Learn 6 ways to combine summer fun and learning.
1. The lemonade stand
On a hot day, everybody loves lemonade — and lemonade stands! That old-time activity is actually a terrific opportunity for children to learn math and science skills (by measuring and mixing the lemonade) as well as social skills (when they interact with customers). Start by talking with your child about what she'll need: lemonade, a table and chairs, paper cups, decorations for the stand, a sign announcing the price, and a box to keep the money in. Where would be a good place to set up the stand? How much will she charge for each cup of lemonade? When it's time to make the lemonade, help her measure 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 8 tablespoons of white grape juice, and 6 cups of water into a large plastic pitcher. Stir and chill. Outdoors, help her set up the stand and hang the sign. Demonstrate how to greet customers, pour, and serve the lemonade (if necessary, pour the lemonade into smaller pitchers to make it easier for your child to handle), and make change. When the big event is over, talk with her about what she'd like to do with the money she earned!
2. The alphabet garden
Any kind of gardening is a great way for kids to learn the science of how things grow. Planting a theme garden can make the learning experience even more fun. One favorite is an ABC garden. Together with your child, look through seed catalogs or garden centers to choose what you'll plant — one variety for each letter of the alphabet. When you create your garden, have your child make a tag for each plant or paint the plant name on a rock with enamel paint. To make the project as rewarding as possible for your child, you'll want to steer him toward plants that are hardy and grow quickly in your area. Some of the most reliable vegetables and flowers are bush beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs, marigolds, radishes, zinnias, and zucchini. If you live in an urban area and don't have room for a full garden, try doing an abbreviated version of this activity. Choose vegetables or flowers that start with letters that spell out your child's name or initials, and plant them in a window box.
3. Local tours
How do doughnuts get their holes? Where does the mail in the mailbox go? How do farmers milk so many cows? You and your child can discover the answers by going behind the scenes at a doughnut shop, post office, or dairy. Just ask your local proprietors. They may be willing to allow chaperoned children to pay a visit and see all that goes on in their busy workplace. You may think of other great places to see as well! Before the trip, talk with your child about where you're going and what questions he'd like to ask when you get there. Write them down and bring them with you for reference. Take lots of photos of your trip, and help him put them in his summer scrapbook.