July 4th is the perfect time for family activities like a picnic or BBQ. While the family is together, be sure to play a few games. You can do relay races, an obstacle course, or even a water balloon toss. Relay races and obstacle courses actually improve several areas of learning including auditory memory, visual memory, laterality, and directionality. These activities all work on the brain-body connection which is critical to learning.
Brain-body activities such as relay races, obstacle courses, or playing musical chairs are typical movement activities that are fun for kids of all ages and are done in just a few minutes. Additional activities can be as simple as playing freeze tag or tossing bean bags at a target. The sensory systems in our brain are all interconnected and when we develop them in different ways, it also helps improve our academic skills.
Family Activities Improve Learning Skills: Relay Races Improve Areas of Perception and the Brain-Body Connection
- Pair kids in teams of two and mark off the start and finish lines. One player in each team must walk on his hands while his partner holds his ankles. Together they go as fast as they can to the finish line, then switch places and race back to start.
Egg on a Spoon Race
- Form two teams. Give every player a spoon. Give each team a hard-boiled egg (or a plastic one). To play, teams carry their egg from the starting line to a turnaround point and back again, then pass it to a teammate to repeat the process. If the egg is dropped, the player must stop and retrieve it. Whichever team gets the egg back and forth the fastest wins.
- Variations: Use a raw egg; skip the spoon and use an armload of plastic eggs; skip the egg and use a bowl full of pennies that must be transferred on the spoon; add obstacles to the playing area; require players to march or skip instead of walking
- These races are best for kids over 4. Littler ones may be scared by popping noises, and fragments of popped balloons are a choking hazard. Split the group into teams and have them stand in a single-file line. Give the leader of each line a balloon. He must pass it through his legs to the player behind him. That player passes it overhead to the next player. Repeat this pattern until the balloon gets to the end of the line; the last player runs to the front of the line and (optional!) pops the balloon to win the game.
- Variations: Use water balloons or a beach ball; have kids race from start to finish lines holding a balloon between their knees or back-to-back with a partner, or, in pairs, balancing a balloon on a towel or piece of newspaper.
- Divide players into teams of two. Have them stand side-by-side and tie adjacent (inside) legs together using a bandanna or scarf. Mark off the start and finish lines. The three-legged pairs must work together to race to the finish. It’s harder than it looks!
- Variation: Have duos link arms instead. To make this tougher, give them something they must carry together, such as a football or a small bucket of water.
Water Relay Races
- Give each team a plastic cup and a bucket full of water. Put one empty bucket for each team at the finish line. Players must take turns filling up their cup from their bucket, then dumping it into their empty bucket. The game is over when the once-full bucket is empty; the team with the most amount of water in their finish-line bucket wins.
- Variations: Use a large sponge instead of a cup; poke a few holes in the cup and make kids carry it over their heads
- Divide your group into two teams. Place two similar piles, boxes, or suitcases of dress-up items at the end of the playing area, one per team. The first player runs to the pile, puts on all the dress-ups on top of her clothing, then runs back to her team. She removes all the dress-up items and gives them to the next player, who must put them all on, run back and forth across playing area, and then remove the dress-ups so the next player can repeat the process. Variations: Have the first player put on just one item from the pile. The second player has to put on that item, plus a second one. The third player puts on three items, and so on.
Be sure to take pictures too!
Fireworks Family Activities Improve Learning Skills
Get the most out of your trip to view the fireworks. Be extra observant. Count how may blue, green, red, white, and multi-colored fireworks there are. You can even make a chart for this. Decide which colors were your favorite ones. Was there a style that you liked better than another? This will help you with your observation skills. Be sure to take pictures throughout the day.
People watch. Look at the different kinds of people that come to view the fireworks. Bring a few sheets of paper with you so you can keep track of how many little children? How many do you think were school-age? How many teens? How many adults? How many people were dressed in red, white, and blue? Kids can also compare their counts with their siblings. Did you each get the same amount? If not, why do you think your counts were different?
Stretch Activity: Scrapbook / July 4th in Review
Afterward, on July 5th, put your pictures together with a quick summary of your day using graphic organizers from the Summer Reading Program. Then, 3-hole punch your summary and keep it in a family notebook. At the end of the summer, you’ll have a great family memory book as well!
Summer Reading Program Family Activities
Family outings and activities are built into the Summer Reading Program. This is one of the ways we build memory skills in addition to having a good time with your family. The activities improve your overall experience bank from which to draw upon while reading. This is your factual knowledge base, another piece of the comprehension puzzle. Take pictures or draw pictures of your family activity. Place them with a few sentences about the activity into your family memory book. Then, go through the family memory book and talk about the great times you had. Doing this will improve writing skills and both auditory and visual memory skills as well as 15 other areas of learning too!
Who is Bonnie Terry?
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET is the author of Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and numerous others books, reading games, and guides and the Awaken the Scholar Within Programs. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of BonnieTerryLearning.com. Terry is an expert in identifying students’ learning disabilities. Ms. Terry coaches teachers and parents so they can give their child a 2 to 4-year learning advantage in just 45-60 minutes a day. She is a frequent media guest and speaker.