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July 30, 2018
As a mom of two young daughters, I’m especially lucky to work at a children’s museum. I draw inspiration from the museum’s exhibits, programs, and camp curriculum to provide my girls with an exciting summer full of learning and fun. Here are some of my favorite techniques for curating that perfect balance of learning and fun this summer.
Citizen science. Take bird or bug watching to the next level by contributing your findings to science! Scientists often rely on the public to better understand animal populations and migratory patterns. You don’t have to visit a national park or buy expensive binoculars. There are plenty of free resources like BumbleBeeWatch.org and the Merlin Bird ID App where you can log sightings and explore data. Practicing citizen science encourages outdoor time while teaching kids about ecology and their responsibility as global citizens.
Collaborative art. Collaborative art projects are an incredible tool for teaching kids culture, collaboration, creativity, and sharing. Invite friends to add to your child’s painting or task siblings to create something together, and talk to them about how collaboration makes our world better. At the Glazer Children’s Museum, kids draw individual pictures that are added to the wall, over time creating a beautiful piece of collaborative art.
Ongoing projects. Embark on a project, story, or game that won’t be completed in one session. This summer, my 3-year-old, Audrey, and I have been diving into our imaginary world of the mermaid sisters Auckerlasher and Lazer. Did I mention Audrey has a unique skill for naming characters? Each night, we add new adventures to their story. Sometimes I forget recent plot twists, but Audrey remembers in remarkable detail! Whether you create a story like ours, play a game of chess (I recommend a magnetic board so the pieces stay in place), or add to the same craft over time, an ongoing project teaches follow-through, patience, and complexity.
Guest speakers! You’ve probably noticed that your child responds differently to the same activity when lead by another adult. Likewise, the toys, supplies, and even furniture at another kid’s house become instantly more interesting than what’s at home. My neighbor Lindsey and I embrace this phenomenon. One day she brings her kids over where I lead an experiment, story time, or outdoor play for the whole group. The next day at her house she takes the lead. The whole group benefits from the difference perspectives, variety of techniques, and change of venue.
Farm-to-table. You don’t need a garden, or even a green thumb, to teach your kids the farm-to-table concept. Herbs and citrus can grow in pots and usually thrive in Florida, as long as they get enough water. We have a large flowerpot in our backyard where we planted a lime tree and mint plant (that my husband and I jokingly call the mojito bush). My kids helped plant them and love tasting the fruit of their labor! The farm-to-table concept teaches kids nutrition, the value of hard work, and where their food comes from.
Stargazing. This free nighttime ritual is wonderful for kids who are old enough to stay up late, and fascinating for the whole family! Download one of the many free astronomy apps like Star Chart or Star Walk 2 to figure out which constellations you are seeing, chart the course of satellites, and even compare the night sky over time. Many apps use your phone’s camera to give you the information from your exact perspective. Stargazing can spark curiosity and foster your child’s interest in science.
Museums! As a museum lover, I can’t complete this list without informal learning institutions like the Glazer Children’s Museum. While a lot of families already enjoy visiting museums, zoos, and aquariums, and recognize their importance in a child’s development, many don’t take advantage of the fabulous reciprocal programs available. Members of the Glazer Children’s Museum, for example, gain free or discounted access to a myriad of other museums and institutions locally and across the country.
Mindfulness. Kids balance a variety of stressors from tests, to bullying, to social media, and it is our responsibility to help them hone that skill. Whether you take your child to a yoga class, practice meditation at home, or simply set aside quiet time each day, you can prepare your kids for the pressure of a new school year and beyond. Practicing mindfulness helps develop key skills for social and emotional wellness such as patience, self-awareness, and resilience.
I hope you enjoy trying some of these activities with your family this summer! Balancing summer learning and fun is a great complement to the structured education of the classroom and cultivates well-rounded, creative, and capable kids.