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Summer Learning Fun!

We asked teachers at Horizons programs across the country to share some fun ways to keep learning alive throughout the summer, and their creativity is abundantly clear!

Paint a Story!  

From Horizons at The Foote School, New Haven, CT:

Supplies needed:

  • Paper to draw 
  • Paper to write a story
  • Paint/crayons/markers 

A great way to incorporate literacy into your child's artwork projects. Your child paints/draws/colors a picture and then dictates a story about it/explains it to an adult who writes it down. Then you attach the story to the picture. It's a visual literacy exercise that gets children to think, use language and vocabulary, and learn about sentence structure and grammar. 

See What’s in Store!

From Horizons at The Foote School, New Haven, CT:

Supplies needed:

  • Cardboard Boxes 
  • Paper, crayons/markers 
  • Store inventory (anything from toys, empty boxes, clothing items, and art creations)
  • Play money 

Here’s an activity designed to keep your child busy and engaged – and it just might tap her or his entrepreneurial spirit as well. Your kid(s) will design and run their own “store” – and the possibilities for play are endless! 

Step 1: Plan Your Store
Ask your child to plan out what their new store will sell. Here’s where you’ll see first-hand just how creative your kids can be. Explain to them this is part of the process everyone goes through when they’re starting a new business. They can even draw a sketch of their store!

 Some questions you can ask to help get ideas flowing:

  • What is their store name, and what does their store look like?
  • What three products do they want to sell?
  • Who will visit their store?
  • How much will the items in their store cost?

Step 2: Build Your Store
Here comes the fun transformation! Use boxes (a great way to teach your kids about recycling, too!) as walls for the stores, and draw signs to attract customers into the store. Now display the products. This can be anything from toys, empty boxes, clothing items, and art creations. Nothing is off limits because their creativity drives this part of the project. 

Step 3: 
Open For Business!
Give your children $2 in various play coins (real coins would be fun too!). Or if just one child is participating, give yourself the play coins and get ready to shop. It’s often easier to teach your children math when they’re “making change” as they tend their store or when they’re asked to “pay the correct amount” to buy something in your store.  

You can keep this going throughout the day, and even take a break and come back to it. You can ask your children to add inventory to their stores, and to create ads for sales and promotions. The options are endless, and can be tailored to your child. 

Teacher Tip:
This activity can be adapted to various age levels, a wide-range of skill levels, and different groupings of children and interests. It’s helpful if they already have a basic understanding of the type of money they’ll be using and have some practice making change. But whatever level you end up playing, let them be creative and have fun with it!

Make Jetpacks! 

From Horizons AustinTrinity, in Austin, TX:

Hook students with this space-theme learning activity – using recyclables you may already have! It’s fun, and a great way to start the “research and questioning” process. 

Supplies needed: 

  • Flat cardboard rectangular in shape 
  • Material to make the "arm straps" such as rope, shoelaces, yarn 
  • Two empty 2-liter bottles with labels removed 
  • Hot glue 
  • Felt or other materials to decorate the jetpack 

 (1) Use a rectangle of flat cardboard that fits the width of your child's back, and attach “arm straps” – like on a backpack. You can use old webbing, shoelaces, rope, braided yarn, twill tape... anything you have that’ll help your child “wear” his or her jetpack when it’s all done!  Whatever you use, the straps should go through the top and around to the sides – again, like a backpack. Staple or tape in place to create the arm holes, and feel free, if you want, to add another strap to go across the front that is stapled to the arm loops to “buckle” in front. 

(2) Take two (washed!) empty 2-liter soda bottles with labels removed. Lightly mist them with silver spray paint. Because you’ll be gluing these to the cardboard, you only need to mist the tops and sides of them, not all around. Let the paint dry.

(3) Hot glue the bottles, side-by-side, tops facing downward, to your cardboard backpack.

(4) Then take some red, yellow or orange felt (or crepe paper, ribbon, yarn, colored paper, etc.), cut or folded to look like “flames,” and hot glue them inside the bottle opening so they look like flames shooting out of the “jet” canisters.

(5) Add a felt (or cardboard) ignition switch to the front strap and you’re ready for lift off!

Let your child put it on and take it for a test ride! It takes about 30 minutes to make, but leads to hours of fun through the months to come! 

[Based on an original idea at:]

Summer Fun with Dollar Store Items! 

From Horizons at Lancaster Country Day School, Lancaster, PA:

Create Menus!

Supplies needed:

  • Paper 
  • Pencil/pen/markers 

Children write a menu to share with family members – based on what parents are serving for lunch or dinner. They can draw pictures with labels, or write out descriptions, describing with adjectives. It can be read to family members, telling them what the night’s “specials” include.

Use a Mini White Board to practice math facts, spelling, and much more! 

Supplies needed: 

  • Mini white board 
  • Dry erase markers 

Bring a mini white board and dry erase marker everywhere (we do this while waiting for swimming lessons and on field trips, but families could do it while running errands or waiting for an appointment). We use these mini white boards for the kids to practice spelling, capitalization, math facts, grammar rules, or just having fun drawing pictures or playing tic-tac-toe. They enjoy the novelty of the whiteboard as compared to writing on paper, and they can use lots of colors. Plus, it's green! You can find mini whiteboards at school and office supply places.

Bonus Tip: Need an eraser? We recommend using an old athletic sock worn over the hand like a mitten!

Trace Me!

Supplies needed: 

  • Large piece of paper 
  • Markers/crayons 

This one is good for little kids! Get a large piece of butcher paper and help your child trace his or her body with a marker. Then your child can label each part of the body and learn about the five senses, organs, and body systems.

Dicey Math Facts!

Supplies needed:

  • Pair of dice 

Practice math facts with a pair of dice. Kids can do addition or subtraction. Roll the two dice, add them together. Or roll the two dice, subtract one from the other.

Alphabet Everywhere!

Supplies needed:

  • Paper 
  • Pencil/pen/markers/crayons

Ask kids to write down an object they see in your home that starts with each letter of the alphabet, and make an alphabetical list. Mind your Qs and Zs!

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