As a parent or caregiver with children home for the summer, you may find yourself worrying about “summer slide” — the decline in youth academic skills that occurs over the summer. But this year, we might add the “COVID-19 slide” to our list of concerns following as the 2020 Spring semester ended with students engaged in distance learning full time.
One recommended strategy is to engage kids in fun projects that are “play-based, interactive and social” that can be done with the family. Think learning fractions through baking or geometry through a cardboard building project. One of the best things you can do in the process is to engage with children by asking open-ended questions.
We know that STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning can be especially hard to encourage at home, where kids don’t have access to supplies or even spaces where they can spread out and make a big mess. But there are plenty of simple science activities that kids and families can do at home with minimal space and supplies.
Here are some suggestions:
Plant some sunflower, bean, or other seeds in a cup with a little soil, water regularly, and watch the seeds sprout. Talk about what you observe and what might happen next. Check out this fun time-lapse video of sunflower seeds germinating.
Dissect Old-School Tech
Kids love taking things apart to understand how they work. Why not use that enthusiasm to help them learn about old technology? Find an old floppy disk, cassette tape, or VHS tape destined for recycling and take it apart. What’s inside? How does it work? The most important part of tearing down is that kids get to be curious.
Then find a “teardown” video online and learn more about old tech. Here’s an example of a 5.25 inch floppy disk.
Light an LED with a Potato
Kids love electricity. One favorite home science experiment is creating a battery from a potato.
All you need is a few potatoes, a couple galvanized nails, pennies, wire, and an LED diode light. (These are very inexpensive; you can buy them on Amazon in packs of 100 for less than $10.)
Here’s a video with step-by-step instructions.
Ready for more ideas? Try out the ideas for Tinkering at Home, made available by Exploratorium.
Then check out one of these books from the Library and keep experimenting, playing, and learning together throughout the summer:
Science is Magic by Steve Mould (2019)
Science You Can Eat by Stefan Gates (2019)
Recycle and Remake: Creative Project for Eco Kids by DK Publishing (2020)
Smithsonian 10-Minute Science Experiments by Steve Spangler (2019)
Ada Twist’s Big Book of Projects by Andrea Beaty (2018)
Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor by Temple Grandin (2019)
100 Easy STEAM Activities by Andrea Scalzo Yi (2019)
Need more suggestions? Just ask a librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call!