Tag Archives: summer learning

3 Fun Fourth of July Activities for Kids!

Looking for a festive way to spend time with the kids this 4th of July while sneaking in school skills for summer?  Check out these fun, educational activities that will keep the whole family laughing and learning together this independence day!

Note: All activities can be modified for different age groups.  I worked with a toddler, kindergartner, and second grader. I tried to keep it simple with mostly common, inexpensive household ingredients.  Please leave me a comment at the end of this post with a question or suggestion!

Activity 1: Bubble Fireworks! 


The Prep: You’ll need butcher paper, tape, bubbles, bubble wands, red and blue food coloring, and cups.  Mix the bubble liquid and food coloring in cups before hand to avoid extra messes.

The Activity: Tape large pieces of butcher paper to a wall or fence outside.  Have children write, copy, or trace a 4th of July greeting on their paper and write their names.  Then, have them blow red and blue bubbles at the paper creating a pretty fireworks effect!

The Skills: This can be added practice for developing writers and you can throw in some history behind the 4th of July for older students.  As the children blow bubbles, you can talk about art skills like spacing and color blending or you could just allow them to get their creative juices flowing!

Activity 2: Patriotic Science!


The Prep: You’ll need baking soda, vinegar, red and blue food coloring, dishes, trays, or baking sheets with a lip, small containers or bowls, and medicine droppers.  Set up a tray with a thin layer of baking soda for each participant.  Pour vinegar into small bowls and then color the vinegar with red and blue food coloring.  Make sure that each child has a red and blue vinegar bowl, a baking soda tray, and a medicine dropper.

The Activity: When the vinegar is combined with the baking soda, it will create a fizzing chemical reaction.  Start by trying to create a fizzy flag or other 4th of July themed creation.  Then let them experiment with the reactants.  Have a few paper bags handy so that you can dump out the trays and sprinkle a fresh layer of baking soda if kids want to start over periodically.

The Skills: Your junior scientists can talk about the reaction, hypothesize, and experiment!  If you have safety glasses around the house, they could definitely add another layer of fun. The artist can work on a beautiful flag and the mathematician can double check the number of stripes on the flag.

Activity 3: Cookies to Share!


The Prep: You’ll need a recipe for cookies and all of the ingredients.  Baking is not my strong suit, so I just used the recipe on the chocolate chip bag.  I’d go for cookies from scratch to get all the fun out of the experience.  I suggest writing the recipe in large letters on a piece of paper with check off boxes.  This way, the kids can go through and check off the list to make sure that they are following all of the directions. The recipe I used called for: 2 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, 1 package chocolate chips.  Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Mix butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Slowly mix in eggs and flour mixture.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Spoon cookies onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 9-11 minutes.

The Activity: Make the cookies according to your recipe taking turns putting in ingredients and checking off the list.  Don’t forget to share them with pride at your 4th of July barbecue!

The Skills: Making any recipe together builds teamwork and math skills.  Be sure to point out how the measuring cups work and the importance of following all of the directions. You could modify this activity with any recipe you want and ramp up the complexity for older kids or find a healthier alternative to discuss nutrition.

What do you think about these festive 4th of July activities?  Please share your comments, questions, or suggestions!

Emily Guthrie has taught junior high and high school English in Southern California for 8 years. She currently teaches grades 9-12, including AP English Language and Composition.  She specializes in working with technology to enhance curriculum for English learners and enrichment students.  She also blogs about fitness and motherhood at TheBusyMomsDiet.com

Summer Smackdown! How to Kick Summer Gap to the Curb

Summertime Learning Grade KIf you were to ask your children what their favorite part of the school year is, I bet they’d say summer.  And why wouldn’t they?  To them, it’s a time to sleep in, catch up on TV and movies, hang out with friends, and send even more text messages.  It’s two months of freedom from homework, written reports, and classroom speeches.

Unarguably, my summer breaks used to be my favorite part of the school year, too.  In fact, I still remember my middle school summer routine as if I had just practiced it.  Each day, my head was consumed by one “major” thought:  at which friend’s house was I going to sleepover that night.  (Sibling torture was a definite consideration.)  And the only studying I did was of reading about Kristy in The Babysitter’s Club, scanning the pages of Tiger Beat, or watching Dylan McKay on 90210.

