The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents – Chapter 3!

May 29, 2017
Written by:
Guest Author

Interested in learning more about The Summertime

Survival Guide for Parents?  Well, here is

Chapter 3!  Enjoy!


Creative Ways to Organize Your Home and Car for

Summer Learning

“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.”

– Alexandra Stoddard


Most likely, some percentage of your child’s summer learning will take

place at home. You’ll want to start the season off right with a special

space that cultivates all of the essential elements of deep learning –

experimentation, exploration, creativity and play.


Activity: Create Discovery Stations That Inspire

Benefit: Discovery stations support creative pursuits and hidden talents.


Have you got yourself an artist, scientist or musician? Maybe you do and

you just don’t know it yet. Accessible, organized spaces are especially

helpful in supporting creative pursuits of this kind; they may even help

uncover latent skills and hidden talents. If you have the space to do it,

design specialized work areas throughout your home and outdoors. These

spaces don’t need to be large; find corners in and around your home you

think might do the job. Think of these as “discovery stations.” Designate

places where special projects don’t have to come down but that you can

simply tidy up at the end of the day.


When my children were young, we set up an art area, a science center,

a cozy reading nook and a space just for music. For fun, I left out a

microscope and instructions for the kids to stumble upon

“accidentally.” The piano’s cover was always left up—an open invitation

to come and tinkle the keys. Our covered patio made a magnificent art

area that I stocked full of tempera paints and a lot of Play-Doh. The

dining room wall became a giant bulletin board where we’d display

my children’s art.


You can keep these spaces fresh by periodically adding new resources.

For example, unfamiliar books, maps, science equipment, art supplies,

sheet music and treasures found on a walk will always catch your child’s

attention and draw him back for more play and exploration.


Before preparing space for summer learning, look around your home

and see it through the eyes of your child –

Are the tools he needs accessible?

If you aren’t available, can your child safely get to the

things she needs or is she beholden to you each time she

wants to begin a new project?

Is there space to run freely and make colorful messes?

Is there an area where noise is acceptable—or better yet,


Is there a place to go to escape all of the noise and have time alone

without siblings?

Does your child know she is welcome in these spaces?

Let these questions be your guide as you prepare your home for a summer of playful learning.


Activity: Turn Your Kitchen into a Learning Station

Benefit:  Kids feel confident and good about helping others.


Relinquishing some of our control in the kitchen isn’t always easy.

Providing access to messy ingredients and sharp knives can test our

patience and our nerves! Nevertheless, the kitchen is a place where

amazing learning takes place. Preparing meals for the family is one

of the first opportunities for kids to feel competent and helpful to

others. So, take a deep breath and start cooking.


As soon as your child is old enough, it’s time to place tools where he

can reach them. If this is not possible, invest in a good portable stool

he can maneuver himself. From as early as possible, the kitchen should

be a place where your child feels welcome. Make it a place where he

can prepare healthy, delicious foods. And, it goes without saying, the

child who is old enough to cook in the kitchen is old enough to clean

up the kitchen.


Over the summer, it’s great fun to come up with a special culinary goal

or two. If your child is young, agree that by the end of summer he will

have all of the skills he needs to plan a special dinner for the family. He

will learn to plan the menu, purchase the ingredients, prepare the meal,

serve it up and clean up afterwards.


Here are some good cookbooks I recommend using with young children:

Kids Cooking Without a Stove by Aileen Paul

Snacktivities!: 50 Edible Activities for Parents and

Young Children by MaryAnn F. Kohl

Baking with Kids: Make Bread, Muffins, Cookies,

Pies, Pizza Dough, and More! By Leah Brooks


If your child is older, make a plan to focus on the cuisine of a specific region.

Research, collect and use exotic spices and ingredients together. Your

child could also throw a dinner party for family and friends or he could

choose an elderly neighbor or a family with a newborn and prepare a

home-cooked meal for them.


Here are some cookbooks I recommend for older children:

Teens Cook: How to Cook What You Want to Eat by Megan

Carle and Jill Carle

The International Cookbook for Kids by Matthew Locricchio 

Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker


Activity: Turn Toy Clutter into Weekly “Activity Bags”

Benefits: This activity creates calm spaces, is great for babysitters and gets kids

away from the TV.


The toys our children play with provide much more than a way to pass the time.

Well-selected toys inspire deep learning of all kinds. Acquire new toys with that

thought in mind. However, just as these treasures can enhance learning, they can

hinder it too; as our grandmothers warned, too much of a good thing can be too



Take some time to de-clutter your child’s play spaces. If she is old enough,

encourage her to be a part of this process. Sort through the toys and

identify a few special favorites that will remain out at all times. Remember,

this is not a punishment and should never feel like one. Keep this process

playful. If you think it’ll help, you can even make a game out of it!


To create weekly activity bags, have large plastic tote bags on hand, each big

enough to contain a week’s worth of items for play. There should be enough

containers to represent each week of the summer or whatever timeframe you

wish. Make a pile of toys for each bag and be certain each collection fosters a

range of playtime activities including opportunities for physical, fine motor,

imaginative and sensory games. As you add toys to each pile, engage in

conversation with your child. Discuss the rationale for each pile’s contents and

ask your child for input. When you are through, put the bags somewhere out of

view where your child will not see them.


