During the summer months, it is easy to put learning on the back burner. Summer activities, vacations, and other priorities often get in the way, and kids can lose some of the math and reading skills they spent the previous school year building. Children risk significant ‘learning loss’ between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. Even though all children have some learning loss during the summer, research shows that low-income youth lose up to three months in reading achievement. Additionally, many children also lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math skills in the summer.1 These losses can accumulate over years and put children at a disadvantage when they return to school in the fall.
Many agencies and their partners across the country are now working together to provide opportunities for kids to learn during the summer. For example, the White House is spearheading the Summer Opportunity Project with the Department of Education in order to keep kids “learning, safe, and healthy.” So what can parents do to help kids stay sharp during their break and avoid the “summer slide?” Here are some ideas:
1. Visit a museum.
Museums are a great place to encourage curiosity and inspire a lifelong love of learning. Children’s museums often have interactive activities and exhibits that will keep kids engaged. Art, science, and history museums also have a lot to offer. They are also a good option for a day when it may be too hot to play outside!
2. Read daily.
There is nothing better for keeping kids learning during summer break than reading every day. It is something that you can do together before bed, during long car rides, at the pool or the beach – anywhere! Turn it into a challenge, and start a reading log to encourage your kids to keep track of the books they finish. Local libraries also frequently have summer reading programs that offer incentives to kids who read a certain number of books.
3. Explore the great outdoors.
Summer can be ideal for outdoor activities, thanks to warm weather and long hours of daylight. Outdoor activities also offer kids an opportunity to increase their knowledge of the world around them through observation and exploration. Some ideas (at no monetary cost) include going on scavenger hunts, taking a walk, pressing flowers, and making sketches.
4. Take advantage of community resources.
Whether it’s a library, the zoo, a nature center, or an aquarium, most communities offer a wealth of activities to keep kids learning throughout the summer, frequently at low or no cost. There is a wide variety of family-friendly attractions just waiting to be discovered. See what your community has to offer!
No matter how you and your kids decide to spend summer vacation, it is important to have a game plan.2 Planning activities to keep kids’ minds engaged and helping them set goals for their summers will ensure that the time off does not go to waste. Keeping some sort of routine, particularly in the morning and at bedtime, will help with the transition back to school and maintain structure in an otherwise less rigorous time. However, it is important to let kids have fun too. Summer is also a time to enjoy a break from the long hours of school and spend some quality time relaxing with Dad!
National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse