Back to School: Fun ways to keep kids minds sharp

Children will soon be headed back to school and it’s important to prepare them for the year ahead. With today’s hectic lifestyles, however, it can be difficult for parents and kids to find the time for enrichment.

“Turning your regular activities into a learning experience can go a long way toward getting kids ready to go back to school,” says Kim Tredick, a fifth grade teacher in Santa Clarita and 2006 Milken Education Award winner. “Just be careful to make the learning fun and not too much like schoolwork.”

Here are some ways to clear those cobwebs in preparation for a new school year:

Keeping a journal sharpens writing skills. photo/creative commons-greg1967

• Make the most of downtime: Be sure time away from school includes a good dose of intellectual enrichment. Museums, nature centers and historical sites should be a staple of your leisure time and weekends.

Take advantage of time in the car or downtime in general. Whether you’re waiting for dinner to be ready or you’re on a lengthy road trip, use learning tools like Brain Quest, a question-and-answer game to make your children’s time both fun and educational. Because the materials are curriculum-based, the decks and workbooks will give kids a leg up on next year’s curriculum.

• Give your children a variety of materials to read, such as cookbooks, chapter books, nutritional panels, newspapers, magazines and movie schedules. Then test their understanding by having them summarize what they read. Let them read aloud to you, siblings, neighbors and grandparents as often as possible.

Children can practice writing and help you at the same time by composing grocery lists, to-do lists and car directions. Encourage them to keep journals and correspond with relatives — both with handwritten letters and emails. Help improve their writing by editing together, paying attention to capitalization, punctuation and spelling.

• Math is everywhere, so use it to your advantage. Cooking together from a recipe is a fun and practical way for kids to learn about measurements, timing and following directions.

When you’re out shopping for a few items at the grocery store, ask your kids to mentally add the total. This will be a lesson both in how money works and basic arithmetic. Work a percentages lesson into your day by having them calculate the sales tax at the register, or calculate the tip at a restaurant.

School’s out for now, but savvy parents can help jumpstart their kids’ minds well before their first assignments. — statepoint media