Time outside of school presents important opportunities for continual learning. Explore activities and resources that make it fun to learn together when your children are out of the classroom.
Daily Reading More Activities
Choose one or two pleasure books that your child can read just for fun. Choose a book you are looking forward to reading as well. Find a comfortable, quite place for both of you to curl up and read for 45 minutes each day. ENJOY! If you can talk to each other about the books, that’s great, but the most important thing is to read. For book lists and other reading ideas see the NYC Reads 365 page.
Family Book Club
Choose a book that the whole family reads. Set a date for when you will all be finished reading the book and then come together to discuss!
Be a Questioner
When your child reads something, especially something interesting or challenging, help her develop some questions about it. Have her use the five Ws: who, what, when, where, why—and how. You and your child can do this with things you read and also with things you watch on television or online.
Read Up on Current Events
Have your child read a newspaper or go online to a news site each day and find an event that interests him. If your child finds an article that is particularly difficult, you might choose to read it aloud. Talk about it with your child and include other family members or friends. Then help your child create a news notebook, taping the article into the notebook, stating why he chose it, what he learned from it, and what everyone’s views were about it.
Use Sophisticated Vocabulary
Before dinner, choose an article from the newspaper that every member of your family will read. During dinner conversation discuss what each of you learned from the article and what you think about the ideas or facts. Ask a few questions as well. As you converse be sure to use the sophisticated vocabulary of the article. In subsequent, readings look for uses of the same sophisticated vocabulary across several articles.
Create an original piece of writing and submit it to the following sites.
Children ages 5-12:
Take the story writing challenge at KidsCom.com
Create a web page at My Hero Project
Adolescents ages 12-18:
Submit stories and short films to Candlelight Stories
Submit stories, essays or poems to TeenInk
Web Sites for Reading and Literacy Activities
- Check out several books from your school library or classroom library to take home and read over the break.
- Read a book to a family member or a pet.
- Visit your favorite author’s website and learn more about the author and his or her books.
- Make a craft, create a delicious treat, or build something unique from a how-to book.
- Write a email to the author of a book that made an impression on you. (Many authors have an official web site and accept emails from readers.)
- Read a book and then watch the movie. Compare and contrast.
- Interview and photograph family members to make a book.
- If traveling, find books (fiction and nonfiction) about that place in your school library to read before and during your trip.
- Read books about your favorite places in New York City and visit them during summer break.
Guys Read a web-based literacy program for boys.
Teen Ink an on-line magazine written by teens.
Reading is Fundamental Reading Planet to get literacy suport for ages 0-15.
Storyline Online features books read alound by some of your favoite stars.
International Children's Digital Library allows you to acces books from around the world.
Reading Rockets has parent resources, and access to materials, author interviews and more.
PBS Kids offers games, and vidoes to promote learning.
Scholastic has reading clubs, games and interactive learning fun.
ReadWriteThink has parent and afterschool resources for gredes K-
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Sequencing, fractions, ratios, and measurement are just a few of the skills required in following even the most basic recipes, and you get to create delicious food with your child.
As you shop, challenge your child to estimate or count the number of items you are purchasing or the cost of the items. Challenge your child to figure out how much money to expect back in change, helping him or her to practice mental calculations. Other opportunities during shopping include comparing two or more items and determining the relative values based on ratio of size to cost. Encourage your children to compare sizes, weights, capacity, and liquid measurement. Ask your child to find the largest container of milk and explain why it holds more than the other containers.
Numbers and Shapes
Numbers and shapes are all around us! Look for numbers and shapes in the environment (addresses, sports statistics, weather forecasts, license plates, prices, signs) and talk about what they mean and how they are used.
How Long Does it Take?
Explore time by asking your child to estimate and then time how long it takes to complete different activities. Which of your child’s estimates were close to the actual time? Which were farthest away? Can you name an activity that you think will take less than five minutes? Try it and see how close you were. Don’t forget to notice the time you start and end an activity so that you can see how long it lasted; this will help children understand the passage of time.
Puzzles and Origami
Puzzles help develop spatial skills. Being able to notice shapes and patterns in puzzles will allow your child to easily pick up geometry concepts taught in school. Origami (the Japanese art of paper folding) strengthens awareness of shape and symmetry, and also requires children to follow directions in sequential order.
Board games like Monopoly, Clue, Chutes and Ladders, and so many others all provide math skills practice, computation, and logical reasoning. Card games like Twenty-One or Hearts will provide your child with basic fact computations.
Everyday Life and Math
Have conversations that relate to everyday life and incorporate math questions. When traveling in a car or a bus, children invariably ask, “When will we get there?” Use the question as an opportunity to do some math. Count the number of exits and/or stops before you get to your destination; talk about miles to your destination and how fast you are driving so that your child can answer the question. Pose “wonder” questions, such as: How tall is that tree? How many seats are in this room? How many people are in front of us on this line? Figure out the answers to these questions together. Ask your child to tell you what he or she thought about when answering the questions.
