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What is Summer Slide?
The “summer slide” refers to the way kids tend to forget stuff they learned during the previous school year over their summer break. Not the little stuff like their state’s bird, but the big stuff, like math and reading skills. For elementary school kids, especially, they really need these skills to keep building onto them in the following school year.
Kindergarteners just learning to read and do basic arithmetic problems are often hit the hardest. First-grade teachers may have to spend the first month of school reviewing the basics just so they can move ahead with the curriculum.
We all want our kiddos to have fun on their summer breaks. I think there’s a small part of every parent who wants them to have a much-needed break after a long nine months of school. I get it – fun is what summer is all about!
There’s a difference between taking a break and slacking off, though. It’s so important that we don’t fall into the slacking end of the spectrum with our kids. Fortunately for us, there are tons of ways to let the kids have fun while also keeping their brains healthy over the summer.
Tips for Preventing Summer Slide
Preventing the summer slide is crucial for giving our kids a good start to a new school year (and for helping out their new teachers!). It’s easy to do, too, when you take advantage of the resources in your area and get a little creative.
Participate in the School’s Summer Reading Program
Most schools have a summer reading program that rewards kids for continuing to read over the summer. These programs make it easy for kids of all reading levels to reach attainable reading goals, like reading a specific number of books appropriate for their grade level. Research shows that the more kids read, the more their literacy skills and vocabulary grow. These programs offer a fun way to keep kids reading over the summer.
I used to love reading as a kid, so I’d participate in both my school’s and library’s programs. The rewards would usually be something like free books at the end of the summer or gift certificates to local restaurants. My kids get a pool party with their classmates at the beginning of the school year if they finish their required reading (our schools start in August!).
The rewards and sense of accomplishment might even convince kids who don’t love to read to keep their eyes on the prize through the summer.
Join Your Library’s Summer Learning Program
Your local library is a treasure trove of educational resources. The problem is that many libraries don’t do a lot of advertising, so these great programs go unnoticed by families.
For example, our library has a summer reading program plus a whole schedule of activities for kids of all ages to meet a range of interests. Last year, my kids got to watch the library’s 3D printer make monster trucks and other cool stuff. Then they got to paint pictures with their creations! The library also had some fun STEM activities, lots of games and movement activities, and unique crafts and projects.
Ask your local library about its summer learning programs. I can almost guarantee that it will have some classes or occasional hands-on activities for your child to participate in.
Go On Field Trips
Your kids don’t have to be in school to go on an exciting, educational field trip.
Create a fun-filled trip to the zoo and write down some of the things you learn. Quiz the kids in the car ride home or have them write a short essay about one of their favorite animals they saw. They’ll get a lot more out of it than they would if it was just a leisurely family trip.
You can also visit nearby museums, hike local trails and make a collage of things you find, or visit a nursing home to help the elderly for a day.
Make Summer Journals
Writing is an activity with the potential to improve vocabulary, literacy skills, communication skills, focus, and more. It can also be incredibly therapeutic for both adults and children.
Have your child put together her own summer journal using construction paper and your choice of binding materials. Some yarn and a hole punch would work fine, but if you plan to make this an annual tradition, you might want to spring for a binding machine for long-lasting journals. Don’t forget to have your child make a decorative cover with her name and the year so you can organize your keepsakes.
Your child can spend 10 or 15 minutes each day writing about what she did that day or anything that comes to mind. Just let her write and get creative!
How awesome would it be to hand over your kid’s journals to her for a high school graduation gift?!
Add Some Math Apps to the iPad
Math is probably one of the toughest things to keep most kids motivated to do over the summer. For kids who don’t catch on quickly in math, the subject can be a source of high anxiety. Unless, of course, you make it fun. Now’s your chance to not feel guilty about letting your son play on his iPad for an hour!
There are tons of fun math apps for kids of all ages and many of them are 100% free. Try some of these:
- iTooch: Had activities and games for kids in grades 1 through 5 that focus on Math, Language Arts, and Science.
- ABCya: My son absolutely loves the games here, some of which boost math and reading skills, while others are just for fun and creativity.
- Motion Math: For kids in grades K through 6th, Motion Math covers everything from basic addition to fractions with super fun and colorful games.
Keep The Kids Active
Bet you didn’t know that your son’s baseball games or your daughter’s track meets were keeping them smarter. Science shows that exercise and activity have some incredible effects on the brain. Not only can they boost moods, but active and healthy children may even get an educational boost.
Your kids are developing physically, mentally, and emotionally all the time. It’s as important to keep their bodies healthy as it is their minds through daily activity. You don’t have to spend all day out in the hot summer sun running around, but you should find ways to squeeze in physical activity each day. Some examples of ways to do this are:
- Water balloon fights
- Hiking in a shady spot
- Walking the dog around the neighborhood (or visit your local animal shelter and walk the dogs!)
- Having a family “race” at your local track
- Hitting the park playground
- Visiting an indoor trampoline park
- Taking a trip to a roller skating rink or bowling alley
- Walking around the mall
- Getting the kids involved in a sports team
- Participate in fundraising walks or races
- Having a dance party in your living room
- Potato sack races or an outdoor obstacle course
So many ways to stay active, so little time! Have fun with it and get the whole family involved.
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.