Keeping busy through the summer
BY SISKO J. STARGAZER sun STAFF WRITER
Alberta Newspaper Group
summer is quickly approaching and that means plenty of opportunity for play and activity under the bright Yuma sun. But while two months away from school can mean lots of time for plain fun, it also presents time to keep up on reading skills, math skills, social skills and more. Whether you’re looking to get your preschooler ready for kindergarten in the fall or keep your grade school kid on top of their game for when school returns, education professionals from Yuma County shared their tips for a fun but enriching summer break. Getting ready for kindergarten sandy Curtis, owner and director of Yuma Preschool, and sandra escalante, owner and director of Big Red Barn Preschool, both agree that one of the most important things to do this summer is to keep your child reading. “Reading is a crucially important part of learning,” escalante said. “it gives children more opportunity for their creativity and imagination to blossom.” escalante recommends reading together with your child and Curtis encourages discussing those books and taking your child on outings to the library. “You can’t talk at the library, but you can kinda whisper like, ‘Did you like that book?’” Curtis said. “Parents need to dedicate reading time every day for at least 10 minutes and they should be talking about it with open-ended questions, like ‘Why did he do that?’” social skills were also identified as vital. Curtis and escalante recommend forming playgroups or setting up play dates for your child as well as taking them to the park so that they can learn to interact with others their own age. escalante added that social skills such as sharing and communication are a natural part of play and can be nurtured by active parenting. escalante also encourages taking every opportunity to teach life skills through daily living. “Parents can use everyday events as a lesson,” she said. “For example, cooking: you can talk about math, science and agriculture all while making lunch. Reading together is another great way to keep kids engaged and learning. Outside play is a fun way to incorporate nature and science into your daily routine. nature walks and scavenger hunts are a great way for them to use their five senses and work on active listening and following directions all while having fun.” escalante further recommends teaching your child to tie their shoes, use the restroom on their own and button and zip their clothing effectively. Communication can also be taught in fun, game-like ways such as having your child order for themselves at a restaurant. Making sure to teach your child how to advocate for themselves in school will also be of great help to them, you and their teachers. Curtis and Escalante also noted that going to preschool does make a difference. “Children who have gone to preschool will typically be familiar with the concepts of learning skills in their age group, motor skills, following directions and social skills both with adults and children,” Escalante said. “Preparation over the summer for children already in preschool will be more reviewing and refining their skills. As research has shown in the first five years of life, experience and relationships stimulate children’s development creating millions of connections in their brains. Preschool is a great way to embrace and encourage this learning process.” Curtis further explained that in running a preschool, everyone involved works to ensure children are prepared in every way possible, both academically and socially. Preschoolers have the advantage of regularly engaging with peers and teachers in classes targeted toward their age groups. She shared that many parents who do enroll their children in preschool often discontinue for the summer, but she recommends keeping them there if possible. “My number one suggestion would be to keep them in preschool,” she said. “I understand that money can be tight and I never judge when parents make that choice – I respect their decisions. But if they can financially afford to keep their child in preschool even in a part-time situation, even better.” No matter the situation, however, plenty can be done over the summer to make sure your child’s ready for kindergarten. Some final advice? “... teach your children to be kind,” Escalante said. “Model good behavior and talk to them about manners. A classroom full of kind and caring students will make for a happy and safe learning environment.” Maintaining skills for returning students Abby Pemberton, director of curriculum and instruction for the Crane Elementary School District, recommends prioritizing your child’s physical, mental and social well-being. Of these, social needs are particularly important in today’s context. “For our youngest children, that (socialization) is so critical and because of the isolation with COVID we had, more and more children are in need of developing social skills,” she said. Fortunately, Pemberton noted that there are plenty of local opportunities. At the top of her list were Yuma’s Parks and Recreation programs, which include activities for all ages ranging from swimming and art to sports and outdoor play. Not only will these activities provide chances to learn new skills, but they also maintain children’s sociability. Pemberton also mentioned that the Yuma County Library District has a summer reading program each year that encourages children to have fun reading with their own reading logs, crafts and special activities. For activities that will introduce your child to more arts and culture, Pemberton recommends keeping an eye on the Yuma art Center’s calendar of events. in today’s digital age, parents can also rely on technology to keep children mentally stimulated. “There are several apps that are free out there that kids can have on their computers and telephones,” Pemberton said. “epic [school] is used in our schools with lots of free books.” The service is free for educators and grants access to over 40,000 books, audiobooks and videos. Currently, a free version for parents allows access to one book a day, but full access can be had through a paid subscription to epic school. Pemberton also shared that Reading Rockets has plenty of free resources for reading and that a wide variety of free educationoriented apps can be found online. One other way to keep your child learning? “a lot of universities like arizona state university, for one, have free videos on science and social studies that kids could be watching,” Pemberton said. For asu specifically, parents can find this resource by searching “asu for You” and they’ll be connected with online lessons, educational games, virtual field trips and more. The downside to going digital, however, has its risks. “Kids when idle and going on social media, they need to be safe and responsible digital citizens,” Pemberton said. “i would absolutely caution parents to really go into these apps and see what’s in them before their kids do.” she also noted that some games can also get depressing for children. “i would just be really careful as a parent and limit their online time and their gaming time,” she said. “make sure they go outside and engage with people.” One special resource Pemberton recommends is Common sense media, which teaches digital citizenship. “You can go there and do lessons with your child,” she said. “it makes you aware of ‘Oh, this is how we protect ourselves.’ it reminds students of online etiquette and what they should and shouldn’t do. We certainly use it in our schools. it’s important to let the child know and the parents know that this is important.” students who benefit from more structure or in-person learning can also sign up for summer school at Crane, Pemberton shared. summer school lasts for three weeks and functions as a full-day program. specialized summer school programs exist for different types of students, but those enrolled in 21st Century afterschool programs can sign up for a 21st Century summer school. But lastly, Pemberton expressed that learning opportunities can be found in any moment. When it comes to everyday life, be sure to have your child practice what they’ve been learning. Pemberton recommends that when you go shopping, help your child figure out what items are going to cost, count money and teach them budgeting. These tasks help with math skills. at home, cooking encourages both reading and math skills as children will be reading recipes and working with fractions and measurements. Online, children can also practice writing by emailing friends and family. By making sure to keep your child physically, mentally and socially active, they’ll be ready for a productive school year come fall. Sisko J. Stargazer can be reached at 928-539-6849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.