These no-tech and high-tech activities will keep children learning and active
To prevent summer learning loss, education professors at National Louis University compiled ten projects that sneak reading, science, and math into fun activities that incorporate no tech and high tech. These are aimed at children in grades 1–8.
Nature Scavenger Hunt For Sneaky Math, Science Learning
NO TECH: In a park, forest preserve, or nature area, challenge kids to find a certain number of leaves, rocks, or flowers, or all three.
HIGH TECH: Use the Leafsnap app to identify the types of leaves you find. Remember to bring along a sheet of white paper, because you have to photograph the leaves against it!
HIGH TECH: The app “Audubon Birds: A Field Guide to North American Birds” can spark your child’s interest in feathered friends.
EXTRA CREDIT: Fraxinus is a puzzle game played on Facebook, for ages 13+, with ties to real-world conservation efforts to save the European ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) from dieback, a deadly disease. Kids learn the basics of genetics as they sort actual strands of DNA in collaboration with scientists at leading institutions including the Genome Analysis Centre.
Create Your Own History
NO TECH: Ask a grandparent, neighbor, or person in your community what your neighborhood was like 40 or 50 years ago. When did their family arrive, and why did they come? Ask them for photos.
HIGH TECH: Use historypin.org to pin the photos to specific places. This helps kids feel they are part of history.
NO TECH: Go through family photo albums or documents, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, to learn about your ancestors.
HIGH TECH: Use myheritage.com or ancestry.com to build your family tree. While these sites require a subscription, your local public library may allow you to use them for free.
EXTRA CREDIT: Visit a local historical society or museum to see what your town looked like in the “old days.” Find out how they celebrated Fourth of July, went swimming, had picnics, or other summer activities.
Write A Play Or Make A Movie
NO TECH: Write a script, cast your actors, find a location to perform, and make costumes. If it’s a movie, find a camera and videographer.
HIGH TECH: Use the Book Creator app by redjumper.net, which lends itself to creating an entire book or collection of family plays.
HIGH TECH: For a movie, use iPhoto or other editing software to edit your video and add titles.
NO TECH: Perform your play or skit for your friends and relatives.
Cooking Fun That Teaches Math, Reading
HIGH TECH: Have kids find a recipe online, such as for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tuna salad, or chocolate chip cookies. Several cooking apps for kids, like the WeCookit app available through iTunes, make recipe finding easy.
NO TECH: Let kids check the cupboard for ingredients you may already have on hand.
HIGH TECH: Use the Dora’s Cooking Club game or Doubling and Halving to double, triple, or halve the recipe.
NO TECH: Assemble the ingredients, bake if required, eat, and enjoy! Remind kids to notice the sight, smell, and taste of the food.
HIGH TECH: Take pictures of the finished dish, and post them in a photo journal, such as Snapfish.com.
LEARNING BOOST: To teach kids to follow a step-by-step approach, parents can make an activity card with directions for creating tuna salad. It would start with opening a can of tuna, adding the measured amount of mayo or mashed avocado with lemon, then adding precut onions and pickles and stirring. Kids could place this on the bed of lettuce, ready for the lunch table.
Travel, Real Or Pretend
NO TECH: Use a paper map to look at where you want to go and which roads you would take to get there. Are we there yet?
HIGH TECH: Use a GPS app to plot out your route.
HIGH TECH: Use Google Earth to find your house, then zoom out to see it in the context of the entire world. Look for the bird’s eye view of grandparents’ homes or the homes of friends. Swipe your way to those locations, or visit China or Timbuktu for a bird’s eye view of that part of the world.
Sing And Play Music
NO TECH: Just sing out loud! Make up your own songs if you like, with funny lyrics. Sing in the car, too.
HIGH TECH: Download the Smule Sing! Karaoke app to sing hit songs with sound effects, or layer your voice onto a duet with a celebrity singer.
NO TECH: Play your guitar, piano, horn, drums, or make your own instruments.
HIGH TECH: Watch youtube.com videos that show how to play these instruments.
HIGH TECH: If you don’t have musical instruments, use the Magic Piano or Guitar! apps to create music.
NO TECH: Go to a free concert at your local park district or community center.
Live At The Library
HIGH TECH: Want to make things in the Maker Lab, or record your band, or make a video? In the past two years, most public libraries have installed tech labs for teens.
NO TECH: Participate in summer reading programs, and get prizes! Plus, it’s fun, and it keeps you out of the summer heat.
Draw, Paint, Make Art
NO TECH: Go outside, or stay inside, but lay a tarp on the floor before you uncap the finger paints. Then lay out big sheets of paper, and get messy!
HIGH TECH: Use any of these creative apps, for ages 3–10, to have fun with drawing and art: commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-creative-apps
NO TECH: Most park districts offer art classes, as do independent art centers. To find good classes, ask around at art supply shops, frame shops, or art museums, or try artist associations at wetcanvas.com or pastelinternational.com.
HIGH TECH: Store children’s artwork with apps such as Artkive, Keepy, or Canvasly.
We’re So Bored, Mom
NO TECH: For younger children, make up a story to tell them. Be sure they are the heroes of the story! For older kids, play 20 Questions.
HIGH TECH: Kids can play Tamagotchi L.i.f.e., Robot Unicorn Attack 2, and other games we hear are addictive.
NO TECH: Give the kids a book or a Rubik’s Cube-type puzzle toy.
HIGH TECH: This list of apps for bored toddlers has suggestions for younger kids.
LOW TECH: Get audio CDs of stories or songs, and play them in the car.
NO TECH: Brain Quest cards, available in book and toy stores, are geared to various age groups, and kids feel like they’re contestants on a game show.
HIGH TECH: Brainpop.com asks and answers questions like, “Why can’t you touch a rainbow?” that evoke curiosity.
NO TECH: Get a roll of aluminum foil, tear off sheets, and let them make animals or sculptures out of it.
Project: Run, Play, Get Fit
NO TECH: Enroll your child in soccer, basketball, tennis, ballet, gymnastics, karate, or swim classes.
HIGH TECH: UNICEF noticed that, while American kids are prone to obesity, kids in many developing nations are undernourished. Its clever solution: offering the Kid Power Band, a $40 device that looks like a cool wristwatch and comes in different colors. By doing physical activities, kids can unlock therapeutic food packets for kids in developing countries.
NO TECH: Go for a family bike ride.
HIGH TECH: If your child is beginning a sport or needs improvement, scour youtube.com for videos on fundamentals.
Courtesy of Seema Imam, Ed.D., Sophie Degener, Ed.D., and Virginia Jagla, Ph.D., professors in the National College of Education at National Louis University. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.