Top tips on preventing summer learning loss for your child

April 18, 2015

Although 3 months without the structure and routine of school is beyond exciting for children, for parents it can be a daunting task to find activities to make the most of the break and keep the children entertained. The summer brings a huge change in routine for the whole family, an overwhelming search for affordable, enriching childcare and activities, and, of course, the dreaded summer slide.

Summer can be a long period of little to no academic gain. More than that, it’s common for children to show a learning loss, often termed ‘the summer slide’. It’s common sense that if you don’t practice a skill, you lose it. In fact, children often lose 1 month of learning over summer – in some cases they can lose up to three! This can be a huge step back and it means the first few weeks of a new school year are often spent reviewing concepts already covered, rather than learning new or more advanced skills.

Aside from campaigning to change the school calendar or embarking on full-time homeschooling, what can you do? As a parent, it’s hard to know what’s best. There is the argument that summer is a time for kids to be kids, a time to relax and play, but you don’t have to condemn them to a stuffy classroom to keep their brains active. There are plenty of things you can do to ensure a good balance of fun and learning.

There are lots of things out there for your children to attend, such a summer camps and day camps. These are great opportunities to cultivate an interest, whether its math and English, building robotics, drama, or yoga! They also give children the opportunity to spend time with their peers, make new friends and experience new things. If summer camps aren’t for you, there are often lots of free events at your disposal. For example, libraries often run free workshops as part of their summer programs. Have a look at what’s on in your area and plan in some fun summer learning.

Libraries are a great venue for summer learning and encouraging reading is a fantastic way to stem the slide. For parents of bookworms, it won’t be hard to motivate them to read, and visiting the library is a great (free!) way to get out of the house and spend time together. For children who are less enthusiastic, setting a reading challenge together might help to encourage them. Lots of libraries run reading schemes you can get involved with, but if you don’t have that opportunity locally, you could plan one together as a family. Maybe set a goal to read 6 books by the end of the summer. Encouraging them to read a little, but often, can make a big difference over three months!

Writing is another thing where a little practice goes a long way. Perhaps encourage your children to keep a summer journal. With a little input from you, this could continue to develop their handwriting, spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary, and more. If you have a little more time on your hands, you could start a research project. Just take a scrapbook, or maybe make your own with construction paper and string, then just pick a topic and add a little every day. This is a great way to spend time together and develop research and writing skills. Smaller children could draw pictures and add key words; older children could include more detail and description. By the end of the summer they could have created something they are truly proud of.

Math tends to be more affected by the summer slide than reading, and so it’s important children keep their math brains switched on. Fortunately, numbers are everywhere and it’s easy to encourage your children to use them every day. Shopping is a good example; it’s a great way to get children using money. Cooking or baking together allows younger children to practice counting and measuring and older children to use multiplication and fractions. You could plan a family game night to practice problem solving as board and card games often incorporate logical thinking, deduction and strategy. Any opportunity to have fun and make memories as a family is the perfect way to make the most of the summer break!

The summer is full of opportunities to both learn and have fun; by utilizing just a few of these, you can really help your child to make the most of it and hit the ground running as they enter the next grade.

Explore Horizons have lots of ways to help your child get ahead before the new school year. We provide tailored enrichment and tutoring in math, reading and writing for children in Pre-K through 8th grade. Explore Horizons is open year round, with extended opening times throughout the summer break. We also have weeklong Back to School Boot Camps available, and hold regular math, reading and writing events and workshops for children in the local community at libraries and in center. Contact your local Explore Horizons center for more information and we will be happy to discuss with you how we can support your child with their learning, during the summer and throughout the year.

 Written by Emily Snape,

Center Director, Explore Horizons.

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