After this job is completed, take a moment to pause with your child. Reflect on

how calm the space feels and congratulate her on a job well done. Consider aloud

how much fun it will be to open each bag later on and play with everything



The day your summer learning plan begins, take out the first bag. It will feel like

Christmas when your child opens it up! Make sure the process is ceremonious;

make it a shiny big deal. Invite older siblings to “ooh” and “ahh” as your little one

opens the bag. Talk with your child about all of the possibilities that each item

contains. For extra fun, wrap the bag in colorful paper; add a few simple items

inside that your child hasn’t seen before such as inexpensive craft items, bubbles,

stickers and new crayons or sidewalk chalk. When the week is over, bag up these

items and bring out the next tote.


With less clutter and fewer distractions, a child’s ability to concentrate deepens.

Play becomes more imaginative as the child finds new ways to engage with old



Activity: Create Fun Outdoor Learning Spaces

Benefit: Outdoor learning inspires a child’s independence, engagement and

joyful curiosity.


Do you have a garage or outdoor shed on your property? Have some fun

organizing a section of that area and equipping it with easily accessible tools for

outdoor fun. Assemble a collection of butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, empty

jars for soil or water sampling, gardening tools, wood scraps and tools for

building. Gather binoculars, a kid-friendly nature guidebook, sun block and hats

along with a sturdy travel bag, notebook and pens. Keep everything in one place

so the kids can grab these items and take off on adventures whenever inspiration



If you have a young child (or perhaps an older child who isn’t accustomed to a lot

of time outdoors), take some time to look over the surrounding landscape

together. Discuss where the best bugs might be. Where are the wild raspberries

growing? What corner of the yard yields the best mud for mucking in? And

earthworms! Where are the earthworms? In no time, your child will know the

answers to all of these questions. Your curiosity and enthusiasm are important

first steps to help get your child’s wheels turning.


For inspiration, check out these fabulous guides for young naturalists:

Backyard Adventure: How to Create Outdoor Play Spaces for Kids by Paula Brooks

Bird Watching for Kids: Bite-sized Learning & Backyard Projects by George H. Harrison

Wildflowers, Blooms & Blossoms (Take-Along Guide) by Diane Burns 

Trees, Leaves & Bark (Take-Along Guide) by Diane Burns 

Caterpillars, Bugs and Butterflies (Take-Along Guide) by Mel Boring 


Most of us don’t live in mansions with ample square footage; our homes may

already feel too short on space. The ideas I’ve shared here don’t require

sprawling spaces. Have fun planning, organizing, de-cluttering and using your

imagination. Avoid the temptation to focus on perceived shortcomings of your

space. Instead, work within its parameters and let it become a haven that

inspires your child’s independence, engagement and joyful curiosity.


Activity: Create Your Own Roadschooling Kits!

Benefits: Turns tiresome car rides into a time for engaging learning and fun.

Doing so also provides an opportunity to explore new activities in a

distraction-free space.


Hours in the car driving to classes, music lessons, sporting events and friends’

homes can grow tiresome—for children and for adults. But, what if I told you

that it is possible to turn time on the road into a fabulous opportunity for

learning and fun?


To begin, let’s stop thinking of our cars simply as objects that get us from point A

to point B. Envision your vehicle as a space to maximize and enjoy much like a

comfortable room in your home. Consider whether this space is well organized

and kid-friendly. Does it inspire opportunities for meaningful learning? Can your

children access its contents without asking for help?


There are a number of items available to help organize space in the car, but

nothing beats a good backseat organizer. Available in different styles, backseat

organizers slide over the back of the seat in front of your child. With pockets for

books, art supplies, music and food, this item makes it easy for your child to

access anything he needs.


Make each roadschooling travel kit to fill your child’s backseat organizer with a

variety of auditory, visual and tactile items. Be sure to use items that won’t melt

in the car! Rotate kits on a weekly basis so that the materials feel fresh and new.

Kids also love repetition, so don’t be afraid to cycle items back into the kits

regularly as well.


Your child will look forward to this new tradition. To keep things efficient,

prepare a number of kits in advance and store them in boxes inside your home.

When items in your child’s backseat organizer lose appeal, simply pull out

another kit and add its contents to the organizer.


There is no need to break the bank with this activity. Use items you have on hand

that your child hasn’t seen for a while. Shop at yard sales and thrift shops and

keep an eye out for sales.


The number of materials placed inside of the kits should correlate with your

length of travel time. Your child is less likely to feel interrupted if there isn’t a

large number of left over, unexplored items in her kit when you reach your



Roadschooling kit contents can include items such as:

  • Art supplies
  • Activity books
  • Manipulatives like tangrams, Rubik’s cube, wooden beads, lacing cards
  • Small stuffed animals and plastic animal or action figures to stimulate imaginative play
  • Subject-specific objects like flashcards, maps, calculators and workbooks
  • Reading materials
  • Snacks and water

Contents children can adapt for use in a variety of ways are most appealing to

children. Provide materials that suit open-ended activities and self-determined

play. It’s great fun to listen as an excited child rifles through his kit calling out,

“Mom, let’s listen to a little Beethoven. Would you like me to read you a story,

Dad? Do you know how to say ‘fish’ in Spanish?”


This is just the tip of the iceberg! Time in the car with our kids can inspire new

methods of teaching and learning in a number of ways. Make the most of every

moment and see what kind of wonderful fun unfolds.


The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents is available on Amazon.

And you can get The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents FREE planner here.