“Mommy, guess what?!” Har said excitedly as she jumped in the car after school.

“What?” I asked.

“The book I brought home is a first grade reading level!” she gushed. “Can I read it to you when we get home?”

“Of course,” I responded.

This year has been huge for Harlan. She’s made leaps and bounds in all aspects of learning, but by far her most exciting accomplishment (to her) is learning to read. She does it any chance she gets. I’ll catch her trying to read the cereal box in the morning during breakfast. It’s finally clicked and she’s doing what she can to improve her skills all of the time.

When she entered Kindergarten this year, she knew the sounds to a handful of letters and by mid-year she was reading words like a champ. Thanks to an excellent teacher (we really lucked out) and some work at home, she’s now reading at a first grade level.

I’ve watched all three of my kids go through different milestones in their life. From saying their first word to learning to walk, it all brings up so many mixed emotions. As they get older, those milestones aren’t as frequent and we get caught up in the day-to-day that we forget about the exciting moments we have ahead of us.


It wasn’t until Harlan came to me and asked me to sit with her to read her very first book that it hit me. This was a huge milestone for both of us. The amazement grew as I see her desire to read to Avery and Macks. Every night as we’re getting ready for bed, we sit on the couch together and read books. It used to be me reading to all three of them, but now it’s Harlan reading to us. The reading continues much later into the night after I put the girls to bed. I’ll walk in their room to find Harlan has moved from her top bunk to the bottom bunk with Avery because they are reading books together. It’s those kind of moments I just wish I could pause to really truly be able to soak in every last bit.


As summer approaches I am suddenly hit with the realization that I need to keep up with Harlan’s desire to read. As a mom to a Kindergartener, this is the first year that I’ve really had to put thought into continuing the education for Harlan so that she doesn’t regress for the few months she is out of school.

Other than having her read books to us and using her sight words flash cards that her teacher made us at the beginning of the year, I wanted to know what else I could do as a parent to organically infuse learning into some of our summer activities.

I had the chance to speak with Dr. Emily Levy, the founder and director of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program in the New York and New Jersey area that offers one-on-one educational help to children of all ages. As a mom who honestly didn’t even know where to begin in continuing Harlan’s education over the summer, Dr. Levy was a great help in letting me know that there are several ways we can  fill their summer break from school with learning and fun!

Here are some ideas:

  1. Read to your child on a regular basis. I’ve always thought this is one of the most important things you can do for your child. I started doing it with Harlan from the day she was born and plan on continuing it for many many years. Reading aloud to your child is one of the best ways to develop listening, comprehension, and expressive language skills. Ask your child to predict what the book might be about based on the cover, summarize the story after a few pages, and draw conclusions on events that took place in the story. You can also try having her listen to books on tape as an alternate activity.
  2. Journaling. Now that I’m older, I wish that I would have kept a journal when I was younger. It would have been so cool to look back at it now and read what my thoughts and emotions were about the things going on in life. This just gives me more fuel to encourage my kids to do it. Have your child keep a journal throughout the summer, detailing any activities, events, or vacations that took place. Encourage him to write about what he did, interesting places or people that he saw, and how he felt along the way. Don’t worry about spelling or sentences structure. Jus encourage him to keep the ideas flowing!
  3. Practice math skills while cooking‎. Har loves to be in the kitchen with me when I am cooking dinner and always asks how she can help. This is the perfect way to keep her learning and also lending a helping hand! Have your child help you come up with a delicious dessert or meal to make together. Ask her to decide on portion sizes, measure ingredients, and observe the food while it cooks, integrating math and science concepts along the way.
  4. Plan a family day together. I plan on spending a lot of time as a family this summer, but love this idea of having Harlan plan it for us! Have your child help you coordinate a family day, including supplies, plans, and items needed. First have him research various activities online or in your local newspaper. Have him decide how much each portion of the day will cost (including food, admission prices, and even gas). Also ask him to write a list of all supplies you will need to bring and the time of day each activity will occur. Then tie in the journaling (see item 2!) once the day is over.
  5. Go to a farmer’s market. I discovered the very best farmer’s market in town last year and it quickly became our Thursday morning ritual. It starts back up next week and I’ve already got that first day planned. Aside from being a fun family activity, walking through a farmer’s market can be a great way to infuse basic math skills. Ask younger children to identify the colors of fruits and vegetables and have them count the items as they put them in the basket. You can also ask your child to complete basic addition problems by giving her a scenario like the following: if we put two red apples and two green apples in our basket, how many apples will we have all together? This is a great way to practice arithmetic skills. Older children can weigh items and predict cost based on the items’ weight.
  6. TV without sound. We’re all guilty of using the television as a babysitter so that we, as parents, can get a little time to ourselves. I loe this idea of actually using it for educational purposes. For children who can read, try turning off the sound while watching TV and turn on closed captioning, even for just a portion of a show or movie. This exercise will boost his reading skills while he still enjoys a relaxing activity.
  7. Learn at the beach! Now that we leave just 10 minutes from the beach, I definitely plan on using it as nature’s classroom! The beach can serve as more than a place for R&R. Rather than just lounging on a chair or jumping the waves, encourage your young children to practice letter formations by writing letters and words in the sand. Older children can find sea creatures and perform research later on by looking up information about them online.
  8. Grow a vegetable garden. This has been on my to-do list for a long time and being in the city, it was nearly impossible. I definitely can’t wait to be able to check this off of the list this summer. Have your child help you plan and grow a garden. Take her with you to the plant store and have her read seed packets to decide which plants and flowers are most appropriate for your yard. Then have her chart their growth, count the number of ‎veggies produced, and predict which ones might produce the most bounty. You can even have her write a report detailing the process and results.
  9. Learn on the road! We have a road trip planned from Connecticut to Florida this summer (yes, we might be insane) so I love that we can bring some learning into our long car ride. Road trips can serve as great on-the-go classrooms. Have your children read road signs and billboards or play “I Spy” for items beginning or ending with certain letters. You can have older children predict how much gas is needed based on the miles-per-gallon ratio for your car and the distance you will be traveling. She can also decide how much the gas will cost based on gas prices.
  10. Create reading rituals. Our reading ritual is usually at night before bed, but I love the idea of doing something more with it! Read a story about an outdoor adventure and have hot chocolate and s’mores while you read it. Create a “tent” made of pillows and blankets and read a spooky story underneath it. Make the activity fun and engaging to build your child’s zest for reading.

To learn more about EBL Coaching, including their Summer Skills Building Program, make sure you visit their website. Dr. Levy has also built a great database for educational articles that are a really great resource for parents with kids from preschool to high school!

{Disclosure: This post is brought to you in partnership with EBL Coaching. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that help make A Mommy in the City possible!}

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