Growing up, I spent summers with my grandmother in Brooklyn. We went shopping as I pushed her cart and talked with the shopkeepers. We watched soap operas and yelled, “liars” to the commercials. I watched her cook and she told me stories. We hung out on the fire escape and watched kids playing ball. We are well into summer now so I reached out to the 4 awesome people behind Tandem Teaching who care about education infused with curiosity to talk about kids’ experiences during the summer.
How should we be thinking about our children’s summer experiences?
TT: Summer is a great opportunity to get the chance to do novel things with your kids. Our best advice would be to focus on building memories and experiences that aren’t possible during the school year – these will strengthen and sustain them for a lifetime.
I like that idea. Can you say more?
TT: Parents are often pressured to sign their children up for things that will prepare them for the next grade. But a lot of parents don’t realize the potential inherent in the kinds of experiences you spoke about.
When you were shopping with your grandma, you were making an emotional connection. Your gram might have asked you to write the grocery list, or talked to you about comparing prices while you shopped. It didn’t feel like your gram was “teaching” and yet those are applications of skills that children are expected to have in the classroom. Cooking is also a great example. Parents can invite their children in to these moments, and kids will learn about fractions and math (not to mention cleaning up!). Kids gain confidence from learning informally with someone who loves them. What they know and how they feel about themselves will be invaluable in the classroom.
What specific “bonding experiences” can you recall from your own childhood?
My mom used to paint big signs on butcher paper and put it up on the garage whenever we would get back from a trip or to celebrate an achievement. It made us feel really loved, and it made those achievements special because it felt like the whole family was celebrating. And none of my friend’s parents did this, so it really stood out as something my mom did to make us feel really appreciated.
What do you think makes an experience “memorable”?
Something out of the ordinary. If your kiddo’s friend would think, “This family is so different!” then you’re right on track.
–If you live in the city, take walks together at night to look for wildlife. Take a camera and spot animals and birds. Make it an urban safari! Did you know that birds make nests in traffic lights?
–Plant healthy vegetables in the backyard. Watch them grow, and eat them by the time the summer’s over. Your kiddo is so much more likely to want to eat the Brussels sprouts if she spent the summer nurturing them herself.
–Give them a new experience, take them fishing. Climb trees.
Any closing thoughts?
I guess I could close with a quote from my ma, who, when pushing us to do uncomfortable things (that we later remembered fondly) would always say, “Come on, Liss! Let’s make a memory.”

(photo source)

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