As a parent, you’re likely ready for a relaxing summer for you and your children, especially following the uncertain and stressful school year caused by COVID-19 disruptions. While it’s normal for parents to be concerned about their children’s education facing the “summer slide,” this year, the anxiety around losing academic growth is undoubtedly heightened. But rest assured, there are many steps parents can take to keep their child engaged and learning all summer long.
While there is conflicting evidence around the existence and prevalence of the “summer slide,” encouraging academic engagement even over summer vacation is as important as ever. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be a chore for parents or kids.
Meaningful learning can fit into a busy schedule and be fun at the same time. Remember: the more connections children make through new experiences and language, the stronger their knowledge base will be and the less likely it will be for them to lose valuable information away from school. Instead of trying to replicate the classroom environment, focus on more natural learning opportunities. In the end, you’ll be amazed by how much your child can learn and retain over the summer.
- Talk: Take this time to discuss the world around you. Stop and talk about whatever you’re doing and seeing in the moment. It’s as simple as taking the time to point out a new vocabulary word while watching a movie or tapping into your child’s interests and passions in the moment. Do they love bugs? Talk about bugs! Whatever it is, encourage your child to use all five senses to communicate what they’re experiencing.
- Play: While it’s true playtime often takes a backseat to digital distractions, the summer is a perfect time to help kids reconnect with their imaginations. Allow and encourage time for unstructured imaginative play. Though it may not seem like direct learning, play calls on familiar skills while developing new ones. When kids use their imagination, they are expanding their vocabularies and experimenting with new concepts.
- Explore: Experts have found that novel experiences stimulate the brain and promote learning. Being in a real-world setting helps reinforce what your child learns from books. No expensive vacations or long road trips necessary; anything you come upon will do. Simpy reading together outside or visiting a local historic site or landmark can spark academic engagement. Point out new sights and experiences, and be open to opportunities for enrichment.
- Think Math: Exploring math concepts is always important for kids. Luckily, opportunities to understand math and get familiar with numbers are everywhere. Having pizza for lunch? Talk about fractions. Feel like baking something? Engage kids in measurement (with the added bonus of a tasty treat to come). Driving along? Count the cars. Going on vacation? Ask an older child to help keep track of the family budget.
- Read, Read, Read: There are tons of ways to incorporate reading into your summer schedule: read aloud together or ask your child to read to you. Ask questions about what you’ve read together to help them build comprehension, learn vocabulary, and foster a love of learning. Allow children to read what they want (within reason) and encourage them to explore topics outside of their everyday realm. You could even offer a summer reading challenge with small prizes.
Continuous learning and keeping the mind engaged is important, and the above tools can certainly help, but so too is remembering to have fun and allow yourself and your children the relaxation you deserve this summer. If you don’t use every opportunity to address academics with your child, that’s okay. You’re doing great. But, if you believe your child could benefit from enrichment this summer or has academic areas that need reinforcement, our specialized educators can help. Reach out for more information and be sure to check out our summer activity guide for even more engaging and educational family fun.
And check out the short video below to hear our Director of Elementary Services, Carolyn Haas, for more tips on avoiding the summer slide: