AS we close the curtains on another academic year, we have much to reflect on. The year commenced in September 2020 and during the first and penultimate term, instruction was predominantly executed in a virtual environment. The final term of the school year witnessed a transition from the virtual environment, to one in which students were engaged in their classes in a physical setting. After spending a few months in school, children are once again confined to their homes where the responsibility of engaging them in constructive activities, relies on resourcefulness of their parents or guardians.
It is during this period, that parents begin to experience increased levels of apprehension and frustration. They are encumbered by rapidly diminishing food supplies by children who are practically ‘eating out the cupboards’, or those who spend an inordinate amount of time on social media or glued to their television screens. For others, it is a continuous process of admonishing a recalcitrant child or lecturing about a chore which was not completed. It is not surprising that in the space of two weeks some parents would begin to wonder why schools have not reopened, only to be reminded that it is an eight-week summer break. Nevertheless, these challenges can be mitigated. Parents can make this period one in which children are presented with opportunities to acquire skills and discover their hidden talents. The question is therefore, how can parents engage children in meaningful activities during this summer vacation? The adage that ‘learning never stops’ is certainly true because, the following projects would not only impart knowledge, but cultivate an insatiable desire to learn.
1. Arts and Craft: Foster creativity among children, by introducing them to decorative arts. Be frugal and utilize the resources in the environment such as stones, wood, paper, plastic, sticks, glass, thread, buttons, beads and cloth. They can also learn to mend garments, attach appliques or create exquisitely designed items. Furthermore, there are YouTube videos and websites replete with Do It Yourself (DIY) projects that can be undertaken at home. During their Visual Arts and Textiles, Clothing and Fashion classes, children acquire a variety of skills, so why not give them the opportunity to practice what they have learnt?
2. Food Preparation: Designate a day each week as ‘chef-helper day’ and use this time as an opportunity for children to bond with you, while they are instructed in the art of cooking. During these episodes, concepts such as time, measurement and counting, can be reinforced. Consequently, food preparation not only becomes an emotionally gratifying accomplishment, but an educational experience for children.
3. Gardening: Establish a backyard or container garden. Children can learn to plant herbs, fruits, vegetables or flowers in cans, jars, pots or any other object that can hold soil. For those who own a farm, allow them to accompany you to the farm, where they can implement what they have learnt during their Agricultural Science classes. This would give them an opportunity to harness their skills and become more competent in this area. Apart from being a source of income for the family, many health benefits can be accrued; as children become more active, they build stamina, strengthen their muscles and develop their mental faculties.
4. Games and Activities: Engage children in a variety of pleasurable, yet educational activities, which will not only keep them abreast with their school work, but substantially improve their Literacy and Numeracy proficiencies. Additionally, there are websites which cater to all age levels, that offer a significant number of educational games, puzzles and quizzes, on a variety of subjects. These activities will undeniably captivate and sustain children’s interest.
5. Music: Apart from the entertainment factor, the cognitive benefits of music are remarkable. Music is integral to the development of problem-solving skills and is increasingly associated with the enhancement of short and long-term memory. Thus, this is an opportune time to embark on a music program where children learn the fundamentals, in order to discover and nurture their musical aptitudes. In the absence of a structured music program, children can be instructed at home on how to play the guitar, piano, recorder, or any other musical instrument.
6. Exercise: The nexus between physical activity and an individual’s holistic development has been extensively researched. Physical activity not only promotes emotional and mental health, but social interaction as well. Therefore, it is imperative to limit the time that children spend on social media and dedicate at least thirty minutes each day, where they are actively involved in activities such as swimming, cycling, jogging, skipping, walking or playing their favourite game of cricket or football. These undertakings will not only create lifelong memories, but ultimately provide the foundation for competitive participation in various sporting disciplines.