Summer Activities For The Kids

The start of summer is such a fun and exciting time for kids!  But, for many the lazy, hazy days of summer can start to drag if the kids are bored or spend too much time in front of the screen.  However, with a little bit of planning, it’s easy to keep kids engaged in a variety of activities.  Summer is a great time to try out some new, exciting learning opportunities.  Engaging, hands-on activities over the summer help to ensure kids are ready for the grade ahead and don’t regress.

  1. Explore local attractions. Within the St. Louis metropolitan area, there are so many great local attractions to check out.  Even if you have been to these places before, there are always new things to explore and new ways to keep your child learning throughout the experience.  If you go to the zoo have your children plan out on the map how they are going to get around to see their favorite animals.  Of, if you go to the botanical gardens have them practice their reading skills by reading out loud the posted signage.   Even a small trip to a local park or trail can be a great time to search out different species of wildflowers, trees, or birds.  Regardless of where you go, there are so many opportunities to keep children learning while at our local attractions.
  2. Attend a local summer camp. While all camps are great for keeping kids engaged, if you want to keep your kids learning over the summer look for camps that focus on science, art, and other educational skills.  Washington University Program in Occupational Therapy actually offers its own summer camp for children ages 9-16 with executive function difficulties (difficulty with planning, organization, goal-setting, task monitoring, etc.).  If interested in learning more about this camp, see link below.

https://otservices.wustl.edu/items/trainyourbrain/

  1. While swimming is often a go to over the summer, especially in the St. Louis heat, swimming can have great benefits for kids who struggle to manage sensory input.  Swimming provides vestibular input by moving in all directions, proprioceptive input by the resistive muscle activity with the water, and tactile input as swimmers are constantly feeling pressure from the water.   Regardless if kids have sensory needs or not, swimming is also a great form of exercise to help keep active over the summer and improve coordination skills.
  1. STEM Projects. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects are great for kids of all ages.  On a rainy summer day, stay inside and create a marshmallow catapult, make slime, make ice cream in a bag, experiment with various versions of the same chocolate chip cookie recipe to learn how each ingredient affects the overall cookie, or figure out what household materials you could use to build a bridge.  These activities are great to help build problem-solving skills, teamwork, direction following, etc.  In addition, they all result in a final outcome your kid will be proud to show others.
  1. Fuel their passions. While there are certainly many ways to try and keep kids engaged and learning over the summer, the best way to do that is to incorporate their passions and favorite things into learning experiences.  Whether they are into sports, Minecraft, gymnastics, space, or history find age-appropriate ways to feed their interests through books, movies, games, and other hands-on experiences.  The more they are interested in what they are learning the more they will get out of it.

No matter how you choose to keep your kids engaged, the value of any learning over the summer cannot be overstated.  Parents can feel good about keeping their kids engaged in tasks that don’t involve spending hours in front of a screen and kids can look forward to trying new things that keep their minds and bodies active.

 

Common Sense of Learned Skills?

Parents – does this sound like you?

  • I don’t understand how you’ can get 100% on your math test but you forget to turn in your homework every day!
  • You’re so great a building complex Lego kids, but why can’t you organize and clean your room better?
  • The refrigerator is RIGHT THERE! Please just open it and put the milk back in next time rather than leaving it on the counter.

If so, then you are most definitely NOT alone!

Some of these skills may seem like common sense. Skills in one area, like math or tinkering and building, are strengths for our children. But these skills don’t necessarily translate to other important areas of functioning, like remembering to turn in homework or organizing a messy room (which have nothing to do with intelligence).

When looked at through a lens of discreet skills that are actively developing in our children, then we see a more comprehensive picture than just “smart” or “logical.” We start to see our children’s skills of organization, time management, working memory, and planning. Then, we can start to provide direct and specific strategies to support the development of these skills.

Called executive functions (EFs), these can set your child up for not only school success but for life success, as well. These higher-level thinking skills, like working memory, planning, and attention, are so important that the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that “individuals and society experience lifelong benefits” when opportunities to learn and practice EF skills are presented. And research backs up that EF skills can be explicitly taught (Takas, Z. K. & Kassai, R, 2019).

