I remember the echo of the bell on a warm afternoon signalling the start of the summer holidays. As I walked out of school, the streets were perfumed with jasmine, and I had that light-headed feeling, a kind of premonition that everyone around me would break into song to celebrate my upcoming alarm-free months.
Now, as a parent, the idea of summer vacation fills me with existential dread. My daughter is just 20 months old, and already I outsource too many of my childcare needs to YouTube. But what will happen when she’s older and I will have to fill her weeks up with something that will not only entertain her, keep my sanity in check but also stop her IQ from plummeting as the temperature soars?
My kid might be young, but as I’ve learned in the last two years – time flies and it won’t be long until I have to carve out a plan for the to keep her young mind thriving. So here is a short list of tips from the experts (Google) to keep children’s brains from frying in the summer heat.
Taking a child grocery shopping may make you want to contact the nearest mental health facility, but you can treat it as an exercise. First of all put together a list. Then look for items together in the supermarket, this helps reading skills. You can then compare prices: is it cheaper to get one pound of flour for $1 or five pounds for $3? Have some cash ready for your trip. You can let your child pay and ask them to calculate how much change they think they need from a bill. (Unfortunately it’s usually not much!)
Cooking is great because not only do you get to delegate some of your tasks to the kids but you can also teach them maths along the way. Something like baking means that you get to weigh out separate ingredients. You can also compare liquids (volumes) to solids (weight) and teach your children the difference between the two. An interesting idea is to double or reduce a recipe that will help your child understand ratios and give them a chance to practice multiplication and division.
No, I don’t mean teach you should teach your young kids to drive! But what you can do is try and plan a trip together. You can use Google Maps to have a look at distance, and ask your child how long it might take to get to the destination if you travel at a certain speed. If you have GPS, you can keep testing your children throughout the journey.
If you fill up the car, you can ask your child to calculate gas costs.
Short drives are also a great opportunity to improve the counting skills of younger children. They can count how many cars they have seen of a particular colour. You can ask them to keep a tally (if they don’t get carsick), and you can use this time to introduce things like fractions or percentages, e.g., 50% of the cars you saw were white.
Lots of board games are great for teaching mathematics. Something like Yahtzee helps children with counting and addition. Bingo helps younger kids identify numbers. One of the best games for understanding mathematics is Monopoly. Just rolling the dice allows for conversations about probability. There is also opportunities to count and add money, and more sophisticated players can learn a little bit about budgeting from the game.
Sometimes it’s just nice to drink a cup of coffee and partake in what I call passive parenting. This is where technology, like Matific, can help. Once you download Matific for iOS or Android, you can ask your children to complete some of our interactive episodes. You can choose a topic from last year that will help them revise their math, or you can take a peek at next years’ textbook to help them get ahead. Even half an hour a week will keep them from forgetting their math and will also give you some much-needed downtime.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.