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New York Hall of Science
In the newly created Design Labs at the New York Hall of Science, parents and children can engage in activities, experiments, and challenges that provide a deeper understanding of engineering and the design process. Design Labs is a space for tinkering and creative problem-solving for families. Using simple tools and everyday materials, the open-ended problems invite kids to wrestle with STEM topics and come up with their own creative solutions.
Kinetic City – A Touch of Class
Science is all around you at Kinetic City. Your backyard, kitchen, and other areas around the home provide natural "laboratories" for children. Children are curious; exploring with science can be lots of fun while also teaching them a great deal about themselves and their world. In the interactive science story game, children can learn many interesting facts about different plants and animals. Each question asks the child to select the plants or animals that have certain characteristics. Your child will learn science through play.
The Science of Cooking
Discover how a pinch of curiosity can improve your cooking at the Exploratorium website. Explore recipes and activities, and Webcasts that will enhance your understanding of the science behind food and cooking. Find out how different candy is made and then make your own. Or try making a “naked egg.” Children and adults can work together to understand the science behind the food they eat.
Adolescent children and their parents can share the wonders of scientific inquiry through virtual labs, such as the Bacterial ID lab and the Lizard Evolution Virtual Lab. Created by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, these virtual labs are both enjoyable and educational for the entire family.
Any time can be the right time to explore science. Visit Science Buddies for fun science activities that take favorite experiments and demonstrations and let you explore them at home. Materials are easy to find. Most activities take an hour or less, and the science learning is limitless.
More Home Experiments
Enjoy a variety of explorations – from floating soap bubbles to making raisins dance at SciFun. The activities found here are both entertaining and educational. Children and adults can learn about the nature of materials together.
Have your child design a garden or park where he or she can attract native animals. Design the type of plants and trees that will be in the park or garden. Then show the native animals that will be attracted to this space because of the food sources you added to your design. Make a food web showing all of the organisms in your yard or park. Remember to draw or take photos of the space you have created.
What’s for Dinner?
Children and adults can discover the benefits of the types of food that they eat for dinner. Chart the food that you eat for dinner as a family for one week. Then find out where the type of food came from; for instance, if you have salmon for dinner one night, search the Internet and learn where salmon is produced and how it is shipped to New York City. Do the same for all of the food products that you eat for dinner and then create a chart of the cost of the food and the distance it travels. See if you can find any trends in the data that you have collected.
The Tail Wagging the Dog
Many people who have dogs know that dogs wag their tails because they are happy. Or do they? As a family, try to design an experiment that will either support this theory or not. Start by seeing what makes a dog happy and see if there is a connection with the happiness factor and the wagging of the dog’s tail. Make several observations before coming to a conclusion.
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Show your child family photographs and talk about your own childhood and how it was similar to or different from your child’s experiences.
Summer Activity: Look at Family Photos of summer experiences past and recent. Ask students to write about what they see and describe their experience as they remember them. Then plan a family outing and ask students to set up a photo journal of the experience.
Explore Holidays and Traditions
Visit the library to read books about different holidays and ways to celebrate and discuss with your child.
Summer Activity: Summer is a time of celebration and family gatherings. Ask students to help you plan for a family gathering and event and ask them to interview family and friends and attendance to capture the different perspectives and memorable moments of the event.
Create a Family Tree
Encourage children to interview other family members to learn about different cultural and historical events that took place and were witnessed by the family members.
Summer Activity: Summer is a time for family outings, visits home and reunions Ask students to use this time to speak with extended family. Take photographs, write a transcript of what your interviewee said and organize it around your family tree.
Learn your Neighborhood History
Take a tour and look for historic sites, monuments, and markers. Write down the names of the streets, look them up online, and build connections to today.
Summer Activity: Include a full description and location of seasonal sites such as swimming pools, athletic fields, ice cream trucks, and street vendors.
Create a Timeline
You and your child can create a timeline of your child’s personal life with major milestones along with historic events. At your local library, look up the front pages of newspapers and magazines of the day, month, and year when your child was born. Read the articles together and share how life was the same and different during that time period. What surprised your child about the life and world on his or her birthdate? What connections do the articles make to today?
Summer Activity: At the end of the summer, you and your child can create a timeline of your child’s summer months. You may want to include trips, fun times, good movies and books, family events, historical insights or major milestones.
Write a Letter
Write a letter or postcard (not an email) to a friend or family member
and then take a walk to your local post office to have it delivered. At the local library, research the history of the U.S. Mail. What role does it play in our lives? How is communication today changing the role of the post office? How do you think the way we communicate will change in the future?
