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Families that spend t ime camping and hiking can capitalize on the abundant natural learning opportunities that such activities foster, aided by books on the local flora and fauna.

head back to the classroom. Kelly Pascal Gould relates how Jackson, her elementary school-age son, naturally gravitates toward experi- ments and creative projects. One spring, she stocked up on chemistry sets and science kits. Several of them worked to engage the budding inventor, who needed to increase his attention span. Wright notes that many students that participate in her summer school program are referred to her because they have trouble concentrating in regular classes. She’s learned that projects that teach them about science, nature and how things work tend to keep them fo- cused on the task at hand, and also begin to ingrain in them ways to better concen- trate in the future.

3 Games

During Wright’s summer school program, kids come in early to

play Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero; she encourages kids to play these and other games on consoles like Xbox, PlayStation and Wii. Games that engage the body, while demanding mental con- centration, not only help kids learn new skills, they may also improve their ability to be able to focus when they need to sit still for lessons later, she says. “[Games that entail] cross-lateral movement, which means doing some- thing crossover, like jumping rope or playing ball, are good, too, because they’re using one side of the body that engages the other side of the brain, so both body and mind are moving,” explains Wright. “It helps kids compre- hend, and then settle down and learn.” More traditional games provide another type of learning experience, especially when kids make up rules they invent and agree upon as they go along.

4 Cooking

Preparing meals is another forum for engaging kids’ minds dur- ing the summer. To enjoy the fruits of their culinary labors, youngsters must first master reading, measuring and following directions—lessons that are much easier to swallow when they are followed by a tasty dish they’ve made themselves, notes Wright.

It may take patience on the part of parents, who see cooking as another household chore to complete as quickly as possible, but taking the time to teach kids cooking skills makes us slow down and realize there’s joy to be found in the kitchen when we have someone to share the work.

Parry’s daughter Grace loves to help in the kitchen, and children

generally enjoy the tangible sense of accomplishment when they put a meal they’ve helped create on the table. “She’s old enough now where she can measure and scoop,” Parry says. “It’s fun for both of us.”

5 Art

Gould set up a place at home where Jackson can go and cre- ate to his heart’s content. The art room has just about anything a child needs to create his own works of art, she says. Jackson also recently learned to embroi- der; quite an accomplishment, given the complete focus such an art demands. Susan Aust’s tween, Tucker, is into art of a different kind, having devel- oped a love of all things theatrical and voraciously reading books about famous actors and actresses, she says. The Austs started a weekly home fam- ily film festival, where they all watch a movie together and afterwards, “We talk about the actors’ lives and work.”

Janet Forgrieve is a regular contribu- tor to, from which this article was adapted.

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