[Family] Kids and summer

Nikka Santos
Here are 7 things you can do together to make the remainder of the season count

GIGANTIC PROPELLERS, GROWING MINDS. A Titanic exhibit at the Art & Science Museum in Singapore. Photo from Nikka Santos

MANILA, Philippines — School is out and we now have more time to connect with our children. Besides getting them enrolled in summer programs, it is a good idea to plan things you can do together.

Keep in mind that the long vacation also offers more opportunities for the best kind of learning, the kind that involves meaningful experiences, hands-on activities and open discussions. Summer time is great for learning more about your kids, while they learn more about the world.With some effort, it shouldn’t even cost you thousands of pesos in enrollment fees or require traveling to faraway places.

Ready for some summer bonding and learning? Here are 7 ideas.

1. Get out and explore

Summer usually means travel and discovering new places. So just go. Nothing quite teaches us about the world and how it works like visiting unfamiliar territory.

Whether it’s Chinatown or downtown Manila, a nearby province or out of the country, there’s always something to learn.

Before the trip, think of ways to incorporate history, geography, and cultural studies in your itinerary. A bit of Google-searching can make anyone a good tour guide.  

LEARNING WHILE SHOPPING. Explore in Singapore's Chinatown district and let your child practice his Math — he can even learn negotiation skills. Photo from Nikka Santos

2. Get a dose of culture

Still in the spirit of exploration, go and take your kids to museums, art galleries, historical landmarks, and cultural events. Manila alone has much to offer.

The Mind Museum just opened and is a must-go for this summer. Stage plays, musicals, good movies, ballets, and concerts aren’t just fun, they also spark the imagination.

These cultural forays will give you plenty to talk about. They may even lead your kids to lifelong passions of the artistic or intellectual kind. 

DISCOVER MANILA MUSEUMS. Exploring the Lopez Museum in Ortigas Center. Photo from Nikka Santos

3. Start a summer book club

Now is the perfect time for kids to read books they actually want to read and not books listed by a strict curriculum. Let them choose.

Don’t dismiss comics or graphic novels, which have turned many reluctant readers. Besides, quality isn’t limited to chapter books. The point is to keep them reading during the school break, and to make them enjoy reading. Data shows students lose about 3 months of grade level equivalency in reading during summer break.

Plug summer brain drain and bond at the same time by setting up your own family book club. Choose a book and set a date a week or two later to discuss. You can even make a date out of it and do your book club meeting over a nice dinner. You’ll have to read the book yourself, of course, and prepare questions about it.

Let everyone get a chance to choose a book. You could suggest one you loved reading as a child. A Wrinkle in Time would be on my list. Your tween son might choose The Hunger Games. A younger daughter may want Charlotte’s Web.

Try to include a Filipino author. If you have teens, Nick Joaquin’s May Day Eve offers a lot to discuss. Teens are usually enthralled by magical realism. Tell them Nick Joaquin did it with this short story before Laura Esquivel wrote Like Water for Chocolate.

4. Get into business

Like reading, research shows that Math skills tend to drop during the summer lull. It doesn’t have to.

If you and your kids are the entrepreneurial sort, starting a small sideline during the school break is a good way to practice numeracy while you work on something together. Garage sales, a home-baking venture or joining a young entrepreneur’s fair will definitely flex their number skills and critical thinking.

Nothing sharpens number chops like hands-on experience. Try your best not to step in and do everything for them. Let them be the cashier, handle the budgeting and calculations. Allow mistakes, but make sure they learn from them.

5. Start an art project

You can go wild on this and go as small or as big as you want. From a total room makeover to painting a mural or a making a simple Easter Tree to cap the Holy Week, the possibilities are endless.

If your daughter is a little fashionista, you could make accessories together. Your son likes to draw or is a budding design geek? Suggest printing your own t-shirts using a silkscreen or take advantage of digital printing.

It could be anything creative, really. You know what your kids are into and you are only limited by your imagination. 

TWO KIDS, A TREE. Two kids made this Easter tree with a little help from mommy. Photo from Nikka Santos

6. Plug in

There’s no escaping electronic media, especially in the summer months. Games and the internet captivate children, but that doesnít have to be a bad thing.

If you’re a gamer yourself, steer them towards games that allow open-ended thinking and require creativity. We’re not talking about those mind-numbing Zynga games like Farmville. Quite the opposite of Farmville is a game like Minecraft. This is one game that requires clever thinking and imagination. It’s like LEGOS on steroids, where you build your own world and figure out ways to survive.

Games like this are good for teaching persistence and problem solving. Kids fail all the time when they play. Experimentation, clever thinking, and exerting extra effort is what makes them win. If you get into a game together, even better.

Surf the internet with your child should also be mind-opening. Quality blogs, online museums, and certain video portals make good stops.

TED-ED is a good site for educational videos. Tune in to their interests and look for sites that will let them to geek out on their passions, from Star Wars and basketball, to arts and crafts, and cooking.

Is science her thing? Or is he very curious? Go to Dr. Frank Oppenheimerís Exploratorium and you’ll find fun, cool ideas for science projects grade schoolers can do during the summer.

Thoughtfully curated web experiences can be enriching. It would be a shame not to mine the internet for the wealth of resources it has.

7. Plug off 

Just you, your kids, the sun, and the sand. Finally, make sure you make time to … just be.

Everyone step away from those electronic gadgets. That includes daddy disengaging from his iPhone and mommy getting off Facebook.

Plug off wherever you want — the park, the beach, or just at home playing an old-fashioned board game. 

SEA, SAND, SUN. The beaches of Palawan open up a world of learning. Photo from Nikka Santos

Wherever you choose to do this, just enjoy each other’s company. Make summer memories. Relish it. – Rappler.com

(The rainy season has begun! How do you plan to catch up with the remaining summer season? How will you bond with your kids? Tell us! Email us your story with photos with subject heading FAMILY to desk@rappler.com.)

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