WashU’s Program in Occupational Therapy offers just such an opportunity for your 9-16 year old each summer. The Train Your Brain summer camp is a week-long, half-day program for your child (with or without a diagnosis that affects EF skills) that explicitly teaches time management, planning, goal setting, and organization through engaging STEM projects. Different than other science or STEM summer camps, Train Your Brain uses STEM projects as a means to an end of learning EF strategies that campers can take with them to use at home and school.

So if you see yourself in the statements at the beginning of this article, take a look at the Train Your Brain summer camp and consider giving your child an opportunity to learn and practice important life skills.

 

Keep Kids Active During Summer Break

While the school year might be over and “traditional” learning is on pause for a few months, the summer is a great time to help kids continue to learn and gain skills.  Keeping kids active and learning over the summer helps make sure they are ready for the grade ahead and don’t regress in any areas.  The summer is the best time to try out new and exciting learning opportunities that are hands-on and engaging.

  1. Explore local attractions. Within the St. Louis metropolitan area, there are so many great local attractions to check out.  Even if you have been to these places before, there are always new things to explore and new ways to keep your child learning throughout the experience.  If you go to the zoo have your children plan out on the map how they are going to get around to see their favorite animals, or if you go to the botanical gardens have them practice their reading skills by reading out loud the postage signage.   Regardless of where you go there are so many opportunities to keep children learning while at our local attractions.
  1. Attend a local summer camp. While all camps are great for keeping kids active, if you want to keep your kids learning over the summer look for camps that focus on science, art, and other educational skills.  Washington University Occupational Therapy offers its’ own summer camp for children ages 9-12 and new this summer 13-16 yr olds with executive function difficulties (difficulty with planning, organization, goal-setting, task monitoring, etc.).  If interested in learning more about this camp, see the link below.

                   https://otservices.wustl.edu/items/trainyourbrain/

  1. Explore the outdoors. Thankfully this summer has more opportunities to experience indoor attractions due to more things being open and available, but it is still important to spend time outdoors.  Whether this is going for a hike and learning about the leaves and trees around you, camping for the weekend and problem solving on how to pitch a tent, or trying out fishing for the first time and researching the different species of fish, each of these opportunities provides a fun experiential learning experience for kids and parents alike.
  1. Cook together. Cooking is a great home-learning opportunity that combines math, science, and reading skills.  From picking out a recipe, getting and measuring the ingredients, as well as learning the science behind how foods are cooked, this fun activity will keep children constantly learning.  If you want to change things up, even more, have themed cooking nights where you cook foods from different cultures and eat the meal the way individuals would in those countries.
  2. Fuel their passions. While there are certainly many ways to try and keep your kids engaged and learning over the summer, the best way to do that is to incorporate their passions and favorite things into learning experiences.  Whether they are into sports, Minecraft, gymnastics, space, or history find age-appropriate ways to feed their interests through books, movies, games, and other hands-on experiences.  The more they are interested in what they are learning the more they will get out of it.

No matter how you choose to keep your kids engaged, the value of any learning over the summer cannot be overstated.  While this summer certainly holds more opportunities for traveling and being with others, also use this time as a great way to explore new learning opportunities while gearing up for the school year ahead.

Your Kid Needs a Brain Break

After the school year that our kids just went through, their brains are fried. Isn’t yours? Especially for our children with learning needs, this year’s virtual learning environment presented huge challenges. We are multisensory beings in a vibrant environment, and we learn through all of our senses. Online school only gives our children visual and auditory information, which can dull our senses, lead to boredom, and create difficulty fully exploring new concepts and ideas. Our attention, task monitoring, problem-solving, and planning are all dulled by this monotonous routine. Let’s go have fun at summer camp!

Thankfully, Washington University Occupational Therapy is offering an in-person option for learning fun. Train Your Brain (TYB) summer camp is back to support children’s executive functioning skills through hands-on games and motivating projects. Following COVID-19 safe protocols with fully vaccinated staff, TYB will offer hands-on activities that stimulate your child’s mind in multisensory ways.

This year, camp will feature egg drop activities in which campers must build contraptions to protect a raw egg from falling 10+ feet. They will set goals, plan, problem-solve, manage time, and edit their work to make a successful egg protector. Children and teens ages 9-16 are eligible to join in the fun. So if your child’s executive functions are dulled from online learning, consider Train Your Brain to sharpen their cognitive skills this summer. Learn more about our camp and register here!