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Lesson Plans
Summer Learning: Activities for Summer Vacation

As educators, we know that the carefree summer months away from school usually are times when children lose skills in math and reading. Studies show that the summertime break is one of the most important, yet least acknowledged, causes of underachievement in our schools.  Share with parents the list below to make sure they are aware of the various ways they can promote year-round learning opportunities for their children.

Language Skills

Preschoolers are learning colors and shapes. They may begin singing the ABC song and recognizing letters. Older preschoolers may also start recognizing letter sounds and simple words, especially in preparation for kindergarten:

  • Play an I Spy game (“I spy the letter T”), and encourage your children to do the same, with either the same letter or a different one. Letters are everywhere in their environment: on billboards, on road signs and signs on doors and buildings, on cereal boxes, on clothing, and, of course, in books. Now graduate to using letter sounds: “I spy something that begins with a T sound.”
  • Go on a picnic. (Even if it is only in your living room!) Have your children identify the food items to serve by drawing a menu and make place cards for who will be present—people, animals, or inanimate objects. Then have them dictate stories about the picnic.
  • Check to see if your local library offers a weekly story hour; afterwards, read a book or two with your child. Take some books home, and include books that are about a special interest (e.g., a pet) a special upcoming activity (e.g., a birthday party, visit with a grandparent), or about something your child especially enjoys (e.g., going to a park or playground).
  • Check your child’s comprehension by asking questions about the story or the illustrations. Be sure to have the children entering kindergarten in the fall recall, describe specific events in the story, and summarize what the story was about.
  • Play rhyming games while doing chores, cooking, or in transit. Make up silly songs together, and encourage your children to make up their own stories and create alternate endings to old favorites.

Math Skills

Math is everywhere. Use your daily activities to strengthen your children’s understanding that math has real-world applications:

  • Steps provide a counting opportunity as you walk up and down the stairs. Also, point out the numbers on elevator buttons, and let your child push the correct one, counting the floors as the elevator indicator lights go on and off.
  • At mealtime, use a pizza or sandwich to illustrate fractions (a half, a quarter) to your older preschooler. Or play take-away games as your child eats a piece of pizza and then counts to find out how many slices are left.
  • At dinnertime, ask children to set the table, putting out the correct number of plates and matching that number with forks and glasses. Then have them start adding numbers by counting all the items on the table. 
  • At the grocery store, have your children help pick out numbers of items: for example, three bananas, five apples, three kinds of fruit, or one gallon of milk. Have them compare sizes and shapes of items in the produce department or find out which is bigger—a pint, a quart, a half-gallon, or a gallon of milk.
  • The countdown method (10-9-8-7, etc.) can help children learn to count backward. When you get to number 1, say, “Blast off!” and let your children playact a blastoff.

Science Skills
Early science activities involve skills in identification (“What’s that?”), observation (“What’s it doing?”), and classification (“What ‘family’ does it belong to; that is, what else looks like it?”):

  • Young preschoolers are learning to name (identify) objects (e.g., clouds); they are also learning to be more specific (big clouds, fat clouds, dark clouds). This is the beginning of their understanding that fat, dark clouds can become rain clouds.
  • As you walk through your neighborhood, look for opportunities to increase your preschooler’s scientific understanding (e.g., buds become flowers, caterpillars become butterflies). Identify things that are alike (trees, plants, flowers), and then point out how they are different.
  • Summer months provide opportunities to observe growth and changes in the natural world. Talk with your child about what plants need to grow (sun, soil, water). Plant potato “eyes” or beans, and then observe, measure, and describe how they sprout. (See Building Blocks Activity Book (PDF 2.04MB) “Watching and Waiting,” pages 11 and 23).
  • Take a nature walk. In your neighborhood, compare the different colors and/or shapes of flowers or leaves that you see. On a trip, find plants or animals that are different from what you see at home. If you go to the lake or seashore, look for plants or animals that live on the shore.
  • Take advantage of warm, clear summer nights to look up at the sky to count stars or track which way the moon travels across the sky.

Social Studies Skills

For preschoolers, social studies is all about their neighborhood:

  • Walk through your neighborhood, and help your child identify places and objects that are permanent fixtures: the corner store, the barbershop, the playground, a fire hydrant, a friend’s home, etc. Later, using a large sheet of paper, help your child draw a map of your street and mark the places he or she saw.
  • As you walk or drive through the neighborhood, have your child tell you about the jobs to be found there: the cashier at the store, the baker, the lifeguard at the pool, the policeman on the corner, the firefighters who live at the station, the librarian, the doctor, or the dentist.
  • At the grocery store, look for the international section and identify the different places represented and the kinds of foods that are sold in each section. Pick a night to try a different ethnic recipe.

Physical Education Skills

Most children gain weight during the summer months. Lack of activity, combined with the summer heat, may keep children sedentary, which can lead to childhood obesity. The following are some ideas of active play:

  • Go to a nearby playground, and let your children run around, swing, climb, and slide.
  • Turn on the music, and do mirror dancing—your children copies what you do, and you can copy your children.
  • Play Follow the Leader or Simon Says to have children run, hop, skip, and jump.
  • Measure how fast your children can run or how far they can jump. Then, after they practice over time, let them see if they can go farther or faster the next time.


The National Summer Learning Association gives parents and educators resources and tools about how to promote summer learning:

The U.S. Department of Education provides a list of resources for parents to use to build their children’s language skills.

Let’s Move! is a comprehensive initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and be able to pursue their dreams. This initiative provides parents helpful information and tools to foster environments that support healthy choices.

The Scholastic website provides numerous free reading, writing, science, and math pintables for parents to work with their children during summer break.

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Updated on 3/22/2014