Your kitchen is a laboratory: Ways to support kids’ summer learning through everyday activities

BOSTON — Summer is usually a time when learning takes a pause. But this year, many parents are concerned their children are falling too far behind after being out of the classroom for months.

“We have this kind of combination of less classroom time, combined with fewer opportunities in the community for learning, combined with the fact that families are really stressed out with some real concerns,” said Professor Eric Dearing of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.

Dearing has collaborated with other educational scholars from around the country on the “DREME Network.” They’ve created a free and easy program parents can use to keep their kids’ minds sharp.

The goal is to help parents keep summer fun and educational by finding math all around us.

“We’ve been focusing on providing families with supports to give them really simple straightforward tips for how they can have better conversations while doing the things that they were going to with their children together, whether it’s doing laundry, cooking together, whether it’s a trip to the park,” Dearing explained.

For example, one activity involves learning a new card game. Another, making mini pizzas.

Dearing says the kitchen can become a laboratory when you make just about anything.

“You might find, for example, while baking a cake that you try taking about measurement,” he said. “With a three-year-old that might be too complex right? So, you say well maybe instead of talking about measurement, we’ll talk about the number of ingredients.”

The most important thing, according to Dearing, is to keep things relaxed.

“Nobody benefits if it enhances stress,” he said. “If stress rises, children don’t benefit, and parents don’t benefit. It actually undermines learning.”

As children prepare for an uncertain fall, Dearing believes families will need to communicate openly and often.

“Being able to say, ‘this is challenging.' This is going to be tough. We’re going to be trying to figure out as a family now, not only how do we get up and have breakfast, but do we have clean masks? And these things we weren’t doing before,” he said.

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