To most school-age children, summer break is regarded as a time for relaxation, fun, and no homework. Children who have been fed huge doses of reading, math, and writing look forward to trading in their school books for sundaes from the ice cream truck, endless games of hide-and-go-seek, and trips to the neighborhood snowball stand. And because they have been denied such privileges from September to June, we, as parents, allow them to revel in these non-academic luxuries until the leaves begin to fall.

Just because school doors close for the summer doesn’t mean learning opportunities cease as well. You don’t necessarily have to create worksheets or set up a chalkboard in your living room for your child to gain knowledge. There are many lessons you can create through your daily routine which are not only interesting but educational as well.

Sharpen math skills at a store

We often send our child to the store to pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, anticipating the product of the purchase and ignoring the process. This summer, send your child to the store with a mathematical purpose. There are many opportunities at a store for students of all ages to hone their math skills: A pre-schooler can count the items thrown in your shopping cart. A fifth-grader can estimate the amount of each individual item and predict the approximate total amount. An eighth-grader can use coupons to calculate the price of an item given the percentage discount. By allowing your child to rely less on calculators and cash registers and more on their own mathematical abilities, you are enabling them to sustain the math skills they learned throughout the year.

Beat the heat in a library

Instead of taking your child to an expensive water park or letting them play freeze-tag until the streetlights come on, take your little one on a meaningful trip to the public library. Libraries house books for any reader to become excited about, and they provide air conditioning on those scorching summer days. On weekdays, most neighborhood libraries close at around 8 p.m., the time when the sun goes down and the weather becomes a bit more bearable.

Most libraries also have computers and offer programs which students can take advantage of. For example, this month the Harold Washington Library is presenting their summer reading program, titled, “Book Splash,” where students participate in 45-minute activities learning about life in oceans, rivers, and lakes. Activities such as these will motivate your child to frequent the library, even when the school bells begin to ring again.

Read to an elder

We all know the sheer joy one receives from reading a good book. Unfortunately, many of our older neighbors can’t enjoy that privilege due to poor eyesight or lack of education. We will already be giving extra attention to the elderly due to the hot and humid summer days. So why not give them a little more consideration by reading aloud to them as well? Ask a close and trusting elder if your child can practice his/her reading fluency by reading them a good book. Not only will children increase their reading rate, they will also help enlighten members of their community. This educational opportunity is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

Push for a pen pal

Use relatives in other states to find a pen pal for your child this summer. Many of us look forward to seeing our Cousin Patty or Uncle Ernest at the family reunion, but fail to keep in contact because we don’t want to pay for long distance. Well, we don’t have to. There are other ways to stay in touch with our out-of-town kinfolk besides relying on anytime-minutes.

Create a pen pal program between your children and some of their cousins from a different city or state. Have them write each other once a week, comparing their neighborhoods and their summer adventures. This educational expense will only cost $3.70 in stamps for the entire summer, which is much cheaper than a matinee at your local movie theatre.

Although teachers are no longer sharpening your child’s pencils, use summer break as a time for sharpening the skills your child has already learned. By making learning experiences out of everyday occurrences, you will find that your child will become more motivated to learn and more prepared for the upcoming school year.