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12 Things to keep Kids busy in Summer

This year, my daughter Santoshi who was moving to Grade I from Kindergarten decided not to spend her summer holidays at a summer camp but rather relax and unwind at home. She was excited and I was anxious because I had no idea how to keep her occupied.

She has her usual TV shows (My Little Pony, PowerPuff Girls, Martha Speaks, etc.) but those will never do for two months of sitting at home. I saved a lot of craft pins in Pinterest but still it was hard. After what seemed to be an eternity plus one week (the school had decided to postpone reopening by a week), school reopened after summer holidays, much to my relief.

These are the main activities which kept her occupied in Summer vacation:

  1. Write numbers and words – Lottery method
  2. Visit the post office
  3. Splash water in the bathroom
  4. Craft activity – dragon egg
  5. Build sand castles in the beach
  6. Read books and learn new words
  7. Craft activity – Spin Drums
  8. Copy a picture story book
  9. Cycling, Walking, Playing in the Park
  10. Visit the bank
  11. Art activity – thumb print painting
  12. Write a journal

<This is a long post which contains links to multiple articles within this blog>

Write numbers and words – Lottery method

During the holidays, the first “activity” of the day was writing. The school had asked her to write A to Z (lower and uppercase in cursive writing) and numbers 1 to 100. Though the school required her to write them only once a week, I decided to generously supplement the holiday homework given by school. Read here to know how we chose what to write each day and how this helped her when the school reopened.

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Visit the post office

Since most of our mails are paperless, the number of physical mail that we receive is abysmally low. Neither do we send snail mail out. So, a trip to the post office became more of a fun activity, rather than a necessity.  We used this trip as an opportunity to learn about the auxillary services offered by the post office such as savings bank account, term deposits, pension disbursements, etc.  See what we did during this trip.

Splash water in the bathroom

Summer and fun with water go hand in hand, don’t they? Since we do not have a yard for an inflatable pool or access to a kids’ swimming pool close by, we use our bathroom. Overhead shower, hand shower, health faucet, buckets filled with water (our bathroom does not have a bath tub) and shower caps to make sure that the hair does not get wet. (of course, I stay in the bathroom to supervise them, for safety reasons with the door closed behind me, we don’t want water outside the bathroom). We also agree on a time limit (say 15 to 20 minutes) in order to save water and also limit exposure to water.

Craft Activity – Dragon Egg

This was one of the first activities that we had done this Summer. Please read here about this activity.

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Beach

Marina beach is a one of the few places in Chennai where access is free and entertainment is assured. Santoshi had visited the beach multiple times before, but for Anjana this was the first time. Anjana did not like the sound of the waves and the gloomy overcast sky, so she decided to build sand castles with my mother while Santoshi and I enjoyed the cool waves for at least thirty minutes. In case you are visiting Marina Beach, please be wary of the street food sold in and around the beach. Recent newspaper reports show that most of the food were stale. So, resist the temptation and carry your own snacks and water to the trip!

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Learn new words from stories

This was in fact part of the school holiday homework – to read at least two new stories and write a minimum of ten new words from each story. We keep adding to Santoshi’s book collection every so often. Now that her reading ability is budding, we had bought picture story books (Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle) hoping that these pictures would help her interested in the stories and give her a context to understand the words.

 

Amar Chitra Katha - BheeshmaTinkle Digest

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Of course, Amar Chitra Katha books were too much of a stretch for her age, but with help she was able to finish two of the three stories in the books (Bhishma and Arjuna’s Secret). Tinkle was a little better in terms of easier plots and simpler words but the font size was way too small. We read a story on sparrows – about finding a place to build nests, how they build nests, etc.

While reading any story, we pause for a bit after reading a page or a section when Santoshi has to explain to us about what was happening in the book. After reading each story, we go through the story again to identify new words and mark them so that she can write them down in her notebook. Going through each story multiple times etched them in her memory.

Initially, I had thought that she might find it difficult to understand magical / supernatural powers or abilities which are a part of the epics such as Mahabharata. Thanks to Disney’s Frozen and other movies/stories which had a magical element, she was not stuck on understanding how Drona was able to use blades of grass to recover the ball or his ring from the bottom of the well or how Bhishma could choose the time of his death.

