Kids can forget what they learned during the summer months. Avoid brain drain with these tips on how to keep kids learning in the summer.
“We won’t have homework the rest of the year,” my son announced.
I was shocked. I had hoped they wouldn’t start getting ready for summer so soon. As much as I value down time and free play, I also understood the downsides of long periods without active learning.
That’s when I realized “summer brain drain” is a real thing:
“A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year…. It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.” -National Summer Learning Association
Translation: kids lose two months’ worth of knowledge during the summer.
And because of that, teachers have to spend a whole month at the start of the year re-teaching all that stuff they forgot. That’s a whole month teachers could be using to introduce new material.
How to keep kids learning in the summer
I can certainly relate.
My summers growing up weren’t exactly filled with enrichment and activities. Not that they were terrible, but I now know I didn’t tap into my full potential. Our tween and teen years were the worst, what with staying up late to watch television and waking up at noon the next day to cook microwave mac and cheese.
We celebrate summer for its leisurely pace and lack of demanding school work. As they should: kids need both academic rigor and a relaxed schedule to excel.
But it’s also important to keep your child learning in the summer, not just during the school year. Not only will she be better prepared for the coming year, she’ll also come to view learning as fun. Here’s how:
1. Read every day
Daily and frequent reading throughout the summer is important. If there’s only one thing you can do to keep your child learning in the summer, it’s to read every day. Kids who read during the summer gain reading skills than those who don’t read at all.
Incorporate reading into your routine, such as before bedtime. Scatter books everywhere, and aim to have at least 50 children’s books in your home. Your child will gain reading skills and strengthen her love of knowledge. Reading has many long-term benefits that are too good to pass up!
2. Do practice worksheets
Printable worksheets are a fantastic way to incorporate school materials during the summer. Add worksheets into your child’s routine, like during afternoon snack or between activities. The task itself shouldn’t take long, but it will help her keep learning all year long.
Provide worksheets a notch above her level—breezing through them isn’t something to celebrate. Encourage challenging work, effort, and learning new things instead. You can also join my newsletter and get sample worksheets and handouts about learning letters and numbers:
3. Attend child-focused programs
Thinking of daily things to do during the summer? Check out child-focused programs that are not only fun, but educational as well.
Many libraries host free events like story time or crafts. Being in the library also encourages your child to find books and associate learning with fun. See if your city offers free day camps where she can be with other kids doing fun activities.
Like libraries, museums also host several child-focused events. Your child can view the exhibits and take part in crafts and activities. Here in Los Angeles, we’ve gone to a few in the Japanese American National Museum, the Fowler Museum at UCLA and the Skirball Cultural Center.
4. Take your child on field trips
Treat your summer as an opportunity to go on local “field trips” with your child. Just as summer camps and schools plan outings, so too can you find interesting places to visit in your area.
Go on Trip Advisor or Yelp and look for “things to do with kids” or kid-friendly places. These make for fantastic field trips you can take together. In fact, make a list of places to go over the summer, aiming for a weekly field trip.
Then, talk about what you saw during your outing. Maybe it was a museum, a nature reserve, or the planetarium. Taking her to field trips during the summer will keep her engaged and learning new things.
5. Enroll your child in a summer program
One simple way to keep your child engaged during the summer is to enroll her in a summer program or camp. Nearly every city will have camps, from outdoor trails and horseback riding to coding and robotics.
You’ll also find a variety of options, such as full-day camps to week-by-week themed camps. Some even offer day-by-day options so that you’re not committing yourself for too long (or spending too much).
Besides summer camps, check if your city or local college offers summer classes. Many provide summer classes for kids, from archery to baking.
6. Inspire your child’s passions
Has your child mentioned something he’s interested in? Encourage this passion to nurture his innate drive and love of learning. borrow books on these subjects, from clouds to bridges to cars. Does he have an interest in outer space? Take him to the planetarium, perhaps for one of your “field trips.”
Passions are anything he talks about or can’t stop playing with. Visit the train museum if you can’t peel him away from toy train tracks, or the zoo if he loves reading about animals.
7. Be physically active
Now that school is out, get your child moving, at least 60 minutes per day. It’s easy to stay cooped up at home or idle the whole day away. Find activities that encourage her to move. Being active improves her mental acuity and keeps her feeling upbeat and healthy.
This can be as simple as turning on the music, playing a game of chase, or taking her to the park to play. And of course, summer means plenty of splashing in the pool or frolicking at the beach. The physical activities will be a fun brain booster this summer.
8. Learn the history and geography of your summer vacation
Are you taking a summer vacation? Teach your child the history and geography of your upcoming trip. This is a fantastic way to incorporate learning in a fun and interactive way. After all, you’re not only learning about a place, but actually staying at that location.
Maybe you’re going to a national landmark, another city, or even another country. Encourage him to learn its history and culture, from visiting important sites or taking a historical tour. Go to its colleges and universities, and eat at its famous restaurants.
Before or after your vacation, borrow books about your travel destination, and cook its local food. These are simple ways to tie in your vacation to learning during the summer.
Don’t let summer waste away all that your child has learned during the school year.
Include learning activities to keep her sharp and ready to go back to school. Simple activities like reading and worksheets as well as things like field trips and child-related events. Summers can be a break from school, but don’t let it be a break from your child’s learning.
Get more tips:
- 9 Strategies to Help Beginner Readers Build Strong Reading Habits
- Preschool Outdoor Activities for Summer
- Teach Your Child the Value of a Job Well Done
- 25 Fun Outdoor Activities for 3 Year Olds
- Are You Teaching These Life Skills Your Child Needs in Adulthood?
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