As kids enjoy the lazy days of summer, there’s no pause button for the brain. If you don’t keep your kids’ minds active, they could actually rewind a bit academically in what is known as the summer slide.
What, exactly, is the summer slide?
The summer slide is the academic setback kids sometimes experience over the long break from school. The seasonal vacation can allow the brain to forget the information learned and the skills gained during the previous school year when those skills aren’t being practiced or put to use. Just as our bodies need physical exercise to stay fit, our minds need mental exercise to stay stimulated and sharp. Research has shown that reading, math calculation, and other skills can be affected by summer learning loss.
This past school year, the pandemic brought additional learning challenges for children as their routines were disrupted and they lost opportunities for engaging with their classmates at school. Help your children get back into the groove by encouraging fun, age-appropriate summer activities that inspire them to learn.
Reading: 16 Tips
1. Check your local library for summer reading programs.
Libraries are excellent sources for fun activities centered around reading. Let your kids choose the activities they are interested in— and their own books— so that they can get excited about what they’re learning.
2. Learn to play a musical instrument.
Reading music is a special kind of reading! Many young musicians first developed their love for music during their early exposure to an instrument in grade school. Music offers children an opportunity for creativity, self-expression, and companionship. It is not uncommon for children to experiment with different musical options, so there is no need to purchase a trombone that will end up in the back of a closet after a year! Many music stores rent instruments with this in mind.
3. Buy or check out audio books.
Like reading a book on paper or a tablet, listening to audio books is entertaining, may help to grow your child’s vocabulary, and is a great activity to keep children occupied on long car rides!
4. Find some book series they might like.
Your child likely is familiar with a series recently enjoyed by a friend, or a new release from a favorite author. Look for those that are appropriate for your kids’ ages and reading levels.
5. Read a book, then watch the movie together.
Getting engrossed in a book/movie series is an excellent way to keep kids engaged and intrigued. Talk with your child about the similarities and differences between the movie and the book after you have seen and read both.
6. Use a reading log.
This can help kids keep track of their progress and feel proud of every page. Check out some great ones here.
7. Create new reading challenges to motivate them.
Can they read a book in under a week? Or maybe read something from a different genre then usual? Challenge them to choose a book from the sections in the library that correspond to their initials. Or invite them to read books that have won awards like the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award or the Caldecott Medal Award.
8. Set “reading goals” with rewards.
For example, for every three books they read, offer them a trip to the movies.
9. Encourage reading aloud.
Have them read out loud to themselves, to you, or to their siblings. Many children may also prefer to read to their dolls, stuffed animals, or to their cat or dog. All of these are fine options!
10. Pick up or create a few special trinkets to make reading fun.
Look for special little items like bookmarks, book covers, clip-on book lights and flashlights for nighttime reading, etc.
11. Set up a special “reading corner” or “book nook” (or two!) in your home.
Kids then can retreat to a quiet reading space – just for them. Add a comfy chair, fluffy pillows, bookshelves, and ample lighting. Maybe even build a tent or fort for extra fun.
12. Read with your kids (before bedtime, or anytime).
Children are influenced by what behaviors they see others modeling. Adults who read in front of children teach children that reading is a fun activity, not a chore or an assignment. A home that is rich in print materials for all reading levels in the household will help to breed a love of reading. Involve the whole family in a shared experience by taking turns reading to each other and changing up characters’ voices. Make the words come to life by acting out different parts!
Have young children? Dialogic reading is a form of shared reading where an adult reads a story to a young child, shares pictures, and asks the child questions about the story, both throughout the story and at the end. “What do you think will happen next?” and, What did you think of that?” are questions that will get children talking, and thinking, about what they are learning.
14. Start a family book club.
Are your kids pre-teens or teenagers? Read the same book and then have a conversation about the book over dinner, in the car, before bed, etc. Better yet, start a family book club where everyone reads the same book and then discusses it together!
15. Incorporate reading into daily activities.
Read menus out loud as you eat at restaurants, street and business signs while you drive, labels on products as you shop, recipes while you cook together, etc.
16. Take a walk.
Take a walk with your child on a nature trail. Stop and read the plaques along the trail to learn about the fascinating plants and animals you are visiting.
Math & More: 11 Tips
1. Practice counting or simple math during everyday tasks.
Incorporate counting into everything from gardening, to washing the dishes, to laundry.
2. Use cooking measurements to practice fractions.
Incorporate a little math into preparing snacks or meals together.
3. Plan a party or cookout with a budget that kids can keep track of.
Take your children shopping with you and give them a calculator, smartphone, or good ol’ pencil and paper. You can even give them awards for staying under budget!
4. Include your kids in home improvement projects.
Let them practice measurements using tape measures and rulers throughout the process.
5. Look for state license plates as you drive.
And challenge your kids to research more about that state if they don’t know much about it.
6. Learn about density.
Guess which materials will float as you drop different materials into a sink full of water.
7. Practice conservation.
As you visibly pour water from a tall, narrow glass into a short, wide glass, ask your child to say which glass holds more water. Watch the disbelief on your young child’s face as you say it is the same amount!
8. Grow a garden – inside or outside.
Give your kiddos the opportunity to practice their observational skills as they watch their seeds transform.
9. Map the stars while you’re camping or when the night sky is clear.
Challenge your kids to study a few constellations and locate them in the sky.
10. Go for a bike ride.
Take your kids on a bike ride to a new location and discuss the different plants or buildings you see around you. Teach your child the basics of how a bicycle works.
11. Start a rock collection.
Have your kids compare rocks and learn a little bit of geology along the way.
12. Make change.
Teach the value of different forms of money to your young child, using both paper and coins. Play “store” using durable items from the house, and place value on them. When an item is “purchased,” ask your young child to give you the change from your purchase and assist them in the process as necessary.
Whereas you want the mental cogs to be turning to help prevent that summer slide, balance is important. Be careful not to overload your kids’ summer days too much. It may sound crazy, but it’s okay– even beneficial– to let them be bored. Boredom opens up the opportunity for kids to learn self-reliance, to find out what truly interests them, to be creative, and to use their imaginations – all of which helps them learn and grow, too.
- Raising a Summer Reader (Nemours‘ KidsHealth.org)
- Everyday Reading Opportunities (Nemours’ KidsHealth.org)
- Nemours Reading BrightStart!
- Summer Science Projects (PBS)
- Scholastic’s Summer STEM Activities