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Summer Fun

For most teens, summer is a time to hang out with friends, sleep in late, and be independent. Of course, we are all looking forward to the relaxing pace that summer offers, but if we are going to have a successful summer, we need to plan for it.

Here are some ideas to get you started on an eventful summer:

  1. Check out the local YMCA to see what classes might be offered. Besides swimming, the “Y” often offers classes in cooking, arts and crafts, and even self-defense.
  2. Some neighborhood associations offer workshops in a variety of categories.
  3. Volunteer work can be a great outlet; particularly at an animal shelter, nursing homes, churches, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens.
    1. A side benefit to volunteerism is that it promotes self-confidence and responsibility.
    2. Volunteer work looks great on college applications and resumes; especially if your child wants to apply for a scholarship.
  4. What about a part-time job?
    1. Are there internships or small tasks your teen can do at your place of employment?
    2. Consider helping your teen apply to local grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores, local car washes, or pet care facilities.
    3. Your teen can develop a strong work ethic and learn the value of a dollar.

The best approach is always to talk things out together. It is important to note what limitations might exist and to plan accordingly. The only thing worse than having a bored teen in your home is two or more bored teens! Plan ahead!

Summer Entertainment on a Dime

Summer’s here! Our kids are excited, ready for anything that doesn’t feel like school; however, we parents might be more accurately described as “anxious!” What will our kids do all day? How much will it cost us? Summer strikes fear in parents everywhere; so what are we going to do to survive the summer?

  • Check out the local community center. Centers all over the state offer low-cost programs for children of all ages, such as swimming, tennis, arts and crafts, and cooking.
  • Visit the library. Look for some great reads for the older kids and reading incentive programs for the younger ones.
  • Free movies! Many local theaters offer free or low-cost movies on weekday mornings. Check the local theater for more information.
  • Plan a “staycation.” If leaving town is not financially feasible, turn your home into a “hotel.” Grill some burgers and hot dogs, rent a movie, pop popcorn, camp out in the family room, and enjoy some great family time. Feel free to “venture” out to visit some local tourist sites—your home can be a great hotel!
  • Cruise the mall. If it’s too hot to play outside, enjoy some play time inside. Do some window shopping with air conditioning on someone else’s dime.
  • Give the kids some online time. With school out, help your kids keep up their education by allowing them some well-supervised time on the Internet.
  • Plan for some quiet time at home. We can’t be on the run every minute of the day, and everyone is happier when relaxed and rested.

We don’t have to dread summer. Yes, it may be hot, and yes, it can be a challenge to keep the kids entertained on a daily basis. But with a little forethought and planning, all of us can have a busy, fun-filled summer without breaking the bank!

Word Clouds

Parents often look for ways to keep children involved in learning, particularly during the summer. These efforts by parents are essential, as educational research shows that the typical child can lose a month or more of learning over the summer months.

Building word clouds is a fun, easy, and learning-filled way to support reading, comprehension, and vocabulary. A word cloud is a visual way to creatively group words or terms together and built around just about anything, such as a story, an idea, or an activity. It can be used as an introduction to a lesson or as a closing activity. The great thing about a word cloud is that the sky is the limit!  

You can build a word cloud with paper and markers or crayons or a word processor. Or, you can engage students quickly by using one of the many free websites available online. You will find some examples of user-friendly word cloud builders on the Tagxedo, ABCya, and Wordle websites.

Word clouds do not take a large amount of time for preparation. They also can be used for any age level. To support reading comprehension skills, it can be as simple as leafing through a story and listing the vocabulary words, usually in bold print. A more creative approach would be for the child to pick a subject, such as a family pet, a poem, or a favorite sport, and then list every word that comes to mind relating to that selection. For an older child, technical or typically uninteresting terminology can come to life with a word cloud.

Once the child has selected the words, the next step is to decide which of the words should be emphasized. Kids can give special attention to words by using them several times or by changing font sizes, styles, and colors. It’s also fun to play with the way the words are positioned in the cloud. Backgrounds are also usually an option in the Web versions, as is the actual shape of the cloud. Imagine a word cloud about “Fido,” shaped like a puppy...fluffy, silly, bouncy, loving, adorable, cuddly.

Make summer activities fun with word clouds. In the end, they can be a great learning tool and visual snapshot of what children know, learn, and imagine.

Keep Summer Reading Cool

No more teachers, no more books…well, you know the rest. But how about that “no more books” thing? While summer gives us a break from homework and reading logs, taking a break from reading is not really the best thing for our kids. Convincing your child to pick up a book this summer doesn’t have to be a chore. Making reading a family activity can be fun! And since reading is integral to success both in and out of the classroom, the rewards will last a lifetime.

Need some help motivating your child to read this summer? Why not take a trip to your local, air-conditioned library? Many libraries run fantastic, reward-based summer reading programs. Using game boards and stickers, kids (ages birth-11) can track their summer reading, earning a sticker for every book, 20 minutes, or 50 pages read (you and your kids can choose the best method). Teens (ages 12-18) can track their reading online on a secure website where they can also write reviews for other participants to see. There are even programs for adults! And with cool prizes like toys, gift certificates, hi-tech prizes (for teens), and a voucher for a free book after they reach their goal, your kids will be motivated to keep reading all summer long.

Library programs are great partners for parents, but you are really your child’s biggest inspiration. When your kids see you relaxing with a book this summer, they’re more likely to try it themselves. Why not make a game of it by starting a family reading contest at home? First, make a scorecard listing everyone’s name to hang on the refrigerator. Next, set the rules: choose start and end dates, agree to count pages or minutes-read (whatever seems most fair for your readers), and let the reading begin! You can offer a grand prize for the winner, but don’t forget to reward runners-up for participating, reminding them that when everyone reads, everyone wins.

Since summertime reading should be more about having fun and less about academics, it’s important for children to really enjoy what they’re reading. According to a Sylvan Learning survey conducted by Harris Interactive in March, 2013, 94% of youth ages 8-18 said they like reading more if they get to choose the books. You can guide them, but let your kids feel as if they have the final say in what they read this summer. If your 8-year-old son wants to read a comic book instead of a chapter book, let him! Many comic books contain detailed artwork, lots of characters to keep track of, and complicated dialogue and plot twists. They can provide great exercise for his brain, and isn’t that the point? Likewise, if your child wants to read a book that you think may be too challenging, go ahead and let him; he may surprise you! For help choosing some great summer titles with your kids, try the checking out the Scholastic Books for Kids page.

Summer break gives kids the down-time they need to feel refreshed for the new school year. It’s a time for cartoons, ice cream cones, water fights with the hose – a time to be a kid! Making summer reading fun is the best way to keep your kids’ skills fresh without making them feel the stress that can come with being a student. With all that reading fun, your kids will learn this summer without even knowing it. Shhh…don’t tell them!