This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

Ahh…summer. The perfect time for vacations, laying by the pool, exploring new places and…learning? Wait, schools are on break…we shouldn’t have to worry about kids learning during the summer right? Actually, summer is a great time to keep the learning going because unfortunately a lot of progress that is made during the school year can be lost if we don’t keep encouraging our little ones to keep their brains active during the summer months. And while it may be tougher to encourage our kids to read all day when it’s sunny and beautiful outside, there are lots of ways we can help stimulate their brains while taking advantage of their natural desire to be outdoors playing.

Nature Scavenger Hunt – Ask your kids to look around for all of the different types of birds they can see. How about butterflies or other bugs? How many squirrels can they find and what color are they? Kids often like to learn about different animals and it can be cool to show them how many animals are right where they live, or in the park, or perhaps at a nature preserve or forest? Even better, maybe ask them to compete amongst themselves and their friends as to who can find the most animals.

Sandcastle Math – If you visit the beach make sure to bring your buckets and shovels and try making sandcastles. Talk with your kids about why some of the castles break and others stick together better. What shapes seem to stay together longer? How wet should the sand be? What types of shapes can we make with our shovels and buckets?

Reading – Wait…didn’t I just talk about how this might be more difficult earlier…well…yes, but there are ways to incentivize and encourage kids to keep reading over the summer as well. Public libraries do lots of summer programming and often have really cool prizes for certain amounts of time spent reading over the summer. We participated last summer and got to pick out some pretty cool prizes at the end of the summer including, restaurant gift certificates and sporting event tickets!

So even though school may be out of session for a few months, the importance of learning never takes a vacation and there’s a lot of great foundation that you can lay with your child during the warmer months that will really benefit them when the buses start running again in the fall. I hope you enjoy your summer and give your child lots of opportunities to keep growing while they play and have fun.

This is fatherhood…