As summer approaches, many parents are worried about the summer learning slide, and with good reason. Students who do not participate in enrichment and learning activities during the summer break can lose roughly 22 percent of the knowledge and skills they gained during the previous school year, according to the National Summer Learning Association.
“This significant loss in knowledge can mean a child may spend the first two months of the new school year playing catch-up,” says Dr. Ashley Norris, assistant dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. To avoid the summer slide, Norris says it is important to plan a mix of activities for children during their time off. “Many parents focus on sports and other extracurricular activities over the summer, but parents also need to look for learning opportunities that emphasize math and reading skills.”
Norris, who is also an instructor for teacher preparation courses at University of Phoenix, offers seven fun, educational activities that parents and children can embark on this summer and throughout the year. Not only can these activities help kids avoid the summer slide, but they also provide parents with opportunities to connect with their children.
1. Turn everyday activities into teaching opportunities
Teaching opportunities occur every day in your home or own backyard. To help children grow their math skills, ask them to make the grocery list, go shopping with you and practice adding up the bill and calculating the tax. Then invite children into the kitchen to learn about cooking and practice fractions by measuring ingredients. If you garden, have children help seed and tend to the plants. Study the animals and bugs in your yard, such as birds, squirrels, deer, lizards, worms or lady bugs.
2. Turn learning into an adventure
Look at your city’s community calendar or open the morning newspaper and choose an adventure for the day. Visit the farmers’ market to learn about vegetables. Attend concerts in the park or other community music events, then research the instruments. Head to the local nature center to learn about native plants and then return home and have kids draw what they saw.
3. Embrace technology and create interactive projects and activities
Involve children in digital storytelling by using computer-based tools (video, photos and presentation software). For instance, your children can use family photos and videos to tell a story about summer activities, and you can keep it as a precious memento. Another fun activity pairs technology with the outdoors – geo-caching is a high-tech treasure hunt you can do in just about any city across the country.
4. Focus on core competencies
Book-making is a great way to build reading, writing and research skills. Summer camps help children grow social skills and allow them to gain knowledge at the same time. Look for science and technology camps that provide hands-on learning projects such as bridge building, mouse-trap cars or the construction of robots. Alternatively, do your own research and try these projects at home. Many science museums offer home projects on their websites.
5. Balance academic and social engagement
It is important to give children a balance of activities during their break. Not only does playing with friends provide important social engagement, but it also gives parents insight into how their children learn best. Educational activities can be fun in groups too – your children enjoy both social stimulation and keep their brains buzzing.
6. Summer learning activities do not have to be expensive
Many of the best summer learning activities are free or cost very little. Visit your local public library to borrow books, and pick up an event schedule for story times, art activities, reading clubs and more. Head to a museum during free admission days. Also consider virtual museums, accessed on a home or library computer.
7. Be engaged in your child’s learning
A variety of stimulating activities help children avoid the summer slide, but activities also serve as an opportunity for parents to connect with children on a deeper level. When you find out what interests your child, build an assortment of activities based on those preferences. Then plan activities together and explore those interests. You’ll both enjoy the quality time spent together.