Perhaps you saw our recent Facebook post, featuring a quote that said, "A child educated only at school is an uneducated child." It makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? We focus so hard on the education our children get at school – which classes they take, how good their teachers are, how hard they study – but we can’t forget that a significant portion of life-success education is actually acquired outside of school.
Although school districts and individual teachers are moving toward more experiential learning activities, much of what our children learn in school still comes from a text book or lecture. That knowledge is important, but so is the experience one can gain from “real life.”
What can we do, as parents, to maximize the real-life learning that our children receive? Here we offer suggestions for learning activities they can do with you, or on their own:
10 Learning Activities to Do with Your Children
Now that summer vacation is nearing its end, you may be starting to think about next summer’s vacation. You also have several 3-day weekends and holidays to look forward to in the coming months.
Here are some great educational ways to spend your free hours with your children:
#1 – Visit aquariums and museums
Many of the best museums and aquariums now offer wonderful interactive exhibits for you to experience with your children. These lists will help you find some of the best near you:
#2 - Bring your child to work
On those days when you have to work but your children are off from school, take them to work with you! It’s important for kids to get a feel for a professional work place, and to understand the ways in which members of a department each contribute toward the success of the team. The official Take Your Child to Work Day usually occurs annually, in April, but there’s no reason to wait!
#3 – Plant a garden
Humans of all ages are fascinated by growing things. Nurturing a plant from a seedling gives us a sense of gratification and accomplishment. If you’re planting with younger children, explain all the forces at work within and around the growing plants. If your garden grower is a teen, come up with a fun list of questions about your plants, for him or her to research online. Even if you live in an apartment, there should be room for a couple potted plants on your window sill or balcony.
#4 – Take a nature hike
Nature presents one of our ultimate learning experiences. Before you go out exploring with your children, research the area you’re in, or ask them to do it. Consider how the weather, the terrain, the position of the sun, the condition of the soil, and the presence of man all affect the flora and fauna that you’re observing.
#5 – Travel
Sometimes we live somewhere for years and never venture out to see what’s around us. Instead of staying home for your Thanksgiving or Winter Break, consider a family trip. It doesn’t have to be expensive: all you need is a car, a map, and one or two nights’ motel fees.
If you can plan a longer trip to a more distant location, you’ll have even more “latitude” to explore and learn about new places and cultures.
#6 – Visit historic sites
When traveling with the family, include a historic site in your itinerary. Conduct research with the kids ahead of time, so you make the most of your learning opportunity.
These lists provide destination ideas:
#7 – Cook together
Americans are becoming “foodies,” and if you watch cooking competitions on The Food Network, you’ll see that even young children are developing a “sophisticated palate” – and they know what that means!
Cooking with your children is a great way to bond and enjoy a learning experience at the same time. Include a nutrition lesson as you plan a meal together, and once you get into the kitchen, be sure to let your kids get hands-on with both food prep and plating. How artistic can they be?
#8 – Make crafts
Speaking of art, sharing “crafty” hobbies is a wonderful way to help your kids build dexterity and express their creativity. Get great craft ideas on Pinterest, or check out these articles:
#9 – Build something
Many kids exhibit a penchant for building early in life – whether they’re working with blocks or building blanket forts in the living room. Those kids could grow up to be engineers or architects. When possible, let them devise their own solutions for pulling the project together. Here are ideas to get you started:
#10 – Read together
This one’s obvious, but it bears repeating. Language skills will be critical throughout our children’s lives, and reading is an excellent way to build vocabulary, knowledge, and new ideas. Read aloud to them when they’re little. When they’re older, pick a book to read simultaneously, and then discuss it over dinner.
4 Learning Activities for Kids to Do on Their Own
As important as family-togetherness time is, kids also need space to develop their own personalities and passions. Here are 4 ways to help them acquire life experience and skills, as they explore their potential.
Sports are a healthy outlet for a kid’s natural energy. Sports also help children learn teamwork and the spirit of competition, as they develop their physical and social skills. They’ll make new friends and have fun in the process!
The concepts of empathy and giving back are important to impart to our children. Volunteer work also helps them learn about a variety of careers and work environments, while acquiring skills such as project management, communication, and collaboration.
Naturally, this is our favorite option of all. Envision’s mission is to help students turn their career and life aspirations into reality. We understand how difficult it is for a child to make big decisions about their future. They’ll also be facing increased competition, as the world gets smaller and the talent pool of college and career candidates grows exponentially.
Career camps (especially Envision’s!) give kids an opportunity to try a career (medicine, law, business, engineering, etc.) and develop real skills, while enjoying eye-opening, confidence-building experiences that enhance their college and job applications.
Like Envision’s career camps, our summer leadership camps engage students through interactive activities and equip them with the skills they need for success in college, career, and life in the 21st century. Leadership camps are specifically designed to impart a greater level of global awareness, as students learn to take responsibility for their future and make an impact on the world around them.
For more ideas about expanding your child’s education outside the classroom, check out these additional activity guides:
Education.com also provides guided lessons and learning resources, for a variety of educational activities, searchable by age, from pre-school through high school. Their resources include 79 activities for high school level students.