The cicadas are humming loudly, unseen in the trees. Pests are attacking what is left of the summer gardens. Seasonal fruit is ripe and ready for picking. The kids are whining loudly that they are bored because they’ve run out of fun things to do. Commercials have started advertising the latest fall fashions and sales on essential school items. It’s almost time for back-to-school.
If you’re anything like me, your back-to-school countdown is bittersweet. On one hand, it has been a long summer full of relaxing days and home projects you didn’t get a chance to take on during the school year. On the other hand, you’ve done all the fun things and even the luxury of sleeping in is starting to seem like a drag. Either way, the countdown has most certainly begun, and that means it’s time to make some headway on that back-to-school bucket list. You know the list — all of those things you wish you had done with the kids this summer but didn’t get around to.
The best activities for kids at back-to-school time are educational ones. This is especially true if you’ve passed up on educational summer activities in favor of more relaxing ones like laying on a beach or near a pool. These brain-warming activities will not only break up the end-of-summer doldrums, but will get kids ready and excited to start learning when school begins.
1. Visit a Museum
Museums are great places to take the kids, especially during the summer. Personally, I often pass up going to museums in the summer because I’d rather be outside, but it is the perfect activity for the end of the summer when it’s so hot out you would rather be in the air conditioning. Pick a local museum or two and visit them with the kids before going back to school. If your child is interested in art, go to an art museum; if he or she is into natural history, find a natural history museum. The exhibits in the museum will spark their interest and get them in gear for learning more once school starts. Even if you’ve been to a museum before, go back! You never know what new exhibits you might find.
2. Take a Hike
There’s nothing like learning about nature while the sun is still shining and the flowers are still blooming. If you’re lucky enough to have a few days where the sun isn’t beating down too badly, take a hike. Research local hiking trails or arboretums and lace up those shoes. Hiking trails are great because they are often free to use and lined with great plant life you and your kids can study. Arboretums, though not always free, are great places to go to learn about plants. Often, each area will have plaques describing the plants that live there. It is a great learning experience!
3. Cook Meals
A little chemistry in the kitchen might be all you need to get geared up for those science classes. Cooking is a great way to study the way different household items interact. You can even incorporate a little writing by keeping a tasting journal with your kids to write down what things taste like and what recipes you might want to try again. Even better, you can calculate the nutrition information of your favorite recipes, which will help them use math and learn about healthy eating all in one activity.
If you’ve been talking about how you’d like to start volunteering somewhere, now is the time to start. There is a cause for everyone, and there is no better time for teaching your kids about empathy and compassion than the present. Choose an animal shelter and take some time to play with the dogs and cats, or buy extra school supplies and take your kids with you to drop them off at a local charity. The possibilities are endless, and these lessons are often more important than reading, writing and arithmetic.
5. Go to the Library
Do you have a book you meant to read this summer but didn’t? Are your kids really interested in a subject matter that you don’t know anything about? Spend a day at your local library. Librarians are incredibly knowledgable people, and if they don’t know about something, they know how to help you find out about it. Stock up on good reads for your kids and yourself. You might also want to check the video section. You might find some great documentaries there for your kids for some rainy days.
Do you have some ideas for educational activities to put on your back-to-school bucket list? Share them in the comments.
Photo Credit: Avolore
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