Oklahoma City family fun is more educational than ever right now.
School's out for the summer and children everywhere are reveling in their free days. Between late bedtimes on June nights when the sun never seems to set, late-start camps and friends dropping by, school days with their textbooks and homework assignments seem long forgotten already.
As a parent, it's not always easy to know how much to push. I don't want to burn my children out on learning but I also fear the summer slump, the "use it or lose it" tendency to forget skills over a long break.
Summer learning can actually be fun and games, though. I haven't pulled out our summer bridge textbooks yet because there are other ways to take it all in this season.
Events and experiences are real-life applications that help reinforce what kids have learned in the classroom or spark a new interest.
Here are four ways to sneak in summer learning at upcoming events and current museum exhibitions:
- Come to Geekapalooza for STEAM activities this Saturday: Science, technology, engineering, art and math are developed day-by-day. Your kids can see science at work through hands-on play at Geekapalooza this Saturday. Make a fossil with salt dough, create a tinfoil boat to keep your gummy bear from sinking, see chemical reactions at work through bottle rockets, assemble a car made of candy and find out about learning opportunities for kids who see science in their future. Admission is $12 for a family of four and $6 for each additional attendee. Tickets are sold here and also on-site at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics but prices are higher at the door. Get yours online through tomorrow, June 21, for less expensive admission than what you'll find in-person at the event. That price is good until midnight so finalize your purchase before 11:59 p.m. Once Friday rolls around, you'll have to get tickets at the event.
Go find Megalodon: The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History tops my middle son's list of favorite places to visit in Oklahoma. Isaac loves science and nurturing that interest is something we consciously do, with library books and "NOVA" on PBS and Google searches. Going to the museum is like finding all of those topics in an immersive way. Like a lot of six year olds, sharks top his list of interests. Our entire family went to see the new Megalodon exhibit at Sam Noble this past weekend and it was definitely our favorite part of the visit. Prehistoric and modern sharks are a familiar topic at our house. The exhibit is visually striking and has a lot to touch and find out about. Kids can calculate how much tuna sharks need to each day, compare their height to different lengths of shark species, find out about marine life, see sharks' teeth and just generally have a memorable afternoon making all those shark books come to life in a tangible way. In case you're wondering, our toddler wasn't afraid of anything shown in the exhibit either. There's no extra charge to see it and admission to the museum is free for kids 3 and under, $5 for kids, $8 for adults. We stayed until the museum closed; touring all the exhibits is a full-day experience, especially if your kids stay around the Discovery Room, which is specifically designed for them, with its drawers of items to take out and examine close-up.
- Make art relevant by creating it: I have art supplies at home, including but not limited to scissors, paper samples, color pencils and markers. We don't tend to break those out too often, though, between the threat of our toddler coloring on something he should not in the house (the struggle is real when you have three kids under 10) and the mess the others would make. Going to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA) to see the new Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper exhibit gives families inspiration and opportunity because you'll go through and see amazing papercraft turned into historical costumes and complex clothing items then have the chance to make some yourself. Paper punches were incredibly engaging for my sons and they each made a paper fan at Drop-In Art, which is excellent fine motor skill practice, besides a way to be creative. Family programs at OKCMOA are scheduled throughout the summer. The papercraft exhibit is open through Sept. 9.
Plan a day trip: A road trip doesn't have to mean hours in the car with nothing to do. My kids do best with a maximum of 90 minutes and an audiobook on CD to blast through the car's stereo. If I can find one about what we're headed to see through the Metropolitan Library System, all the better. No one gets queasy trying to read or stare at a screen that way and they're definitely on the go. These featured spots on Adventure Road top our list of places to go, particularly the Toy & Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley and the Chickasaw Cultural Center.
Summer learning is a perfect time to get out and see everything your kids have been reading about recently. If you need more ideas, you can always find them within the community.
My best advice? Cut loose. Have an amazing time together. Paint the town, your town, along with the kids. School will be back in session before we know it but until then, love this summer life.