Summer Camp at Home Week 1: Habitats
Summertime, summertime, sum – sum – summertime…
OK, got that outta my system….
You might be following our Summer Camp at Home series this summer or just interested in some ideas to do fun, educational stuff with your kids. And for our first week (starting Monday), we’re kicking off with the theme of Habitats.
So, habitats. On the surface, making habitats this week’s theme sounds boring, but trust me, it won’t be! Exploring different habitats can actually be fun. And the reason we’re kicking off our summer with a habitats theme has to do with one of my boys’ favorite subjects and something you might like too.
Starting Memorial Day weekend (just a few weeks ago), SeaWorld in Orlando had a grand opening for its newest attraction and exhibit, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. The same weekend, a new IMAX movie, Penguins 3D, opened. Well, we have studied penguins and Antarctica in the past, so I figured, instead of just Antarctica, why not several different habitats?
So this week we will look at different types of habitats (some might call them ecosystems or plant communities — they all have their own specific definitions, but you get the idea) and use that to stir our imaginations and stay busy learning and having fun this week.
Here are some things I have planned for my kids for next week:
Now that my youngest is almost 4 years old and my oldest just graduated from kindergarten, it’s easier than ever to take them places. The kids love getting out of the house, and so do I. (So. Do. I!) We already visited SeaWorld for the grand opening of Antarctica (see the link above), but we haven’t seen Penguins 3D yet. There is an IMAX theater not too far away, so we are in luck.
We’re also planning a trip to Everglades National Park. The National Park Service Junior Ranger Program is a fun, educational program that rewards kids for learning about the environment. There are three national parks about an hour from our home, so we just might make it to all of them this summer (if we can handle the mosquitoes). If there is a national park near you, check it out! If not, see if a nearby state park has a program for kids. If you can’t get to a park at all, try the Webrangers program.
We’re going to visit our local library every week this summer and check out books. We are also going spend time reading books every morning as part of our daily routine. Most libraries have summer reading programs that offer rewards, and that’s a fun (and free!) way to keep kids learning over the summer.
In the past, I recommended specific book titles for each week’s theme. However, I realize it can be hard to find those books in time for that week. Searching for books on a specific theme is easy, though, whether you’re at your local library (the Dewey Decimal System is helpful to find categories) or on Amazon.com. And booksellers can be helpful too. Find books your child is interested in. This week, you might look for books about deserts, rainforests, mountains, grasslands, swamps or marshes. Get to know the habitats of the region where you live.
Advanced students might want to learn about habitat mapping. You could even make it into a summer-long project if your child is interested enough.
Even young students can get a general idea of what your state looks like on a map, and you can label where different types of habitats are. Print out an outline map of your state from an online search, and then use label stickers or just write on the map where the different habitats are. Maybe your state has one habitat — that’s OK too! This might inspire your kids to learn more facts about your state.
Play and Learn
We’ve planned a stuffed animal picnic with friends who want to come. While we eat in the shade, we will present our favorite animal toys to one another and take turns figuring out which habitat it comes from! This activity is good even for toddlers.
Playing “make-believe” or pretend is an excellent way for children to learn and problem solve. Kids can pretend they are in various habitats. What do they need to survive each one? My boys still enjoy watching the PBS Kids Wild Kratts show and think they are Martin and Chris.
Speaking of the Wild Kratts, if you visit their site linked above, there are fun games there. Just click on the word Habitats in the left menu.
Crafting and Art
We are going to schedule an art time each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. I don’t care what the boys want to do each day as long as they are being creative.
We will also start our summertime paper bag albums and add to them each week.
There are so many things to make for this week — a diorama of your child’s favorite habitat or drawings of favorite animals. My penguin lovers will try to make penguin puppets out of craft felt. They just trace around their hands, cut out the fabric, glue the sides together, and decorate with eyes and beaks.
In addition to activities for the weekly theme, we will try to stick to a daily routine. We’ll start the day with some outdoors time before it gets too hot outside — gotta have that Green Hour. Then while our minds and spirits are still fresh, we will do some educational activities like our daily reading, a Summer Bridge worksheet, and activities my 6-year-old’s occupational therapist recommended. We’ll have blocks of time for playing with Legos, craft clay, making music, doing puzzles or board games, playing educational games on the iPad or at ABCMouse.com — and some down time too. I’ll also get the boys involved in making (and cleaning up after!) lunch.
Summertime ideas are all over Pinterest, which is a hugely popular way to find, share and save ideas or things you love. Each week, I will try to share a cool idea found on Pinterest.
This week, I want to give Pinterest love to these Anti-Boredom Kits. So cute, clever, easy to make, and your kids will love them. You can probably think of other kits to make too.
Also, I want to share KidsSoup as a good resource for theme-based crafts, games, and activities for young children. Anytime, not just for the summer. You need to buy a subscription to access the ideas and printables, but if you have active learners, it’s worth it — and I’m NOT being paid or courted to say so. For this week’s theme, for example, if you look in different areas of the KidsSoup site, you’ll find a penguin math game, a board game featuring a lizard in the desert, sand science experiments, various animal crafts…. There’s a lot there.
I hope this week’s Summer Camp at Home post gives you some ideas — or something to inspire your own ideas — for a fun kickoff to summer. If it’s helpful or you have ideas to share, please feel free to comment.
Make it a great week!