Avoiding the "summer slide"
June 2, 2011 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Primary school gets out tomorrow. I know it is common for kids to have a "summer slide" where they forget a lot of what they've learned over the year. Recommend some fun math and science sites/projects/activities for elementary school age kids that will keep them refreshed and interested.

Reading, writing, arts and crafts, running around like an idiot...those I can do. What I'd like to find are some sites/activities/projects that an advanced 8 year old would find entertaining that reinforce math skills and science facts. Bonus if we can work in programming (which he's learning and loving), and/or robotics. He wants to build battlebots in the back yard. (And really, who doesn't?) Please, nothing that shoots fire. Or projectiles. Or needs to be nuked from space.
posted by dejah420 to Education (19 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Model rocketry! Paper airplanes! Kites!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:39 PM on June 2, 2011

Telescope! Or, if you live in a light-polluted city, microscope!
posted by phunniemee at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2011

I don't have personal experience, but the word on the street is Lego Mindstorms are pretty much the coolest thing ever.

Something I do have a little bit of experience with is rocks. Go down to a creek bed and look for fossils, or find a guide to local rocks and go to town. Or learn how to identify birds, plants, whatever floats his boat.
posted by MadamM at 7:51 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fishing, and looking for aquatic creatures, collecting, aquariums, insect collecting, hiking, plant/tree identification, camping...

I spent about 10 years as a kid doing that stuff..

oh, and reading...lots and lots of reading, sitting in tree forts and reading...

Scouts, summer camps.....

have fun!
posted by tomswift at 8:02 PM on June 2, 2011

Best answer: Not so fun, but useful - Sporcle Multiplication Table. When my kids (around 4th grade or 3rd grade) managed finish the multiplication problems within the time limit, they got a treat. Made homework sooooo much faster once they were back in school.

Sporcle also has geography quizzes, etc.
posted by artychoke at 8:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: IXL Math is a fantastic math practice site for kids. The 8 year old I looked after used it every day during the summer, and sometimes during the school year too! He loved it. It rewards their progress, and parents can check in to their own "parent" side of the site to see their child's progress. It's $10/month (or $80/year), but definitely worth it!
posted by hasna at 8:22 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I joke in my profile that American Science and Surplus is my stock answer here, but you trulu can find neat science kits and stuff for kids there and can often find good sales on their website.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:04 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Teach him to cook and/or bake, have him help you develop a basic program that converts tablespoons and teaspoons to cups and vice versa, and then let him sell the baked goods at his very own lemonade stand. He'll reinforce his understanding of fractions and basic math when he has to measure out the different ingredients and make change; science-wise this would be a great opportunity to talk to him about chemistry and the way different ingredients interact; and ultimately you're teaching him some incredible life skills that'll last him forever.

Extra bonus? He'll have spending money after he sells those cookies to buy the resources he needs to build his battlebots!
posted by patronuscharms at 10:41 PM on June 2, 2011

Aw, patronuscharms beat me to "learn to cook." I'm sure there are weird science-flavored recipes out there that would appeal to a junior cadet aspiring mad scientist/programmer/pastry chef.

Depending on the type of nerdery you and your kid lean toward, you could also try playing D&D or Pathfinder. Playing 4e has actually helped me get better at doing arithmetic in my head (although I'm probably a bit behind an "advanced eight year old" to begin with.) A friend of mine DMs 4e encounters at a game shop and has a nine year old in one of her regular groups.
posted by Neofelis at 11:41 PM on June 2, 2011

There might be some age-appropriate activities on TinkerLab. The site is geared towards younger kids (since that's the age of the author's children) but I think making Gak would be pretty rad AND and opportunity to talk about viscosity.
posted by elerina at 11:52 PM on June 2, 2011

This might be a bit weird, but my civil engineer sister had her children sculpt a replica of an Easter Island head in their backyard out of styrofoam and paper mache. It was approximately 1/2 true size, so still pretty big. She said it involved math in computing the scaled down dimensions, art in designing and drawing the plans and some geography/history in studying the heads and deciding which one they wanted to build.

She said she got some odd looks from neighbors, but the kids had a blast and it was actually pretty cool (and realistic looking) when they finished.
posted by hollygoheavy at 4:25 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have personal experience, and Lego Mindstorms are the coolest things ever, and are all about both robotics and programming. My son and I have liked the projects in One-Kit Creatures, though they are very simple and the robots don't do much. We've also *loved* the Mayan Adventure, which introduces design, planning, and de-bugging in a very fun context, and invites you to build robots that do amazing things like travel along hanging under a string to drop small objects into a target. It's for Mindstorms 1.0, but the author has a book out now--the King's Treasure-- that is for 2.0, which is the latest Mindstorms NXT kit.

My kids also enjoy Snap Circuits.

We recently got Zany Wooden Toys from the library, and the projects look awesome. I'm not sure I have the woodworking skills but we're going to try to find time to try at least some of the simpler ones.

I'm planning to teach my 7yo and 10yo to use compasses this summer, and do some mapping activities, carry the compasses around when we go to zoos or the nature center.

I am totally coveting ZomeTools, which I only recently learned about.
posted by not that girl at 5:51 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

One thing I loved doing, which I think helped with this sort of thing (or was designed to, anyway) was doing "summer enrichment" programs on my local community college campus. I think our local library did something similar, as well. Basically you got to choose a class or three, mostly fun versions of an academic area, and spend a half-day of school doing/learning about that.

Most kids chose something that they were interested in already, though there were evil parents who used it as a punishment to force their kid to get more practice in an area where they struggled. I strongly recommend you don't do that.

If your area doesn't have (affordable) programs like that, why not just let the kid build battlebots in the backyard?

I also agree with "learn to cook". I'd also suggest you get a version of google sketchup and let him play with designing stuff - that's another area that sharpens math skills, while not feeling like boring arithmetic drills. Not to mention that it's programming-ish. He also might be able to use sketchup to design his battlebots, or perhaps an arena for them to do battle in.
posted by Sara C. at 6:35 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Teach them how to use a japanese abacus?
posted by empath at 6:40 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Any type of cooking or building (from a plan) will reinforce math skills, as it's all about measuring and counting. When I was a kid, dividing recipes (or increasing them) was the only "applied math" I did regularly, and it really helped me learn that stuff for good. Same thing with a construction-happy kid, who will need to measure, add, and subtract to make anything nice and useable.
posted by chowflap at 7:27 AM on June 3, 2011

If you teach compass skills, look for an Orienteering group in your area and sign up for an event
posted by CathyG at 8:18 AM on June 3, 2011

Response by poster: Responses:

We've been cooking together since he was about four, he can do recipe conversions now faster than I can. (Which is handy.) Lemonade stand isn't really practical, unfortunately.

We've got the first gen Mindstorms, but I didn't know there were additions...Yay!

I'm all for building battle bots, but I have no real idea where to start. Most things I've found assume machine shop level equipment, which seems a little much for starting. I don't think his first bot needs to be a v8 wrapped in bulldozer steel....just saying.

Abacus: Fabulous!

Zometool: OMG. I need another income stream.

Easter Island Head: I love that. We did tribal masks this winter after seeing an exhibit at a museum. I wonder if we can figure out a way to do a mini Stonehenge and have it line up correctly...
posted by dejah420 at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2011

Khan Academy starts with basic artithmetic. In addition to its awesomeness my other favorite thing is its gamification of learning math.
posted by dgeiser13 at 10:05 AM on June 3, 2011

Best answer: What kind of programming is he learning? Would Scratch be of interest?
posted by Lyn Never at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2011

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