Read 1000 pages in 60 days

Santoshi had set two goals for herself:

  • To walk a minimum of 1 kilometer every day and
  • To read 1,000 pages before the end of the holidays

Thanks to her determination and co-operation, she achieved both these milestones. We did have a usual route that we took, which was from home to a grocery store, drink a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and walk back, picking up the little one from day care. Since it was summer, we ensured that we started walking only when it was not too hot to avoid sun stroke / dehydration. It took about 30 minutes for us to come back home – walking, order the juice and finish it and pick the baby up.

Until we pick the baby up, Santoshi and I used to take turns to list out CVC words (bat, top, mad…) and blends such as words starting with fl, cl, sh, etc. Sometimes, we will be discussing the story or the book that we had read that day and on some days it was be about “how come there are not many vehicles around 7 am but so many now?”

This is the list of books that we had read:

1020 pages in 60 days

Title India – Kindle India – Physical Book US – Kindle US – Physical Book Pages Cumulative Number of Pages
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Not available http://amzn.to/2vz5rxY Not available http://amzn.to/2htKONy 50 50
Horton Hears a Who Not available http://amzn.to/2v54DhB Not available http://amzn.to/2httqIP 60 110
Marley and Me – The Big Adventure http://amzn.to/2uq3DTg http://amzn.to/2wrstn7 http://amzn.to/2v4MSi9 http://amzn.to/2v5oRHG 30 140
Black Beauty http://amzn.to/2v4UYrd http://amzn.to/2uqj0e9 http://amzn.to/2htTW4Z http://amzn.to/2uapEdc 64 204
Rabbit Ears Not available http://amzn.to/2wrv3cT Not available http://amzn.to/2wdrE1W 28 232
The tale of Jemima The Puddle Duck Not available http://amzn.to/2v4Ub9S Not available http://amzn.to/2htmE5U 24 256
Curious about zero – Donut Delivery http://amzn.to/2uqGW1b http://amzn.to/2fdR1wy http://amzn.to/2fesZSb http://amzn.to/2uapmTO 20 276
Just saving my money Not available http://amzn.to/2v5laBY Not available http://amzn.to/2voY4ZA 27 303
Amelia Bedelia is for the birds http://amzn.to/2v58E5k http://amzn.to/2vz1FEY http://amzn.to/2v4Vw0h http://amzn.to/2ua0ITm 28 331
Curious George and the Dump Truck http://amzn.to/2uqqjCw http://amzn.to/2u7J8LK http://amzn.to/2uatLGw http://amzn.to/2v4D7k9 22 353
Sleep Book Not available http://amzn.to/2wrOZwez Not available http://amzn.to/2v3ldQr 54 407
The Lion King Not available http://amzn.to/2wrEety Not available http://amzn.to/2uau2Jg 62 469
Biscuit Finds a Friend http://amzn.to/2vyIwD9 http://amzn.to/2wdT9Zk http://amzn.to/2votOhz http://amzn.to/2htDzVT 20 489
Mia and the tiny toe shoes http://amzn.to/2wrSG50 http://amzn.to/2wdjM0c http://amzn.to/2huxY1u http://amzn.to/2htc2Uy 28 517
Peppa Pig Little Creatures http://amzn.to/2wd5zQZ http://amzn.to/2wrBpsw Not available http://amzn.to/2v3o4c7 21 538
Ladybird Stories for 5 Year Olds http://amzn.to/2wrwLec http://amzn.to/2v4HMCF http://amzn.to/2wrFj4A http://amzn.to/2v5nCsp 24 562
My Green Green Garden Not available http://amzn.to/2wrQs5o Not available http://amzn.to/2v5nMQx 27 589
Marley Not a Peep http://amzn.to/2v4RHrL http://amzn.to/2vyTBnI http://amzn.to/2v3paVh http://amzn.to/2v5AaQu 29 618
The tale of Peter Rabbit http://amzn.to/2vz5HNK http://amzn.to/2uqxniC http://amzn.to/2v4IAYd http://amzn.to/2htqbBc 21 639
Stone Soup http://amzn.to/2v5oz3C http://amzn.to/2wd79SV Not available http://amzn.to/2voJ1z1 24 663
Be a Friend to Trees Not available http://amzn.to/2wrR0bF Not available http://amzn.to/2v5ypTd 28 691
Strike Three Marley http://amzn.to/2uqQAAF http://amzn.to/2feqijf http://amzn.to/2vnBMaU http://amzn.to/2vyR50N 29 720
The Runaway Pumpkin http://amzn.to/2wdDPeS http://amzn.to/2vySVyS http://amzn.to/2v5tdik http://amzn.to/2fdUriS 28 748
Thanks Mom and Dad http://amzn.to/2v5dAam http://amzn.to/2htE6an http://amzn.to/2v3muqs http://amzn.to/2uqkgxY 22 770
Snow Dog Marley http://amzn.to/2vwkAzx http://amzn.to/2vwmhwE http://amzn.to/2v3eqq0 http://amzn.to/2v5vWrK 29 799
Messy Dog http://amzn.to/2uqbujF http://amzn.to/2wrDwN1 http://amzn.to/2v35MYz http://amzn.to/2fezTXD 29 828
Where are the Night Animals Not available http://amzn.to/2wdozyI Not available http://amzn.to/2fesgAc 27 855
Arthur and the School Pet Not available http://amzn.to/2wrWLpT Not available http://amzn.to/2v5h3WJ 23 878
The tale of Squirrel Nutkin http://amzn.to/2uqSLUR http://amzn.to/2wrkFBMz http://amzn.to/2vzjlQK http://amzn.to/2hug4vR 30 908
The tale of Benjamin Bunny http://amzn.to/2vzedfo http://amzn.to/2vyQLPu Not available http://amzn.to/2hu5DIX 26 934
I want my light on http://amzn.to/2v3DYmY http://amzn.to/2uqUQQL Not available http://amzn.to/2feG0uT 23 957
Comby says Sorry http://amzn.to/2wdaIZb http://amzn.to/2v3cD4i Not available Not available 29 986
Pink Bunny Not available http://amzn.to/2vyWwNo Not available http://amzn.to/2v4O4SN 16 1002
Paddington and the Marmalade Maze http://amzn.to/2vwGtid http://amzn.to/2vwp21d Not available http://amzn.to/2v3fcTH 18 1020

