By Smarty Guest Blogger Melissa Puno, Academic Dean at Palisades Episcopal School
Summer is a wonderful time to challenge your children and offer them opportunities for learning beyond the classroom walls. In addition to the more skill-oriented work parents may want to engage their children in during the summer, summer is also an ideal time to involve your child in fun activities that do not merely necessitate rote “practice.” Often the best enrichment opportunities parents can provide their children reflect the following premises:
Environmental Exposure – Children benefit from authentic, real-life experiences in engaging and inspiring settings. Take day trips to museums, national parks, historical places, libraries, zoos, and aquariums. Feed your children’s natural interests and passions by letting them see, touch, listen, and live first hand what they are learning. While you are there, make sure to ask your child a few careful questions that cause him/her to think deeply about the experience, reflect on it, and analyze it. Ask your child.
“How would you feel if…?”
“What does this remind you of…?”
“Why is this (place, person, artifact) important…?”
“What part of this experience was most memorable to you? Why?”
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving – Opportunities that foster children’s higher-order thinking skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking occur everywhere. Asking the “right” questions of your child will encourage them to activate and use these thinking skills. Play games which encourage the use of strategy like scrabble, chess, or monopoly. When viewing movies or tv shows ask your child to compare and contrast several shows or to draw connections between the characters’ situation / time period / actions with those in literature they have read, in other shows they have seen, or in his/her world today. Read books with your children and engage them in literature discussions that are as stimulating for you as they are for them – they will rise to the occasion.
Ethical Dilemma – Surprisingly, children begin at a very young age to acquire the skills necessary to be passionate, fair, and wise citizens of the future. Engage your children in conversations that encourage their abilities to weigh multiple sides of the story, to be open-minded, and to think empathetically. Pose age-appropriate, open-ended (no right or wrong answers please) ethical dilemmas, dilemmas like “Do animals feel?” or “What should we do if a child that seems to be mean to others gets left out at play time?” We find dilemmas everywhere – books, movies, tv, ball games, play dates. Pose these questions, play devil’s advocate, and guide your child as he/she hashes through the many nuances of the situation.
Authentic Learning – All children need to see the interconnectedness of everything that they learn. They also need to constantly be using and applying skills in real life contexts. Help your child make connections between book learning and real life. Rather than practicing skills in isolation via worksheets or practice books, challenge them to use their advanced skills in practical settings. Have your child plan a meal, a party, or a vacation by establishing the budget, researching the locale, setting the itinerary, bargain shopping, cooking the recipe, or creating and writing the invitation.