The Newest No-Apologies Nerdy Summer Thrill

Back in the days when I was a kid, summers were spent climbing trees in the park, jumping from swings (without my parents’ knowledge, of course), sleeping over at my cousin’s house and reading Enid Blyton books way into dawn. We didn’t have computer games back then: no Minecraft, no Wii, no Wii U.

These days, it’s hard for trees and swings to compete with the lure of quick, flashy computer games. Sadly, there are hardly any trees to climb anyway, at least in the city where we live. Thank goodness there are still wide open grassy gardens where my boys can kick a soccer ball, lie on the grass, and point out dragons, monsters, and Greek gods floating as clouds in the sky.

Then when they get tired of the outdoor games, there are always books to read and arts and crafts activities to keep them busy.

Creating their own Harry Potter wands out of chopsticks and paint

Creating their own Harry Potter wands out of chopsticks and paint

But Minecraft, Super Mario, and Disney Infinity call to them continuously throughout the day, and I think, heck, it’s summer anyway; when else will they get to play these games? So, like a cool mom, I let them. And like a little-less-cool-mom, I put limits on the hours they can spend on computer games (four max in the afternoons, and only when they take breaks to rest their eyes after every hour of play. I got whines on the first day for that rule, but all it took was four days, and now they quit the monitor as soon as I call out, “Rest time!”).

The thing is, I truly believe summer should be filled with play and recreation and lots of fun, both indoors and outdoors. But I also want to balance that with enough brain stimulation so that by the time school rolls around, we won’t be struggling to wake their brains from summer slumber. The best thing, of course, would be to combine learning with fun, because then everybody wins, right?

Enter this summer’s nerdy thrill:

Inspired by a night spent covering the boys’ books for the coming school year, I looked at the 3 dictionaries (each) of my two littlest boys and this thought bubble popped in my head: Wouldn’t now be a great time for them to learn how to use these with speed and efficiency, so that when school comes around, they’ll be really savvy when they have to look up meanings or translations of words? (I know, I’m such a nerd. When I was their age, I spent one summer happily reading the two huge volumes of Webster’s Dictionary from A to Z… but that’s another story for another day. I only mention it because it just strikes me now how perhaps echoes of our childhood days are always going to be part of us).

And so, after a short instruction for my youngest (who hasn’t had as much practice as his older bro with the use of any dictionary) on using guide words at the top of the pages and mental alphabetizing skills, we launched our game.

The challenge:
Be the first to find the word I say (in English, in Filipino, and in Spanish, so all their dictionaries would get equal lovin’) and then read out the definition.

First one to find the word must declare “I found it!” and then read out the definition gets 2 points. The one who didn’t find it first still has to find the same word and read out the definition (to make sure that no one is left behind on the vocabulary-building skill) and gets 1 point. (If that one gives up and refuses to search for the word = 0 point. It’s always good to give the losing side a choice between continuing up to the end or giving up. And when one makes the right choice, there’s the added benefit of rewarding fortitude and perseverance).

The Prize (not that any prize is needed, but a cupcake is always sweeter when there’s a dollop of cream and sprinkles on top):
The winner gets to choose 2 snacks for them to share for the day, and the loser gets to choose 1. (Boys will never say no to a chance to fill their tummies).

So how did we fare?

The English Dictionary:

Searching for the meaning of "calamity"

Searching for the meaning of “calamity”

The Filipino-English Dictionary:

Looking for the translation of “game” in Filipino

The Spanish-English Dictionary:

Looking for the Spanish equivalent for

Looking for the Spanish equivalent for “foot”

I admit, it’s a pretty nerdy summer game to play. But believe it or not, we actually had fun! And so I make no apologies, because really, when this is the result of the game…


… how could it not be a good one, right? 🙂

Oh, and they got to share gummy worms and lollipops (winner’s choice) and  iced tea (runner-up’s choice) too. Burp!

I’d love to hear about your summer thrills too!

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