Craft Activity – Spin Drums

Saw this in Pinterest and it was way too cute to pass it up. So, we did make spin drums – please read this post on how we made it.

Copy a picture story book

Though reading books was the predominant pastime in our holidays, sometimes Santoshi had the urge to do something creative while I was not free to engage her in a craft activity. So, we found something which had both – copy a picture story book in her notebook. This was a Scholastic sight words book “Hop” (Book No. 2 in the set) which had pretty pictures on each page with simple sentences. This activity takes about 45 minutes. It not only gave her a great sense of accomplishment but also helped her focus on the task at hand. (Note: No copyright infringement intended)

 

Cycling, Walking, Playing in the Park

Santoshi has a bicycle with support wheels on either side and Anjana has a Schwinn Easy Steer Trike. We generally spend about 15 minutes cycling, picking flowers, walking and running inside the apartment play area. We also visited the park closeby where swings and slides are the major attractions.  On the days we visit the park, both of them will be super tired with all the running around.

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Visit the Bank

Santoshi has a coin box which gets coins and notes more or less on a regular basis. Once the box was full or near full capacity, we decided to deposit her “loot” into her bank account. Read here on our visit to the bank.

Thumb-print painting

I had done thumb-print painting in school and a pin reminded me of this. Based on this pin, Santoshi did a thumb-print art. She was enthusiastic about not only thumb-printing but also adding eyes or legs to complete the picture. Once she was done with it, we had let it dry and sent it to her cousin in the USA on out visit to the post office.

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Write a journal

As if the writing exercises were not enough, I encouraged (read forced) her to pen down her experiences or her activities for the day. Of course, this did not happen every day, but only days of which any ‘extraordinary’ activities. She had gone on a week-long trip with my mother to Trichy and nearby places. She had stayed in my uncle’s house for a few days and in a hotel for the rest of the time. She had written about the air travel, dragon egg activity, visits to the bank and post office. This helped her in remembering the activities, sequence of those events and describing them. In the course of the journal keeping, she learnt new words – denomination, counter, passbook, lounge, postage, etc.

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Visit the Bank

One of the days in Summer was a visit to the bank in order to deposit Santoshi’s savings – similar to the book ‘Just Saving my Money’. Incidentally, it was one of the books she had read as part of the 1,000 pages in 60 days.

We had bought a back to school Dora kit for Santoshi way back in 2014. A coin bank was part of the kit. Santoshi gets coins more often than notes and both kinds go into the box.

