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Top summer learning activities for young elementary schoolers

Keep your first-, second-, or third-grader sharp this summer with fun brain boosters.

By Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann

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Chase butterflies

Lazy summer days are perfect for getting outside, where your child can experience nature firsthand by watching a caterpillar, chasing butterflies, or searching for birds’ nests.

Take a stroll through a local nature preserve or hike a nearby trail. On your walk, point out different wildlife, flora, and fauna — and introduce your child to the Latin and colloquial names for animals and plants if you know them. ("These purple flowers are lupinus, but we call them lupins.") Explain what animals eat, whether they’re nocturnal or diurnal (sneak in those big word when you can), and how plants “eat” sunlight.

Encourage bug-loving kids to go on hunts in your backyard or at the neighborhood park. First Hand Learning provides printable mini-journals for kids to document their observations while exploring the great outdoors.

If you’re hitting the road, combine your family vacation with learning at a national park.  And if you can't get there this year, take a virtual visit (you can “do” Yosemite National Park online, too).

Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann is a freelance writer based in Detroit. She has written for  children's health and parenting magazines and blogs about both topics at Mom meets baby.

Comments from readers

"I fully believe that kids need continuous input during the summer months. But I see too many parents in grocery stores or department stores with their kids while talking on their cell phones or i-pads, etc. What children need most is the undivided attention of their parent while the child reads or the parent reads to the child. All technology is NOT better. Children need more one on one time with adults sans technology! "
"Audio books are the greatest thing I ever discovered. Most people don't even realize the huge selection of classic kids stories available as audio books at their local libraries. There are so many books I would never have time to read to my kids; but with audiobooks, we get in a few chapters every day driving between home and school. "