Have you heard of the summer slide? I’m not talking about a playground slide, but rather a slide downward that kids tend to make in learning during the summer. It is sometimes called summer brain drain or summer setback. These names all refer to the phenomena that many children begin the next school year with academic achievement levels lower than they were at the beginning of summer break. According to Education Week, “The average student loses one to three months of learning over summer.”
There is a lot of data about summer school programs but many experts feel that parents can get similar results by engaging in summer activities at home with their kids or getting their kids involved in summer reading programs.
I have always believed that kids deserve a break from the rigid structure and pace of school over the summer. There are are many things you can do, as a parent, to nurture summer learning that don’t feel like school. I think it all starts by looking at things holistically: thinking about how things are interconnected.
Perhaps you take advantage of the longer days and slower pace of summer to get your kids involved in helping to prepare meals. Cooking (following recipes) uses math skills, reading, creativity, and science. Depending on the age of your child, you may or may not want her using a sharp knife, but she can help choose a recipe. You can task older children with researching and choosing recipes. Then, have your child read the recipe to you and check to see if you have all of the ingredients. If you don’t have a particular ingredient, you can discuss what purpose that ingredient plays in the recipe and what items might work as substitutions. What if you want to double a recipe? Have your child do the math. This activity could even be extended to reading labels in the grocery store and looking at package sizes and prices or serving sizes. Many of these activities are things we’d all like to do all year long, but don’t have the time or bandwidth for them during the school year.
Reading is obviously a great activity. To keep it fun and fresh, you could set up a reading nook in an unusual place, like a tree house or fort, a tent in the back yard, or a hammock! When I was in elementary school, my favorite place to read was up in a huge old tree. If your kids are with babysitters in the summer, reading is a very reasonable activity to require the babysitters do with them. Maybe they could even act out their favorite stories or draw their own illustrations. Our Try It Texture Box is an art kit that comes with a book to read, texture plates to use for oil pastel rubbings, and scissors and glue to make collages. Kids learn the difference between visual texture and real, felt texture and then are encouraged to go outside and create more rubbings of textures they find.
With all of of us using the GPS on our phones, we’ve kind of forgotten about maps. Why not buy or print out maps and ask your child to to find different destinations and show how to get there? This involves math (look at the scale of the map and ask your child to measure how far distances are,) reading, and spatial awareness. Hiking or walking outside offers many opportunities to notice and identify patterns, colors, and shapes.
Doing art with your kids is a great way to avoid the summer learning loss. Art enhances kids’ creative problem solving skills. Kids who participate in the visual arts score higher in all subjects. Art also enhances self esteem and teaches empathy, showing children that there are many ways to approach problems and more than one right answer. All of our Kids’ Art Kits come with picture books to read together that relate to the art project, screen-free instructions to read, and new creative art experiences to enjoy and learn from. They are perfect to take on car trips and to do at home or to give to babysitters to do with your kids. We put everything you need in the box, except water, so it is super easy. Why not subscribe for the summer? See our upcoming box here.