Kids can forget what they learned during the school break. 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 downtime 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: young children lose two months’ worth of knowledge during the summer.
And because of this summer learning loss, 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 educational 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 schoolwork. 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 instead of waiting for the new school year. Not only can he be better prepared for the coming year, but he can also come to view learning as fun. Here’s how:
1. Read every day
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 more than those who don’t read at all.
I’m a huge fan of reading favorite books for many reasons, including promoting early literacy and making learning fun. What better way to promote a love of learning than cuddling up with several books to read with your child?
Incorporate reading into your routine, such as before bedtime, so she can expect and look forward to this special time together. Scatter books everywhere, and aim to have at least 50 children’s books in your home.
Make regular trips to the library so you have new and exciting selections to choose from. Keep your home stocked with plenty of age-appropriate books she can access easily. She can gain new skills and strengthen her love of knowledge. Reading has many long-term benefits that are too good to pass up.
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2. Do practice worksheets
Printable worksheets are a fantastic way to incorporate school materials to prevent summer slide. Add worksheets into your child’s routine, like during afternoon snacks or between activities. The task itself shouldn’t take long, but it can 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.
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 or a summer reading program. Being in your local library also encourages your child to find books and associate learning with fun, all while building his vocabulary. See if your city offers free day camps where he can be with other kids doing fun activities.
Like libraries, museums also host several child-focused events. He 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. Make a list of stimulating 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, nature walk, or planetarium. Taking him on field trips during the summer can keep him 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 can 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 she’s interested in? Encourage this passion to nurture her innate drive and love of learning. borrow books on these subjects, from clouds to bridges to cars. Does she have an interest in outer space? Take him to the planetarium, perhaps for one of your “field trips.”
Passions are anything she talks about or can’t stop playing with. Visit the train museum if you can’t peel her away from toy train tracks, or the zoo if she 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. Physical activities can 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 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 to 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.
9. Watch how you talk about learning
“We have new library books today!” I announce to my kids, holding a bag full of new selections. Their response? A resounding “Yay!” as they make their way to the bag and see what goodies I’ve brought home.
I’ve found that how we talk about learning makes a huge difference in how kids learn.
For instance, it’s easy to say, “You don’t have school tomorrow, woo hoo!” Granted, you should celebrate time together as a family, but try not to do it at the expense of school. After all, you want to paint it in a positive way, not something to dread.
Hype up anything that has to do with learning, from reading books to doing a worksheet. Making them seem dreadful will only rub off on your child.
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. Summer breaks 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
- How to Teach Kids 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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