Written By Savvy Auntie Staff Writers
By Charlotte Fixler, thinkfun.com
Charlotte Fixler is the Communications Manager at ThinkFun, the company behind Rush Hour and Zingo! A proud auntie and former elementary school teacher, Charlotte promotes learning through play on her SmartPlay blog, and you can follow her on Twitter.
As a kid, a highlight of each summer was a trip to Chicago to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin. Every year, my aunt found ways to make my trip a chance to stretch my mind. One summer, I learned to weld at silver jewelry camp, another year was waterskiing, and another I battled the pottery wheel. I always looked forward to this week of “Aunt Camp,” and I want to encourage you fun-loving aunties to get creative and build a unique summer learning experience for your nieces and nephews!
Rather than signing up the kiddos for a program, why not take on the role of Camp Director and create one that fits your family’s schedule, interests, and learning needs? While the focus should be on fun, it’s also hugely important to keep kids’ brains engaged and avoid the dreaded “summer slide.” Did you know that kids lose an average of two months of math skills over the summer months? Aunt Camp to the rescue!
As you design the Aunt Camp experience, ask whether your niece’s or nephew’s teachers have suggested skills that could use support over the summer. With some planning, you can build in creative learning opportunities at every turn, from a number scavenger hunt at the zoo to a lesson in measurement and kitchen chemistry during a cupcake bake-off… The possibilities are endless and can all be done for little or no money!
Because spending time with their favorite auntie is (obviously) the main draw of Aunt Camp, there’s no need to wow them with flashy gadgets and expensive trips. Seek out free local events, from outdoor concerts and movies to community gardening to story time at the library. Does your neighborhood toy store host game nights?
And speaking of free, playing games and creating puzzles is a fantastic way to get kids’ brains engaged while having a blast. In addition to the fact that my “meetings” are often code for “playing games for an hour,” another giant perk of my job at the game company ThinkFun is access to the latest ideas in the company think tank. I’ve pulled a particularly cool new resource we’re developing to encourage critical thinking through play, and I’m thrilled to invite the Savvy Auntie community to be first to check it out and use it to kick start your creative thinking!
Stick or Matchstick Puzzles
This collection of six “matchstick puzzles” is an inspired set of hands-on thinking challenges to play together. Using found objects like sticks, celery, clothespins, etc., you’ll construct and solve puzzles together, all the while strengthening reasoning skills and building creative problem solving though play!
Download the free challenges, hints and solutions from ThinkFun.com/SavvyAuntie!
Start a family tradition, and make 2012 the year Aunt Camp was born! Take pictures of your adventures, and create a photo book to remember the fun you’ve had, adding a new volume to your library each year.
I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences – please, send any photos or planning questions my way at email@example.com. Have fun!
Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Fixler, thinkfun.com
Published: June 26, 2012