Summertime Learning Grade 1

My middle school summers, as well as many modern summer routines, don’t sound too terrible.  On the contrary, they sound fun and even stimulating.  But are they educational?  Not quite.  And, unfortunately, a couple months of this behavior is like a minor car accident to your children’s education—they’ll recover, but it may take a while.

Think about it this way:  Students solve math equations, write paragraphs, and learn about historical events for ten months; then they get two months off.  In this time, they seldom solve, write, or learn anything of an academic nature.  When they return to school, their brains, much like unpracticed athletes’ bodies, are out of shape and require retraining.  In some cases, they have to relearn what they have already been taught.

Summertime Learning Grade 2Researchers call this the Summer Gap because, simply put, during the summer, a gap in learning is formed.  Fortunately, there are ways to combat this gap.  Aside from going to the public library and checking out its recommended (and age-appropriate) reading selections, you can also buy materials that will support your children’s education.  We’ve just finished a new Summertime Learning series, which centers on summertime activities and resources that will engage your children.  Each book contains eight weeks of language arts and math activities.  You’ll also find a recommended summer reading list, journal topics, educational and free Web sites, and stickers.

So let your children sleep in for a while.  They can even catch up on some TV and movies.  But be sure to give Summer Gap the smackdown and prove to your children that summertime learning can be entertaining, easy-going, and, much like Dylan’s McKay’s Porsche, a fun ride.

Summertime Learning Grade 3Summertime Learning Grade 5Summertime Learning Grade 4

Summer Packets

Many teachers send a letter to their students just before the start of the school year. It’s a great way to introduce the teacher and get students excited about the coming year. How about including a small packet of summer activities with that letter? See a sample letter here.

Start by picking out your favorite activities from any of the resource books that are fun and cover all subject areas and ability levels (you can search for books by subject area and grade level here or scroll down for sample activities). Then students can pick and choose as they see fit. Designate the activities as optional. Those who complete some activities should bring them in the first day of school. They can share special projects if they want, and the teacher can display certain ones. Give every student who participated a certificate as a reward for these extra efforts during the summer.

The teacher can emphasize that the activities can be done with partners or family members. Again, stress that these are optional. They are meant to be fun, yet can be a learning or reviewing experience. Since many children attend camp for the summer, the teacher may want to include one or two activities that tie in—a journal and picture of a favorite camp memory, for example.

Tips: It is a good idea to send packets in July, about one month before school, when students may be feeling bored. Make the envelope inviting and exciting. Put stickers on the outside and address it using colorful markers. Include a class list if possible, so students can get together and work on the activities. New friendships may develop before the school year starts.

Sample activities to include in your summer packets:

From Creative Kids: Arts, Crafts & More:

From 101 Ways to Love a Book:

Ideas for Reinforced Learning During the Summer

Here are some suggestions for continued practice of reading and writing skills during the summer months:

Gifts That Promote Reading and Writing

  • Books, both fiction and nonfiction (includes cookbooks, craft books, biographies, etc.)
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Models that have written directions for assembling

Reading Activities

  • Reading newspaper and magazine articles
  • Reading recipes and cooking foods

Writing Activities

  • Sending a card or letter to someone far away
  • Writing family shopping lists (for groceries, presents, etc.)

Memorizing Activities

  • Story retelling
  • Songs

Games That Require Reading

  • Trivia games
  • Spelling/Vocabulary games
  • Board games

Reading and Writing Activities Using the Newspaper

  • Cut out words that belong to word families we have studied.
  • Collect interesting pictures. Be ready to explain what they are about.
  • Learn a new word every day. Tell what section of the newspaper it came from.
  • Collect interesting news items.
  • Collect interesting cartoons, and draw one of your own.
  • If your newspaper has a puzzle page for students, try to work the puzzle.
  • Look in the classified ad section. Find a job you would like to have. Try to figure out what the abbreviations in the ad stand for.
  • Design a newspaper ad for your favorite consumer item.
  • Pretend you have made an amazing discovery or invention. Write a newspaper article about yourself.

Other Ideas to Try

  • Play a twenty questions game.
  • Compare and contrast items at a store.
  • Explain all the different things you can do with a variety of objects.
  • Diaries
  • Reading directions for making gifts
  • Reading street signs and maps
  • Writing thank-you letters for gifts
  • Poems
  • Plays
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Word searches
  • Dictate a story to a friend or relative.
  • Write clues for a treasure hunt.