards, sequences of story cards.
- Dealing with Sibling Rivalry: Become aware of what is going on by observing for a few days: when is the fighting worse, what do they fight over, who seems to start it, what is your own reaction? Then all sit down and have a chat: ‘I don’t like to tell you off and nag so much so can we find a solution to this fighting’? Maybe have a ‘Fight-Zone’, where they will be sent to if they start fighting so you don’t have to be part of it and listen to it. In the heat of the moment, instead of nagging, try to problem solve: ‘Ok, what is going on here’, let both kids talk and you LISTEN, ‘hmm I can see you are angry, upset ‘ etc. ‘So what will we do about it’? Build confidence and security: Make sure they get lots of positive attention from you! Try to ‘catch them being good’, when they DO play nicely together join in and give them your special and mindful attention. Can you ignore some of it? Do you have to react to ALL their small everyday battles? Or can you ignore some of them and walk away?
Enjoy your summer and have fun!