Keeping Summer an Important Time for Learning
For more summer learning loss tips, listen to our podcast episode Summer Learning Loss.
My oldest is now on his first real summer break, from kindergarten going on to 1st grade, where summer learning loss is a real concern. Like most parents, my goal at worst, is to make sure he at least maintains all of his skills in reading, spelling and math, and at best makes gains in all areas including science, creative thinking and physical fitness and gross motor skill. Obviously the latter is a tall order!
If you prefer to digest this information in audio and/or visual format. We do have a class on Summer Learning Loss that covers all of the information discussed below in depth.
First I’m going to discuss the state of current affairs as it pertains to summer learning loss. Then I will share lots of different and fun ways to keep kids minds sharp and learning in all different areas over the summer months.
As you might expect, research study after study shows that all kids lose skill over the summer when they are not engaged in educational activities. Children lose 1-3 months of learning in math and spelling, averaging 2 months of loss. Reading loss is less prominent, at 1 month loss to remaining constant. These averages are affected, as you may have guessed, by socio-economic status, with those children from less affluent families falling on the higher end of learning loss.
So what can we do to make sure our children are not only not losing skill but maybe even actually gaining some skills over the summer? Also, how can we make it fun?
In addition to reading this list, we also have a workshop available in the library, Summer Learning Loss, that you can watch, if you are more of a visual or auditory learner!
Join/Create a Reading Program – There are reading programs available everywhere, from libraries, to schools, to book stores. Have your child sign up for one of these, or create your own.
Set aside time each day for reading – It’s not enough to just help your child get signed up for a program, we have to encourage it. For kids in grades 1-3: 20 minutes a day is good. As they age, increase the reading time. For grades 4-6: a minimum should be 30 minutes. For kids in middle and high school, a minimum should be 45 minutes. Of course, if your child loves to read, then this is easy for you!
Read to your child Every. Single. Day. – Reading to kids is the single highest predictor of their reading skill.
Use comprehensive scaffolding around books. What this means is, having other activities around that book that increase the child’s comprehension of the book. This is especially important for kids in elementary school, and particularly earlier elementary. Some ideas for this are to read the book and then rent a movie and compare and contrast. Have your child make a diorama or draw a picture related to the book. Another way is to an outing related to a book. Read about dinosaurs and then go to the Natural History Museum. This really brings it alive. What’s also cool about something like that is, you are increasing your child’s reading AND science skill at the same time!
For writing, have your child write a postcard to someone, write thank you notes for any gifts, help make lists for grocery or other shopping or to-do lists. You can also use story starters by buying them at places like lakeshore learning or creating your own. These start stories and your kids not only write the rest of the story but they also get to engage in creative thinking in the process.
Math skill is of particular importance. Reading programs are everywhere so due to their availability it is an area where a lot of parents and children participate. But math is one of those areas that really suffers over the summer. So here are some great ideas for having kids keep up math skills.
Have your child help pay bills.
Have your child count out cash and pay for items at the store, check the change they get back to make sure it is correct.
Have your child keep score at sporting events, such as tennis, bowling or basketball since these often increase by more than just increments of 1.
Cooking is a great way to teach math. There are so many fractions, also division and multiplication if you 1/2 or double a recipe.
There are tons of math games available, like sum swamp and Yahtzee.
Use math apps – I’m not a big advocate for screen time but math games are one of those areas where kids seem to really engage and learn more through games than they would doing a worksheet. See our blog post Fun & Engaging Math Apps & Websites by Grade.
Outings – there are so many great science outings, observatories, kids science centers, air space museums, natural history museum, aquariums, nature walks, botanical gardens, literally the list goes on and on.
Just like with reading, you can use comprehensive scaffolding by having your child draw a picture, journal or scrapbook afterwards about what she saw.
Science kits – let your child choose a kit of interest. There are so many different kids of kits available, such as forming crystals, terrariums, robot building, circuit building, volcanos, chemistry and so much more.
Games and General Learning
There are a lot of great games out there that teach general knowledge, problem solving, math, science and more. Here is a small list to get started.
Shoots and Ladders
Don’t Spill the Beans
Very Silly Sentences
Camps and especially learning based camps have increased tremendously in popularity as parents have realized the importance of summer learning. Here are just a few ideas of fun camps:
Science based camps (space camp, nature camp, robotics)
Foreign Language Camp (bilingualism increases critical thinking skill and problem solving)
Art Camp (increases creative thinking and problem-solving)
Whatever you do, build off of your child’s interests. It’s amazing how self-motivated a child is when they are excited. I took my son to Barnes and Noble the other day to pick out reading books and writing workbooks. He’s so into Star Wars right now that when he saw the Star Wars writing book for 1st grade he was so excited. He worked on it every spare moment he could yesterday, even wanting to take it to bed with him at bedtime. (I had to say no!) Then he started working on it again first thing this morning. He’ll be done with that book by the end of the week. He wants the Star Wars Math workbook when he’s finished!