Let’s be real, parents. Summer strikes both fear and joy in the hearts of many. Although everyone knows that summer is an important time for children to participate in outdoor activities, bond with family and friends, and get a break from structured school activities, all that unstructured time can be scary and overwhelming for parents. As much as every parent craves that time with their children, it can also be challenging to come up with engaging activities to keep your kids stimulated and continue their learning throughout the summer.

Research shows that children do experience learning loss when they do not participate in educational activities during the summer months. To ensure an easy back-to-school transition in August, parents and caretakers need to make sure that learning doesn’t stop when school does.

Parents and caretakers are great at finding the “teachable moments” in everyday life, but as summer grinds on, it gets more difficult harder to find ways to entertain kids in an educational way. Summer camps are a fantastic  way to get kids socializing with new friends, challenge them physically and mentally, as well as providing opportunities to try new things. (Next summer be on the lookout for some really unique Paramount School of the Arts camp offerings!) However, few can send a kid to camp all summer long, and kids really do crave/need time with you! I’m here to help you with some fun, educational activities to do with your kids that are creative and steeped in the arts! Once a week, I’ll be sharing a fun activity to do with your kids this summer. Many of these can be done with items you already have in your house or purchased for very little money. These activities keep the learning going in fun and creative ways, but the most important part is that you are learning and creating memories together!

I hope you have a fantastic summer and can enjoy some of these activities with the kids in your care. I can’t wait to see what you create together!

                       Story Stones

This is a simple activity that has several parts you can do all in one day or spread over a few days.

Spend the morning walking along the Fox River collecting 6-8 smooth stones to use later in the day. Try to get a variety of shapes and sizes. Get your kids talking about what they see, hear, smell, and feel. Ask them what animals they they think live by the river. What do they eat? What is their home like? These kinds of questions will stir the curiosity and imagination and their own questions. Remember, it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know answers to your kids’ questions. Just make sure that you learn the answers together!

When you arrive  home, work together to wash the stones you collected. Put them outside in the sun to dry. This might be a great time to have a picnic in the backyard or do some chalk drawings on the driveway.

Once the stones are dry, gather some acrylic paint and paint together images of some of the things you saw on your walk along the river today. It could be a tree, an animal, the river, etc. It is also fun to paint a few images on the rocks that are random/fun. Maybe have them paint their favorite food or a ball from their favorite sport. An optional step is to spray a clear acrylic finishing coat over the top of the stones to make sure to protect your mini masterpieces.

When you’ve assured the paint is dry, find a small bag to put them in. Feel free to label the bag in a creative way. Although the ways to play with your story stones are  as endless as your imagination, I suggest starting with the obvious, telling each other a story! Take the bag and pull out a stone. The image on the stone is how you start the story. For example, if you pull out a stone with a bird on it, your story should begin by talking about that bird. (i.e., Mr. bluebird was a funny old bird. He hated worms, but loved tea and cookies.) Once you finish a few sentences of the story, pass the bag to your child and have them pull out a stone. The story continues back and forth in this way until you run out of stones.

You can also have your child (or you) narrate the whole story yourself by pulling out stones. Make it even more fun, by acting out the narration! The stories should be different each time, because you will pull out the stones in a different order.

If you create these at home, please send your pictures to school@paramountarts.com so we can feature them on our social media pages!

Here are a few different ways to make story stones:

  1. Fabric Collage and Modge Podge
  2. Markers
  3. Acrylic Paint