6 min Read

How to keep your kids engaged over the summer

By Erin Pepler

Summer is in full swing and school is but a distant memory for kids in the throes of summer camp, family vacations, sports seasons and more—but the reality is, the first day back in the classroom is just a few weeks away. If you’re worried that the “summer slide” is setting in, there are plenty of ways to keep your family engaged (and entertained!) without taking away from the summer experience. So, should your kids complete worksheets, hone their play-based learning skills or get ahead with the latest tech as the summer winds down? That’s a question for the pros, so we spoke with Microsoft’s National Learning and Skills Lead, Dr. Elka Walsh, an expert in student success who is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a digital future.

ParentsCanada: What are the benefits of keeping kids engaged in educational activities over the summer? Should these activities be parent-led?

Dr. Elka Walsh: Summer break is a great time to showcase the many ways in which children can still be learning and working on the skills they’d gain in the traditional classroom, such as critical thinking or problem solving. Kids may often say they just want to play and it’s key to remember that learning and play are partners. Learning does not need to look like workbooks or math lessons—it can take many shapes and sizes. 

Teaching kids over the summer should be a healthy split between parent and child-led activities. I encourage parents to set aside some time for learning and provide options for activities, but ultimately leaving the choice with their children. Kids learn best when they’re interested in the activity. Giving your child the independence to choose fosters child-led learning and ensures they are engaged and feel encouraged. 

PC: Schools often have safety features set up on classroom devices. How can parents ensure that their kids stay safe while using similar devices at home?

EW: Kids are spending more time online than ever before and the first thing that parents can do to keep their kids safe is to start the conversation about online safety early. With the amount of activity happening online, from social networks to online gaming to email and more, there are many new experiences for learners. At the end of the day, parents and educators alike want to ensure that learners are safe and know of the risks and watchouts. Microsoft also offers a Family Safety mobile app that can empower you and your family to create healthy online habits.

PC: Summer is all about fun in the sun. What tips do you have for combining outdoor activities with education and tech?

EW: We know kids want to spend more time outdoors because of the weather and that opens up many new opportunities to take learning outside. Nature walks, scavenger hunts, and sports can all be turned into opportunities to learn about teamwork, STEM or problem solving. It’s not about making it feel like work or homework—it’s all fun. You’d be surprised at how easily you can integrate learning into kids’ activities. 

PC: Some kids travel during the summer. What tech products do you recommend for a family on the go?

EW: When traveling—especially long adventures in the car—bringing some tech products from home for your children to enjoy can help entertain, comfort and even inspire your kids. Traveling with children is stressful as is and can be an overwhelming experience for the whole family, but being as prepared as possible makes all the difference. Microsoft offers a wide range of Surface devices for kids of all ages that can keep them engaged throughout the journey—devices like the Surface Go are small, easy to handle and simple for kids to use. There are many fantastic apps and online experiences from Hour of Code to Minecraft and more that will keep kids entertained and learning. Plus, parental controls also allow you to keep kids safe and enforce screen time limits.

PC: We love that educational opportunities take place during quality time as a family. Do you have a favourite way for families to learn while having fun together?

EW: There are so many activities that you can do as a family that are fun and offer a learning experience. Over the summer, go on a hike to explore and teach kids about the local plants and animals that they see; visit your city’s local science centre or aquarium for interactive experiences that teach children about the world around them; and finally, if you can, take your kids traveling! Let them explore new surroundings so they can learn about new cultures and environments. Even the commute can be exciting—planes, trains, automobiles! 

PC: Minecraft has been huge for kids in recent years. What else is trending?

EW: While Minecraft is an excellent title for kids to play to learn about problem solving, creativity and exploration, there are other games available on Xbox Game Pass that teach important skills like math and memory. Xbox Game Pass is a fantastic service for the entire family, allowing access to more than 100 high-quality games for PC and console for one low monthly price. From Snake Pass to Educational Games for Kids, video games can be a great way for learners to practice their memory, teamwork and problem solving skills with friends and other family members. 

PC: Some parents find themselves feeling guilty about screen time, especially in the summer. Is all screen time created equal?

EW: Not all screen time is created equal and not all of it is bad. Learning how to use screens better and creating healthy habits is extremely important for kids growing up in our digital world. Setting limits develops healthy digital habits. It’s also important to lead by example and be a good role model for your kids – disconnect at the dinner table, give your kids their full attention when you can, and do screen activities together. If they see you following your own rules, chances are they’ll join you. 

Sponsored by: Microsoft