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Camp Secrets

Paintings and sculptures. Gourmet cooking. 3-D Printing. New languages. Take a look at a child’s summer camp schedule, and you’re bound to feel a little jealous.

Fun and educational, camp programs engage students in learning in creative ways — a benefit when it’s time to go back to school. Research shows that students can forget up to two months of academic instruction during summer vacation, but camps’ enriching experiences help reduce this summer learning loss, according to the American Camp Association.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of entertaining and educational options at summer camps. And as parents, you can learn from camp, too. Get in on the fun with your child and try these camp-inspired activities at home. Here are seven ideas from popular camps at CAMP IDS:

Bring a book to life
Active students may resist sitting down with a book when there’s so much else to do. A hands-on project tied into the book can boost their interest and reading comprehension. Preschool children and early readers in “Living Literature camp” enjoy the Dr. Seuss book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck,” which has a great science tie in the gooey “oobleck” that fell from the sky. Families can make their own goo, which functions like a liquid and a solid, by slowly adding 1.5 to 2 parts cornstarch to 1 part water. Feel free to mix in food coloring to make it green!

Make dinner
Teaching kids to cook gives you extra hands in the kitchen, but there are science and math benefits as well. Kids are learning about measurements and the chemistry of certain ingredients. Ask older children to adjust the serving size and calculate amounts accordingly for a dose of mathematics. Of course, the best part comes when it’s time to eat the finished product.

Find art in your environment
A craft project doesn’t need to start at the craft store. Art teacher Jill Campisciano challenges her art campers to raid their recycling bins for paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, water bottles and more and use them to build a sculpture, like a robot or house. Or cast a critical eye around the house. Could an unloved piece of furniture get new life with paint? Using leftover paint from various projects, kids can transform trash to treasure.

Become a Bollywood star
Kids in Bollywood dance camp love learning these high energy dances with a cultural flair. Introduce it at home with instructional DVDs or YouTube videos and use it as a springboard to learn about Bollywood movies, Indian culture and music.

Turn a snack into science
This yummy experiment is a favorite at Junior Astronomy for teaching about the sun’s energy. You can turn a pizza box into a solar oven. Line the box with aluminum foil and tape a piece of black construction paper to the bottom of the box. Some instructions include cutting a flap out of the lid and covering it with plastic wrap. Assemble a s’more with chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker and put in the box, propping open the lid with a pencil or wooden skewer. Use Florida’s ample sun to heat your oven! Tip: Put the marshmallow under the chocolate, because the chocolate will melt first and cover the marshmallow nicely.

Say “bonjour” to a new language
Children are sponges when it comes to learning world languages. Make it a fun summer activity that integrates with their interests. Foodies may enjoy trying to cook crepes and quiches while learning French. Already have a basic vocabulary? Try a foreign film or television show or visiting a restaurant and ordering in the native language. If you are bilingual, share your knowledge by working with your child on an activity, once in English and a second time in another language.

Create a Maker Space
The maker movement is booming among adults and kids, so why not set up your own creative space at home? Maker Spaces promote creative thinking and problem solving and can include crafts, science, technology — or whatever else you want to explore. Find a nook at home and stock it with supplies such as masking tape, hot glue guns and scissors. Your materials will depend on your child’s age and interests but can include recyclables, buttons, parts of old toys, popsicle sticks, ribbons, feathers, rubber bands and paper clips. Head online together for inspiration for different types of projects. Follow instructions or encourage your child to innovate on her own!

Whether you are looking for projects for a weekend, spring break or an entire summer, these teachable moments from summer camp will provide plenty of opportunities for discovery that both adults and children will enjoy.

Marie Massara is a co-director of CAMP IDS, which offers more than 60 full- and half-day camp choices on the lakeside campus of Corbett Preparatory School of IDS in North Tampa.

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