Ice cream. Splash parks. Swimming pools. Boat rides. Catching fire flies. These are just a few of the things that may come to mind when you think about summer. Summer is a time for rest, relaxation, late nights, long days and lots of fresh air. It can also be a time for something else: summer learning loss, also known as “summer slide.”
While watching kids zip down a slide at the park is fun, this summer slide isn’t the kind of slide we want them going down. With parents feeling so much pressure today, this has the potential to feel like just one more thing to add to the list. Honestly, it can all be overwhelming. Isn’t summer supposed to be a time for fun? Yes. It is.
And the great news is that summer can be both fun and educational. It doesn’t have to be just one or the other.
Jody Sims, a third-grade teacher at Carey Ridge Elementary in Westfield, has been teaching for 16 years and has noticed the effects of summer slide firsthand. “Many students have trouble recalling basic facts, or have trouble writing complete sentences,” she says. “They have the skills, yet they are sometimes out of practice. It’s also very common to see a dip in the NWEA tests from spring to fall.”
Sims notes that much of the fall is spent reviewing and trying to catch kids up. “If a student hasn’t read or written anything in six weeks, then it is difficult to jump right in,” she says. “It takes a few weeks to build stamina. It’s similar to not working out for six weeks and then trying to run a few miles. You have to build your way back up.”
So, how do we find the balance between enjoying the lazy days of summer and allowing kids to just be kids, while at the same time keeping their minds active and engaged to help prevent this learning loss from occurring?
Sims suggests making summertime learning more fun. “Summer is intended to be a slower pace and a time to have quality time with family, so it should be flexible,” she says. “I think it is a balance between enjoying summer and still keeping skills sharp. Just find what works best for your family.”
Here are some suggestions she offers for keeping kids’ minds active during the summer months.
- Find a new series and read it together.
- Have a picnic and read.
- Practice math facts with chalk, or play a game of basketball while saying facts.
- Have a lemonade stand, count the money and find the profits.
- Write in a journal. This is a great way to practice language arts skills. Have your child write about their week, or list some things they hope to do in the summer.
- Write letters to a teacher.
- Practice typing. Typing skills are becoming more important, so your child could even keep a digital journal in Google Docs to practice.
- Cook together. This involves sequencing, measuring and reading.
- Find simple science experiments to do at home.
- Sign up for a summer reading program at a local library or bookstore, and earn some great prizes, too.
You can also use screen time as leverage to help beat summer slide. Sims has her kids complete learning activities like those listed above to earn additional screen time. If her children want to play the iPad longer, they have to read more or practice math facts.
Yes, we want our kids to enjoy break, but that doesn’t mean we want them to lose the academic progress and skills that were gained over the last school year. The good news is, your children can have both. Summer can be fun and educational, and you don’t need a daily curriculum to make that happen. There are plenty of resources out there for parents and many ways to make learning fun. In fact, a lot of times your children may be learning — like when baking or operating a lemonade stand — and not even realize it. How cool is that?
Websites to Help Prevent Summer Slide:
- But Why? A Podcast for Curious Kids
- Brains On: Science Podcast for Kids