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The Game of Summer

What time is it?

Summertime, it's our vacation

What time is it?

Party time, that's right, say it loud

What time is it?

The time of our lives, anticipation

What time is it?

Summertime, school's out scream and shout

Finally summer's here

Good to be chillin' out

I'm off the clock, the pressure's out...

Remember those lyrics from High School Musical? It seemed like kids were singing it all summer just yesterday…but it was actually a decade ago. Ok, the pressure is off, for them and on for you—five to ten weeks of free time with some kind of framework, generally, it’s more laissez-faire and lounging around than homework and test taking. Inevitably, there will be technology—unless you’ve booked tickets to a summer residence with no WiFi. Yeah, I don’t really get that either.

Take Minecraft for example, it’s a much-loved online niche and has been the subject of analysis concerning its benefits for young people. While sitting down and figuring out an unfamiliar platform is an educational value in and of itself, ultimately, a happy child engaging with his imagination is a happy student...which breeds a cycle of success. The child can then move onto other educational outlets, perhaps trying something they’re not even learning in primary school, like coding, and you can go and put your feet up with a fat novel.

Inevitably, when there’s a “relaxed-don’t-need-to-be-anywhere-special” vibe, vacationing children will create their own opportunities, it can be mud pies and aeroplanes or creating their own puzzles and games. All that’s needed is WiFi and an iPad and your child is no longer passively playing games others have created, instead they’re testing new ground, imagining and designing amazing things. That ought to stop the momma guilt when you hand out the screens.

They can whine, but it’s essential that children do some revision during the long break, as the summer brain drain is very real. This is where Khan Academy comes in, it’s an online educational Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and there’s us, Ji Tap, your space to create and play Jewish content.  

You get the same benefits as Khan Academy, but with a Jewish spin, because Jewish literacy deserves the same out-the-box thinking and creativity as everything else out there. It’s no longer Jewish Top Trumps card game equivalents and Kosherland (the educational Jewish games of choice thirty odd years ago.) After all, the ubiquity of the Jewish day school isn’t guaranteed and it’s not certain that a child in full-time Jewish education won’t need a little extra help on a small budget.

Family fun is also a feature of the long summer break and that can take smarts. Indeed, there should be a formula for this: where x equals amount of hours occupied, y equals number of people and then there are variables like their ages and interests.

In any case, family fun can also mean getting together with people you haven’t seen in a while. There are some interesting ideas in the Ji Studio repertoire; one wonderful series in particular had children uploading self-portrait photos and the story of person they were named after. Putting that all together, that’s a lovely activity for grandparents to do with grandchildren; they sit down together, bond, and pass down family stories.

Whether it’s making a game or sitting down to a family project, employ the motivating psychology known as gamification in everything you do this summer because, quite frankly, it’s ridiculously effective. Just look at me, my fitbit tells me I’m rocking it and I’ll thank it with 217 steps, up and down those stairs. Duolingo got me to do an hour of practice instead of the daily five minutes I had chosen in the settings!

Let them unlock life levels—advanced and guru—in laundry, floor washing and dinner preparation. This summer, they’ll flex autodidact muscles they never knew they had so, game on!

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Rifki Orzech

Written by Rifki Orzech

Rifki Orzech is an olah, a mother of three and a content writer with five years’ experience. She is passionate about women learning Torah and has completed the Susi Bradfield Educational Leadership Programme for Jewish women at the London School of Jewish Studies.

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