MADISON (WKOW) -- Summer break is here for kids all over the state, but it's important to keep the kids engaged and busy this summer.
1. Public Library: Check with your local public library to see whether or not they are offering a summer reading program. In addition to reading classes, libraries also present guest speakers that come in and discuss a wide range of topics affecting several age groups. Examples may include peer pressure, free computer courses, religious tolerance, organizational skills and coping with class schedules. For toddlers, libraries have sessions conducted by trained story tellers. You may also request a reading list comprised of books and novels designed for each age category. It's never too late or too early to introduce your child to the wonderful world of books and reading.
2. Museums: Museums may offer summer programs within their specialty areas. Some art museums offer classes in cartooning, ceramics, drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. Historical museums help children develop an understanding of the history of their immediate area or state through hands-on lessons.
3. Zoo: Kids have always been fascinated by the Zoo, but did you know that a visit to the Zoo can also be a learning experience for children? Besides learning the names of animals, the Zoo is a great place for children to brush up on certain skills related to their age. For example, kids can learn the alphabet by visiting animals with names ranging from A-Z. Learn the alphabet along with amazing facts on the animals. Zoos also offer a variety of Adult-Child Discovery Programs designed to aid parents and children discover the zoo together. Age specific children work shops held at the Zoo allow children to explore a wide range of topics from conserving our environment to preventing animal extinction. So the next time you take a family trip to the Zoo, make it fun and educational all in one.
4. Scrapbook: Help your child cherish the summer memories by creating and decorating their own scrapbook. For those unfamiliar with scrapbooks, many arts and crafts stores offer starter kits ranging in size, price and design. You might even be able to catch a free day session at a Scrap Book Store, offering tips on starting and maintaining a book. Pick one up or start your own with a blank album, a few sheets of colored paper and a whole lot of imagination. And then just cut and paste away; creating your own borders, captions and excerpts describing events and emotions. You can even pick up a cheap disposable camera easy to use at an elementary level and have your child click away and create memories. A Scrapbook Club is a fun way to include and encourage your child's friends to get together at someone's house, maybe once a week and work on their books. Keep your child occupied and creative by introducing them to the wonderful world of scrapbooks.
5. Cooking: Most all children are intrigued by the Adult world of cooking. Allow your children to share in the pride and achievement of creating a special something for all to enjoy. Always under adult supervision there are several dishes that can be made without the use of heat. Salads, shakes, sandwiches, cakes, pies, the list is endless. Look through your cook books and find recipes that are simple, tasty and safe. Bake a cake and have your child decorate with home made frosting, using m&m's, sprinkles and whipped cream. For something more nutritious try a fruit smoothie or just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Older children can try planning and making dinner for the entire family. Toddlers can join the fun by breaking bread for stuffing or kneading dough bread. Maybe your older child can plan a dinner for friends and make the meal themselves. This summer let your child explore all their senses of touch, taste, feel and smell through the art of cooking.
6. Be a Tourist: Maybe you are not able to travel out of town this summer, but that need not stop you and your children from being tourists in your hometown. Look online to see the main attractions your city has to offer [link to travel channel?] or order a visitors handbook, which in most cities is free of charge. Then grab a camera, a hat, some sun block and you and your family are all set to be tourists. Perhaps visit a park you have not yet been to, pack a picnic, some games and spend the day out of the house. Discover your city, try a new restaurant and next time you have friends and relatives visiting you will know exactly where to take them.
7. Arts and Crafts: Have you been postponing the remodeling of your child's room? Does someone in the family have a birthday approaching? Ever wanted to take a pottery class? Well what better way to redecorate your child's room, than to include your child in the process. You may have grand remodeling plans and perhaps your budget may not allow for what you had specifically in mind, however, this summer you and your child can start with baby steps. Visit your local arts and crafts store and find various ways to decorate a room using simple tools that both you and your child can do together. Look at arts and crafts books designed specifically for simple home projects and pick a few that fit your budget and design plan. What about a birthday present? This year have your child make that special someone a picture frame with her handprint, footprint or for an older child consider working with beads. They can also make their own personalized photo album. Consider taking a class with your kids. A pottery class for example could be great fun for both of you and it will provide you with wonderful handmade decorations for your home. Stimulate your child and yourself, get some projects around the house completed and have fun.
8. Community Work: Now more than ever there is a need in America to strengthen community ties and help those less fortunate than ourselves. Traditionally, community service has been performed by adults; however, there are several organizations that can use the assistance of your child and in return build their character and self worth. A few hours of volunteer work a week can make a big difference in someone's life. Check your yellow pages [link to yp on this site] and find out which organizations in your area can use the assistance your child can provide. A small helping hand will go a long way in the growth of your child.
9. Day Camps: Day camps are becoming more and more popular especially amongst younger children. Conducted by private and public institutions day camps do charge a fee but the activities are well worth the cost. Over the years YMCA has established a reputation for its healthy and fun day camps. Activities range from arts and crafts to hiking and swimming lessons. And an organization such as the YMCA offers day camps not just to children but to the entire family, allowing parents to spend a recreational day with their children. Check with your local YMCA or the recreational units of your municipal parks to see what day activities they are offering.
10. Summer School Program: Several schools offer a summer program to continue to enrich your child's learning abilities. Check with the schools in your local district to see if there's a summer program you like. In most cases there will be a nominal fee charged.