Summer is an opportunity for families to have fun together. Time to relax and get some down time. Teachers will tell you your child should read over the summer too. Makes sense, and I agree.
Even though reading will help your child when they head back-to-school for the next grade, there’s something even more important you can do over the summer to help your kids have more success in school and in life.
Get them thinking!
When I say “thinking”, I mean thinking about a topic, question or idea and talking about it. There are so many opportunities in the lazy days of summer to have meaningful conversations with your kids.
Have “thinking” conversations that are prompted by your children whenever possible.
You’re in the car, on a walk, having a meal together or just hanging out. Your child asks a question or makes a comment. Will it turn into a thinking or non-thinking conversation? Depends on the situation; look at these two examples.
Child: Why does summer have to be so short?
You: It’s short, so you have to enjoy it while you can by getting outside and being active. School is more important, so it takes up more time in the year.
Child: I guess so, but I wish summer was longer.
In this example, the parent is doing most of the thinking by providing an explanation. Many of us have grown up to believe that parents and teachers should be giving answers to our children’s questions. Not true.
Instead, we need to nurture kids’ natural curiosity and help them to develop their critical thinking skills. We want them to generate their own ideas and opinions and to be able to explain them.
Let’s have a look at that situation again and try to weave in more deeper thinking.
Child: Why does summer have to be so short?
You: That’s a good question! Why do you think it’s so short?
Child: I don’t know.
You: Well, somebody decided it should be short. Why not have it 4 months long? Why only 2?
Child: Probably because teachers want school to be longer.
You: Possibly, but did you know that many teachers agree with you? Many want to decrease the days kids are in school by making a 4-day school week instead of 5.
Child: Really? That would be awesome! I could focus more on my sports and art activities that I love. Wow! A whole extra day for me to do the stuff I want.
You: Exactly. Some people think kids should be kids and just play as much as they can.
Child: Well, we can’t play all the time. We do have to learn things to get good jobs. We have to go to school.
In this version of the conversation, the parent…
-didn’t answer the question but turned the question back to the child. This doesn’t work with every situation, but it’s one way to get your child thinking.
-didn’t accept “I don’t know.”. Kids often say this, but if you try to engage and prompt them, you can often get them thinking a bit more deeply about a topic.
-acknowledged the child’s ideas before adding something else to think about
Check out these ideas for getting your kids to do more “thinking” this summer.
5 Ways to Get your Kid Thinking
Problem Solving When your child has a problem (can’t figure out how to do something, or doesn’t know how to handle a situation), guide them into solving the problem themselves. Don’t jump in and solve it for them. Try to get them to come up with possible solutions. Teach them to examine their solutions for which one seems to be the best fit for the problem. Too many thinking opportunities are lost when parents solve problems for their kids. You can also discuss your problems. I’ve done this with my daughter many times. By seeking ideas from your kids to help you figure out a decision you have to make, they learn how to think through their problems.
Listen to your Child’s Interests: Make a note of some of the topics your child seems interested in. During conversations, when watching a movie, or during other activities, listen for what your child enjoys. Pay attention to your child’s energy when discussing a topic. If they’re excited, then you know there’s plenty of opportunity for thinking. Make a note to explore those topics later (library, book store, Netflix, Youtube etc.)
Trivia Questions: find a list of trivia questions online or from a board game. Treat it like a game or challenge and take turns asking questions. You can do this with other family members. Trivia questions can lead to all kinds of interesting discussions.
Mind Benders: Also called Brain Teasers, there are tons of these available online and through books. Kids love these. Play and pay attention. You may discover a keen ability your child has. Do they enjoy a challenge? Do they love to discover answers? You never know what kinds of conversations will pop up when you play around with mind bending questions like, “Name three days in a row without saying any day of the week.” (Answer: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow)
What If Questions? Ask “What if…?” questions and see where that goes. You and your child can discuss the pros and cons of their ideas and yours. When you pose the questions, “What if we went home and found our house broken into?” or “What would we do if we found a wallet on the ground with $1000 in it?”…you’ll be setting the stage for some awesome thinking.
Thinking critically about what they see, hear and experience in life is an important skill for your children to develop.
Find opportunities for “thinking” when you can…during the summer, and all through the year.
Wishing you joy, strength and balance,