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Dear Teacher

Summer Social Studies Activities for Your Children

July 01, 2011
Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

Parents: Believe it or not, children actually like to do some schoolwork during their summer vacation. This year, our summer activities focus on social studies. Our purpose is to excite children about this topic so they will return to school with a greater interest in it as well as increased knowledge. Choose the ones that are both age-appropriate and enjoyable for your children. You'll find even more social-studies activities under "Learning Activities" on our Web site www.dearteacher.com.

Social Studies Web Sites

A good place to start is by visiting several Web sites with your children so that you can bookmark those that have appealing social studies activities for your children. Look at www.kids.gov. This is the official portal of the U.S. government. It has games and activities for different age levels as well as links to other sites. Another good site is the National Parks Web site at www.nps.gov/learn. It offers many games and activities through its Junior Rangers and WebRangers programs. Use a search engine, if you wish to find more "social studies fun for kids."

Comparing Obama and Lincoln

Barack Obama took the oath of office holding President Abraham Lincoln's bible. Many have written about the similarities and differences between these two presidents from Illinois. Have your children compare the two men.

Make this task easier and more enjoyable by having your children read, or read to them, stories of the lives of these two presidents. Then, based on their ages, here are some suggestions of comparisons your children can make:

Place of birth

Who raised them

Members of their immediate families

Ages when they became president

Length of service in state legislature

Height and weight

Service time and positions in U.S. Congress

Speaking abilities

Military service

Mode of transportation to inauguration

Criticism of inexperience during presidential campaigns

Books that they wrote

Titles of cabinet members

Wars fought during their presidencies

Places visited abroad

Working with Maps

Learning how to read maps can't begin too early. Maps are fun for children of all ages, and even for parents. Keep track of your family travels this summer. Pin up a city, state or U.S. map. Then every time you take a trip, place a small sticker on that spot, even if it is to the local grocery store.

Preschool and Kindergarten

Help your children draw a map of their home or the neighborhood.

Elementary School and Beyond

You will need a large map with an outline of the states. You will also need a smaller map with the names of states and capitals. The children should take turns throwing a bean bag on the large map and writing the names of the states that they land on. When all the states are named, they can repeat the process by writing in the capitals.

Social Studies Games

Playing games can make social studies come alive. Try the ones below as well as online simulations of historic events.

Bingo: Create boards with well-known historic dates. Then have the caller call out events matching dates on the cards. Another version involves using states on the cards, and for the caller to call out capitals. Just creating the game can be a learning experience.

Charades: This can be a fun way to review history and pick up new facts. Have your children draw from such topics as: famous sayings, presidents, world leaders, explorers, military heroes and states. Each group of players can choose items for the other team to present to their group.

Puppets: Have your children make puppets and use them to act out such events as: the moon landing, the discovery of America, writing the Declaration of Independence and the making of famous Supreme Court decisions.

Globe toss: You'll need an inflatable globe for this activity and several players. The first player calls out a letter like "A" and tosses the globe to another player. If this player can't find a country beginning with "A" in 30 seconds, he or she is eliminated from the game, and the globe is tossed to another player to find an "A" country. If a country is found, this player calls another letter. The only rules are that the same country can be used only once in a game, and don't use "X." Play continues until only one player remains.

Learning about Inventions

Modern inventions are often explored on the TV program "Modern Marvels" on the History Channel. Your family might enjoy watching this program together.

One night at the supper table, make a list of items that the children have seen or used in their lifetimes: iPhones, Scotch tape, Kleenex, trains, radios, cars, jet airplanes, Wii, television, cell phones, iPods, dishwashers, dryers, washers, TV, electricity, cameras, hide-a-beds and the Internet. Add to this list by looking for more useful inventions in your home. Enter all these items under the heading "children."

The next night, add columns for parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Then work together to list the items that parents, grandparents and great-grandparents used in their lifetimes. This will give your children a good timeline of what inventions each generation had.

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Tags: Education, Parenting

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