Being on the screens all day for school is not what many of us had in mind for our school-aged children. With the pandemic, it is what it is. The next important step is to create learning experiences that happen beyond the screens! 

So often we simply forget how life in and of itself is a big school where there are so many lessons to learn!

Here are some ideas on how to take learning with your children beyond their screen:

  • Spend some time cooking or baking together. Use these experiences as opportunities to practice reading recipes or practice math by measuring and adding ingredients.
  • Work with other parents or family members to find summer pen pals. Have kids write letters back and forth to practice reading and writing skills.
  • Extend story time with read-and-do activities that lay the groundwork for developing engaged readers. For example, get Healthy & Fun Choices activity books and then do activities children and parents can do together, such as drawing, letter recognition, or sight-word bingo.
  • Explore science and nature by taking a walk or going for a hike. Try and identify different types of clouds, trees, plants, rocks and animals. Take pictures of any you find interesting. Then, look up additional information when you return home to practice research skills.
  • Watch the news or read about current events together. This can provide practical lessons on social studies and help kids raise questions about the world around them.

Since education can happen anywhere as part of everyday life, there are many activities families can do together, while fostering academic growth.

Every night allow time for reading aloud. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, reading aloud is the single most important activity for reading success as it helps build word-sound awareness. Encourage your child to play teacher and read aloud books, magazines, or comics to family members, pets or even stuffed animals.

Begin a book club. Read the same books as your children then discuss what you all read over a shared snack or gathered around the dinner table. Joining in shows the importance of prioritizing reading during the summer.

Check into services offered by libraries. If possible, make use of local libraries, many of which offer free online resources and have extended due dates. Inquire about online services offered in your area and how your family can participate in programs taking place over the summer.

Where and How to Access Online Resources

From educators helping their students to organizations lending support in trying times, dozens if not hundreds of online resources have emerged to help parents navigate teaching at home.

Internet Access: While many at-home learning resources can be found online, some families lack access to reliable and affordable internet connections. For information on free or low-cost home internet access, as well as other resources for teachers and families, visit firstbook.org/coronavirus-educator-resources.

Online field trips: While school and family outings are limited, it’s still possible to explore the world from the comfort of home. Zoos, museums and other places of interest are sharing everything from educational videos and live webcams to guided tours on their websites and social media.

Reading programs: Literacy is the foundation for all learning, so focusing on activities that promote reading gives children a chance to practice that essential skill, often in ways that don’t feel like learning.  

Educational websites: Many academic websites have opened their subscription-based content for free or reduced access. You can find videos, interactive programs, lesson plans and more. Before creating an account, check if your school has secured free or discounted access codes.

New skills: From learning the basics of keyboard typing to trying a new instrument or mastering a new language, there are sites dedicated to helping students develop new skills while they’re at home.