Herald Journal Columns
June 5, 2006, Herald Journal

Keep childrens’ minds engaged this summer


With the school year done, or nearly done, and summer fast approaching, it’s important that our children keep on learning, creating, and discovering.

Learning through play is very important for everyone, even adults. We all need to have fun and play, and children actually learn best through hands-on, activity-based opportunities, where the process is equaly, if not more important, than the ending product. Open-ended activities are important as well, where there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.

Remember, there is validity in having fun in the learning process. Learning is directly proportional to the amount of fun you are having, and there is scientific reasoning that indicates the need to have fun.

When we laugh and have fun, the left side of our brain is sparked, as well as the right side, and when both sides are sparked, more memory is created, and learning is increased – like the saying, “two minds working together are better than one.”

Summer vacation, (and, of course, all year) is a great time for our children to engage both sides of the brain, and have fun, create, discover and learn, while in the process.

Here are some activities that your child could participate in, and engage their inventive minds in; for example, give your child a weekly or daily, “think and do” activity. Some of these ideas are from Challenge, Good Apple, Issue 46, 1991.

• What could you invent using a toothpick, paper clip, and rubber band, (and provide the child with these items)?

• Create a new stamp in honor of your birthday, or someone else’s birthday. Think of interesting symbols that would represent the person you are creating the stamp for.

• Design a new school bumper sticker, or a family bumper sticker.

• Make a creature using a sponge, pipe cleaners, and paint.

• Design a birthday card for your neighbor.

• Design a summer party outfit for yourself.

• Invent a way to keep an ice cream cone from leaking.

• Make a comet and fly it. Help your child cut the top from a clean plastic bottle, leaving some of the curve. Leave the cap on. Glue yarn around the rim, (to cover the rigid edge). Cut long strips of tissue paper, and glue them to the inside of the rim. Hold your comet near the top, and send it flying in the air. This idea is from Highlights, April 2006

Favorite books

Of course, reading during the summer time is a wonderful activity for our young people, to keep their minds engaged and their imaginations flowing. Our local public libraries offer different summer reading programs and activities, so take advantage of those as well, and have fun.

When traveling to the library this summer, here are some kids’ favorites, and teacher favorites, that you and your child(ren) could look for – for a good summer “read.” The kids’ top 100 books list, and the teachers’ top 100 books, were tabulated from an online survey, that ran at www.nea.org/readacross website from Nov. 1, 1999, through Feb. 1, 2000. Although the survey is a few years old, I am sure the books on the list are still favorites. I won’t list all 100 in this article, but will throughout other articles.

Kids’ favorites:

1. “Harry Potter” (series) by J. K. Rowling

2. “Goosebumps” (series) by R. L. Stine

3. “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss

4. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss

5. “Arthur” (series) by Marc Brown

6. “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White

7. “Shiloh” (trilogy) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

8. “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen

9. “Holes” by Louis Sachar

10. “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

Teachers’ favorites:

1. “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White (9-12 years)

2. “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg (4-8 years)

3. “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss (4-8 years)

4. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (4-8 years)

5. “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak (4-8 years)

6. “Love You Forever” by Robert N. Munsch (4-8 years)

7. “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein (all ages)

8. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle (baby – kindergarten)

9. “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls (young adult)

10. “The Mitten” by Jan Brett (4-8 years)

Minnesota attractions

Don’t forget about the many wonderful attractions we have right in our own state, that you and yours can visit. These Minnesota attraction suggestions, are from the website, www.thingstodo.com/states/MN/.

Water activities are always a hit with children of all ages. The Wild Mountain Water Park, Alpine slides, and go-karts, are located just seven miles north of Taylor Falls. The website noted that it is a great park for the whole family, and there are activities that will get you wet, and some that will allow you to stay dry.

One can’t get wet in Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America, but it’s bursting with 1.2 million gallons of water, and features over 3,000 living sea creatures, in seven amazing displays, noted the website.

Happy adventuring, learning, and imagining this summer.