Summer is finally here, and those of us with children are enjoying a break from homework and school projects. However, we still can do some activities with our children to ensure that they continue learning during the summer.

Mega Skills, a book written by Dorothy Rich, is filled with suggestions that can help parents work with their children at home. Rich, founder and president of the nonprofit Home and School Institute in Washington, D.C., is a national expert whose work has been recognized by the MacArthur Foundation. Her programs are used by schools, parent-teacher groups, universities, and organizations.

Rich believes that the success children have in school depends on the parents because home is the first school and the most influential school a child will ever have. She also believes that without certain Mega Skills children will not do as well in school. To experience success in school, as in life, children need confidence, motivation, effort, responsibility, initiative, perseverance, caring, teamwork, common sense and problem-solving skills. Mega Skills is filled with activities that parents can use with their children in order to enhance their skills for success.

It is important for children to understand that what they learn in school will have an effect on their lives beyond the classroom. For example, the child who learns how to write an essay will later know how to prepare a proposal for a presentation; the child who can read will be able to take tests, enjoy a novel and understand an insurance policy; the child who understands math will be able to bring home the correct change from the grocery store. He also will be able to budget his money once he is living on his own.

Summertime is a great opportunity to work with your children in fun and creative ways. The following are a few suggestions from Mega Skills.

01 Makeup reading games. For example, have a scavenger hunt. Write out clues and deposit them around the house and backyard. Make sure one clue leads to another.

02 Give each child a list of things to do. They can be actual chores or silly things like hop around the table or run up and down the stairs three times.

03 Write your child a letter and “hide” new words you know your child does not know. Mail the letters or hide them under the pillow. Children love to receive letters! Buy them their very own children’s dictionary. It will make looking up words a lot more fun.

04 Tape notes around the house. Tape them on light switches, chairs or toys that need to be picked up.

05 Make a meal together and let your children read the recipes or read the recipe to the pre-reading child. They will be learning how to read and practicing how to follow directions and work math skills.

06 Make a vacation bulletin board. Ask the children what places they would like to visit. Have them post ideas about what they’d like to see and do once they get there. Tack up a large map of the world so that your children can choose where they want to travel to. For example, if they choose China, go to the library and check out books on its customs. Find out what kind of stories children like to read in China. Go to a travel agency and pick up brochures or check out web pages that offer all kinds of interesting facts about the country. Have an “Evening in Beijing” and eat Chinese food with chopsticks.

Don’t forget that summertime is for fun and relaxation. Make it fun, and your children won’t notice that they are also learning something useful.

Enjoy your children, and have a wonderful summer!

By Maria Luisa Salcines