Summer Activity: Find out how the job of U.S. Postal Workers changes during the summer. If possible interview a postal worker and find out how his or her work is affected by summer heat, humidity, vacations, etc.
Find a Route
Use a train or bus map to trace the route to a destination or family trip. What information does the map provide? How does it help us travel?
Summer Activity: Use a train or bus map to trace the route to a summer destination such as a pool, the beach or a family summer outing. What information does the map provide? How does it help you travel?
Record a conversation with a grandparent or a family member about a particular historical event they were a part of. Find out why the event mattered to the family member. What role did he or she play? How does she or he want the event remembered? Transcribe the recording and research the event at local library, looking for points of connection and recording new information about the event.
Summer Activity: Record a conversation with a grandparent or a family member about a summer event they were a part of. Find out why the summer event mattered to the family member. What about it being summer made the event special? What role did he or she play? How does she or he want the event remembered? Transcribe the recording and research the event at local library, looking for points of connection and recording new information about the event.
Share the meaning of a souvenir, heirloom or emblem that is treasured by your family. Encourage your child to photograph the artifact and write a story about it.
Summer Activity: Share the meaning of and recipe for a favorite summer food or drink that is prepared by your family. Encourage your child to photograph the cooking process and final product and write a story about it.
Flags and Monuments
Explore the significance of buildings with flags and monuments in your neighborhood.
Walk five blocks each way from the entrance of your home and draw a map of your local neighborhood. Write down names and draw symbols for what you see.
Summer Activity: Compare how the settings around monuments might be different in the summer. Are there flowers, grass, animals, insects and trees near the monuments?
Street Names and NYC History
Notice the names of the streets in your neighborhood and explore their meanings.
Take a free tour with a city park ranger or visit a national park. For more information about our parks visits:
New York City Parks, Urban Park Rangers
National Park Service
Summer Activity: In the summer the parks department host and array of events including festivals and concerts.
Choose a historical fiction novel and read it together each day and discuss key elements together. Your local librarian can provide recommendations based on grade level.
Summer Activity: Join your child for a book discussion at your local public library :http://www.nypl.org/events/book-discussion and http://www.bklynlibrary.org/calendar
The Stock Market
Play The Stock Market Game. Show children the stock pages and have them choose one stock and track its ups and downs each day.
Summer Activity: Watch the opening or closing bell. Research and discuss the person or company ringing the bell. https://www.nyse.com/bell
Using a map or globe, pick out places that you have traveled to or would like to visit. Mark them and create an annotated list that describes the highlights of each place. Involve your child in planning a family trip. Ask her to plot the family's itinerary on a map, and find out what type(s) of food, music and art the family will encounter along the way.
Summer Activity: Identify a popular summer place. Plan a visit to a baseball stadium, a beach, a park, an amusement park, the boardwalk or another favorite location. Use online mapping tools to plan your route and itinerary .
Where did it Come From?
Reinforce concepts like global economic inter-dependence by helping your child find imported items in your home. They can be items of furnishing, food, and clothing. On a map mark or pin each location of origin. Connect the locations by drawing lines or using yarn.
Summer Activity: In a trip to the supermarket make a list of items that change with the season, what fruits and vegetables are more prominent in the summer? Look at the labels on the produce to see country or state of origin and look up the climate and weather for the summer season. Make connections between availability of certain items and the weather and season.
Movie Night and Discussion
Watch a historical film together and discuss, then learn more about the event at your local library.
Summer Activity: City parks sponsors free outdoor movies all summer at various locations around the city.
Music from the Past
Listen to music from the parent’s or grandparent’s time period with the parent or grandparent and discuss the songs or dances from that time period and place.
Summer Activity: Compare this year’s popular music with hit songs of past summers. How are they the same? How are they different and alike?
The Brooklyn Bridge
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge together and discuss the architecture and geography you observe. At your local library, research the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Summer Activity: Extend your learning by spending a summer day at the Brooklyn Bridge. Visit the website for Brooklyn Bridge Park to create an agenda for your day out at the Bridge. How does the landscape of New York Harbor change over the summer? What is different?
Staten Island Ferry
Take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry together; discuss the architecture and geography of New York Harbor.
Summer Activity: Extend your learning and enjoyment with a trip to Richmond County Bank Ballpark to catch a Staten Island Yankees game or visit the Staten Island Museum. http://www.statenislandmuseum.org/about/history/
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New York City is home to more than 1,200 cultural venues, including more than 500 galleries, 375 nonprofit theater companies, 330 dance companies, 150 museums, 96 orchestras, and 40 Broadway theaters. Many offer free hours or suggested admission. During the winter break, make time to go to a museum or performance.
The Department of Cultural Affairs has an online guide that allows you to search for free and kid-friendly events. Find events on the NYCulture Calendar.