Fun Activities Expand Social Studies

Parents want their children to enjoy their time away from school during the summer but at the same time keep their school skills sharp. Because young children are likely to forget as much as 25 percent of the math and reading that they learned in school last year, it’s advisable to do activities that reinforce these two areas. At the same time, summer is a good time to build children’s interest in other subjects, such as social studies.

The time will be especially well spent if you tie the suggested activities to what your children will study in school next year. Choose or adapt the different activities based upon your children’s ages and interests.

Make a Map

Master the art of making salt maps, a fun and a handy skill for future social studies projects. Select a location that your child will study next year and make a salt map of it to familiarize him with its geography. For example, a third- or fourth-grader may study his or her state while a middle-schooler might study other countries. A younger child could make a map of the neighborhood. These maps may even turn out to be assigned school projects, so save them.

Use the following recipe to make salt dough. Mix together 2 cups flour and 1 cup salt, then add ¼ cup water. Knead the mixture until it is smooth. You may have to add more water if the mixture is too dry or add flour if it is too sticky.

Spread the dough into the shape of the map. Add topographical landmarks by making mountains with additional dough and indentations for rivers and lakes. Bake the map in the oven at 300º for about an hour or until it is hard. After the dough has cooled, paint the map and label cities, rivers, mountains and other details.

Try a New Cuisine

Incorporate into family meals foods that are traditionally associated with countries or times that your children will study in social studies next year. Children can search online or in books to determine what different meals would be like. Prepare foods from another country or eat in ethnic restaurants. Try to replicate meals of different time periods, such as meals the first colonists would have eaten, going as far as cooking them over an open fire.

Celebrate Independence Day

Help your children understand that this holiday celebrates the birthday of our country, and the founders of the new country thought that it was an important occasion. Plan activities with your children to make the holiday more meaningful than just fireworks. Here are some suggestions:

•Attend community events that stress the patriotic nature of the holiday.

•Learn how to correctly display the American flag.

•Be creative and make a flag cake for your holiday celebration.

•Make a drawing or painting of the first flag.

•March to Sousa patriotic tunes.

•Learn the words and sing old-time patriotic songs from “Yankee Doodle” to “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” or a more modern one like “This Land is your Land.”

Discover Other Historical Events

Learn about the interesting things that happened on the day your children were born. Use a search engine or visit to find these facts. If children will be studying U.S. history, they can look for facts about this country. If they will be studying another country or continent, they can look for events that occurred in those places.

Expand this activity by having your children search online for events that happened on their birthday in different years. Then they can make a timeline of these events, which is something they need to know how to do for social studies classes. For example, on Oct. 5, 1953, Earl Warren became the 14th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and on Oct. 5, 1984, the first space shuttle was launched.

Visit the State Capitol

Devote a day to helping your children become acquainted with the government of North Carolina by visiting the state capitol in downtown Raleigh. Have your children use an almanac or go to the kids’ pages on the state Web site,, to find basic facts such as the names of the state bird, animal, flower, motto, song, your district’s representatives and the governor before going. Guided tours of the capitol are offered Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For information about the state capitol, visit or call 919-733-4994.

Parents can send questions to Dear Teacher, P.O. Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395, or e-mail