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Fun Ways to Keep the Kids Learning When School's Out


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By the time the end of the school year rolls around, parents and kids are completely done. As in they’re totally over homework, tests and jam-packed schedules and ready for summer vacation. But come mid-July, parents start worrying again. Is my kid reading enough? Will she forget what she learned in math? How can I rein in TV time without a fight?

When school starts in September, chances are they’ll have experienced what educators call summer slide—the loss of academic skills and knowledge while school’s out. Besides hindering kids’ academic performance when they go back to school, experts say summer slide can have an impact beyond September, too.

“Summer slide is real and impacts every September classroom in varying degrees,” says Vincent R. De Lucia, educator-in-residence and director of mandatory training and professional development for the New Jersey School Boards Association. De Lucia cited a Johns Hopkins University review of more than 40 studies that found strong evidence of a pattern of “summer learning loss,” particularly for low-income kids. 

“The research is there,” says Matthew Boulay, PhD, founder of the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) and author of Summers Matter: 10 Things Every Parent, Teacher & Principal Should Know About June, July & August. “Most kids lose about one to three months of learning over the summer,” he says. The good news: Summer slide is an issue that parents and kids can easily fix. Here’s how:

Get Them to Read… Anything

Reading isn’t just about picking up a book. There are so many ways it can be incorporated into your daily activities, says De Lucia. “Have a conversation with your kids about books they’ve recently read while you’re walking the dog, having dinner or just taking 15 minutes between video game playing and television watching,” he says. “Get them to read anything, from a recipe for dinner to articles in newspapers or magazines related to their interests.”

Encouraging kids to create their own books is also a fun exercise. If your daughter loves wild animals, watch a video together and have her make a storybook about what she learned.

Most local libraries offer summer reading programs and contests for kids with prizes for the most voracious readers. Many bookstores have programs, too. At Barnes & Noble, kids can earn a free book by reading any eight over the summer and listing them (in English or Spanish) in a reading journal.

Have Fun Doing the Math

It’s important to weave math into your day-to-day activities. Baking and cooking, for example, offer great opportunities for kids to correctly measure ingredients, says De Lucia.

Math can also be part of navigating the great outdoors, according to Nathan Hemmelgarn, the developer behind the award-winning Summer Bridge Activities workbook (carsondellosa.com). 

“Go on a walk or hike with your kids and ask them to figure out the mileage you’ve walked,” he advises, adding that you can also teach them to use a map or compass to find their way. “It’s all about figuring out how to tie learning into everyday activities.”

Try an Academic Camp

It’s not too late to sign up for a summer enrichment program. Here’s just a smattering of what’s out there:

Active Learning Camps 

 Kids ages 5 to 16 will try their hand at chess or video game design. activelearningcamps.com

iD Tech

Got a kid who loves all things computers and video games? She’ll learn coding, app development, game design and more in programs for kids ages 6 and up. idtech.com

International Ivy Summer Enrichment Program

Kids and teens can dabble in interior design, musical theater or comic creation. iisummer.com

Newark Academy Summer Sessions

Courses and workshops offer a wide range of subjects, including robotics, video game design and digital photography. newarka.edu

There's an App for That

There are tons of inexpensive apps that keep toddlers to preteens entertained while sharpening their minds. Here are a few worth a try:

Amazing United States and Capitals Games for Kids

Children ages 9 to 11 learn all 50 states and their capitals with the help of a friendly animated hippo.

Hungry Fish

This app for kids ages 4 to 8 uses animated fish imagery to reinforce basic addition and subtraction skills.

Starfall Learn to Read

This multi-sensory app allows kids to listen, read and touch letters and words to practice basic reading and spelling.

Of course, the kids will likely be watching more TV in the summer than they do during the school year. As hard as it is, Bouley recommends limiting TV since it takes away from more valuable real-time experiences. 

Try to take a break from screen time and plan trips to museums or historic sites, he suggests. Making it a family affair can be fun and rewarding. “Try to get the whole family involved in games and activities,” Hemmelgarn says. “Afterwards, everyone can discuss what they learned about the activity and one another.”

 

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