Let’s Put on a Show and Other Summer Amusements
Great Ways to Get Your Kids Writing in the Summer and Liking It!
How often have you hear this sad summer refrain from your children, “Mom, we’re bored. We have nothing to do.” I remember hearing it often by mid-summer when the heat drained my kids’ energy or their friends went away on vacation.
The best summer pursuits engage kids’ imaginations. Many of the anti-boredom activities I suggested to my kids had underlying educational value of which they were blissfully unaware. Today, as then, children often only engage in writing activities as a result of school assignments. As a result, many kids view writing as a chore. Summer is a great time to get kids writing for pleasure.
Here are suggestions for fun summer activities which will keep your kids entertained and occupied, and at the same time improve their language and writing skills-perhaps long enough for you to get something done:
Gather all your board games together that deal with word play: Scrabble, Balderdash, Scattergories, Boggle, Password, etc. Hide them away for a few weeks. Eventually, your children will tire of all their electronic games. When they do, announce that the first annual “___________(your last name) Board Game Marathon” will take place on your kitchen table, or weather permitting, your deck or porch the following day. Stipulate the order of play for the games and how many times each game must be played before moving on to the next game. Pick a scorekeeper to track the winners. Step back and let them go to it. Provide a great snack and award the winners double-decker ice cream cones. At my house, the board game marathon ran for a week!
Suggest that they write their own play or show and perform it live and/or video tape the performance. Visit your local library and ask your librarian for a book which contains plays for children. Look through the book with your kids. Immediately, they will notice that plays are not only structured differently from a novel or story, they are written differently, too. Discuss how plays are structured in acts and scenes, as opposed to chapters in a novel. Plays are written in dialogue or conversations, with directions which tell the actors what to do. Make them directors and playwrights. They can write a play and make photocopies of the original for their cast. They can audition their friends for the parts in the play. Non-performing friends and siblings can make costumes out of paper or from things around the house. Big appliance size cardboard boxes are great for scenery, and an old sheet thrown over a clothes line makes a great stage curtain indoors or outdoors. Your library will have books which can help them do all of the above. The most important thing is that they do the work, not you. When all is ready they can perform for family and neighbors.
Have them write and perform a puppet show. First they have to write the show out completely. Then puppets can be made from just about anything. Again your local library will have books, written just for kids, on how to make simple puppets. Hand puppets are easily made using markers and paper lunch bags. Stick puppets can be made from paper and Popsicle sticks. Cut off the bottom and one long side of any cardboard box and you have a puppet theater.
Help your child create a summer memory journal. At your local art supply store, purchase a blank sketchbook for your child. They are available in different sizes and prices. Also supply your child with a glue stick and a variety of writing instruments. Before or after dinner, give your child the time to write about the events and activities of the day. Encourage them to write down their feelings and reactions, too. They can also illustrate their activities with drawings or photographs. And suggest that they glue in an item that symbolizes that day: a flower from the yard, a piece of shell from a beach, a baseball game ticket. They can write or draw or glue anything in the journal, anyway they want. They can ask family members to contribute to the journal, too. At the end of summer ask them to show and share their journal with the family.
If you plan to travel this summer, buy your kids their own private address book and have them write down their friends’ addresses before you leave. Put together a surprise present, a folder which they can take with them on your travels. The folder should contain postage stamps, envelopes, writing paper, and blank postcards. Add their new address book. They’ll love if the folder is in their favorite color. In the car, at the pool, on a plane, or at the end of the day in your hotel or tent, encourage them to take a quiet moment and write a note or card to their friends back home. Their folder will provide all the items they need.
© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance