With summer vacation coming up fast, it’s time to start planning how to counteract the “summer slide” and foster a love for learning that lasts a lifetime. Here are a few activity ideas you can use with your kids to keep them engaged when school is not in session: Multipurpose toys like blocks, art supplies, dress-up clothes, stuffed animals and action figures help capitalize on natural imagination and the joy of discovery. It sounds counterintuitive, but when it comes to kids and toys, less is more. Consistent access to reading material, from books and magazines to newspapers, can increase kids’ motivation to read—which positively affects everything from fluency, vocabulary and comprehension to self-esteem. Take advantage of your local library’s summer reading programs, and check out the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, which has resources for parents as well as entertaining ways for kids to digest those books. Plant a summer garden and enjoy growing flowers, herbs and veggies together. Not only will your kids learn about botany, they’ll develop other skills like the patience, scheduling and discipline required each day for proper plant watering and care. You don’t need access to acres of farmland; container gardening is inexpensive and suitable for smaller kids (or spaces). Check out KidsGardening.org for lots of tips, lesson plans and other great gardening ideas. Get cookin’. If you plant a small vegetable or herb garden, reap what you sow. Invite your kids to select recipes using home-grown ingredients and contribute to mealtime. You’ll sharpen math and science skills at the same time. Road trip games can be fun for parents and kids alike on long drives. And there’s no reason learning can’t be included. For example, take turns using the letters of license plates to form a complete sentence, like a license plate with the letters BDA could be “Bill drives around,” or “Big dogs ate.” Check out other great travel game ideas from Edmunds and BuzzFeed
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