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Once the box was full or near full capacity, we decided to deposit her “loot” into her bank account. This is what we had done:

  • Open the coin bank and get its contents out on a table (or any flat surface)
  • Separate the coins from the notes
  • Count the notes first (easier than to count the coins), write down on a sheet of paper and keep them aside under a paperweight
  • Sort the coins – Santoshi has coins of value INR 1, INR 2, INR 5 and INR 10. She made stacks of INR 10 each and then we wrote them down on the sheet of paper

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We went to the bank with the coins and her passbook. We filled a “deposit slip” with date, name, account number, value of the deposit and denomination. Then, we gave the coins, the deposit slip and the passbook to the banker.

We waited until all the coins were counted and the passbook was updated with the deposit. Santoshi was excited to see the different shapes of the coins, designs on the notes and how each one had a different value assigned to it.

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Writing Practice for kids – Lottery Method

Write numbers and words – Lottery method

This is one of the activities in Summer holidays for my 6-year old daughter Santoshi who was moving from Kindergarten to Grade I.

During the holidays, the first “activity” of the day was writing. The school had asked her to write A to Z (lower and uppercase in cursive writing) and numbers 1 to 100. Though the school required her to write them only once a week, I decided to generously supplement the holiday homework given by school.

Her daily writing schedule was:

  • Numbers 1 to 100
  • English
    • A to Z (uppercase and lowercase) in cursive writing
    • CVC words
    • Short sentences.

Just to make writing English enjoyable (at least to me), we used the lottery method. I had cut sheets of paper into small strips. Each strip had two letters, five CVC words, two number names (from one to twenty) and three sentences. All these strips were stored in a small carton.

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Each day, Santoshi will choose a had written on small strips of paper a set of letters, CVC words and short sentences and put them in a small carton.  Santoshi will have to pick a strip everyday and copy them on her notebook.  She also wrote the date on the strip to ensure that we did not pick it again. With a lot of whining and scribbling and erasing (and sometimes crying), this activity consumed an hour or two everyday.

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All her hardwork paid off when the school reopened. Her handwriting and speed had improved, in addition to spellings (of sight words and CVC). She became the teacher’s “helper” in assisting her classmates because she could finish her classwork way ahead of the rest of her class.

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Visit the Post Office

Santoshi and I had visited the post office as one of the activities during Summer.

Since most of our mails are paperless, the number of physical mail that we receive is abysmally low. Neither do we send snail mail out. So, a trip to the post office became more of a fun activity, rather than a necessity. Not to mention that my grandfather worked as a post master in a tiny village and the post office was a small room in his house. So, there was also a telephone at home (I am talking about 1970’s to 1980’s when telephone connections were a rarity in villages). As a child, I had spent most of my summer holidays at my grandparents’ house and it used to be so much fun to see people come home to buy stamps, my grandfather keeping a record, neighbours getting phone calls from their relatives using this phone, etc.

Now, swinging back to 2017, we live quite close to the post office which is also the head post office for the area. As Santoshi and I walked in, we saw a few of the mail vans driving out of the post office. I told her that these vans were full of letters and parcels which need to be delivered to different places – some within the city, some outside the city but within India and some outside India. We also noticed a few big parcels being packed in water-proof material. Post boxes located near the gate fascinated Santoshi and she tried to read the label on each of them – “any post anywhere”, “within Chennai”, “Tamil Nadu”, etc. I explained to her that normal mails (letters or documents inside an envelope) could be put in the appropriate boxes (depending on their destination) after paying the postage (in the form of stamps).

Santoshi had written two letters – one for each cousin who live in San Jose, CA. Along with each letter was a drawing that she had made. We bought an envelope (A4 size) and placed the letters and drawings inside and showed it to the officer at the counter to ensure that we were sending only ‘documents’.

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She weighed the envelope and told us to pay INR 44 as postage (roughly USD 0.70). We got 3 stamps – 2 of value INR 20 each and the other of value INR 4. We added the postage to the top, right corner, wrote the address in the centre of the envelope and took it to another counter.

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This counter was part of the sorting facility. They had racks with codes labelled for each of them and the officer manning this counter was putting the mails in the respective racks, depending on destination and priority (business mail, speed post, etc.). He told us that it would take about a week to ten days for the letter to reach Santoshi’s cousins. We waited until he placed the envelope in one of the racks (hoping that it was the right rack).

This being the head post office, the building also offered services like savings accounts, time deposits, pension disbursements, etc. After telling Santoshi about these auxillary functions of a post office, we went home.

The mail reached her cousins in about ten days and both of them were delighted to see a mail from Santoshi, all the way from India.