Summer should be a time of excitement, discovery, and exploration. However, it shouldn’t be a time for crucial skills like math, reading, and science to backslide. Nevertheless, summer learning loss is a real thing, and it’s one of the main contributors to America’s growing achievement gap.

Summer learning expert Harris Cooper of Duke University found that all students lose an average of one month’s progress in math skills each summer, with low-income students slipping by as much as three months’ progress.

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So what’s a concerned parent to do? There are two options: It will either take two months from the first day of school for your child to get back on track, or they can spend 2-3 hours per week learning and prevent summer learning loss entirely.

Here are some fun educational games, activities, and ideas to help you keep your kids learning all summer long.

Outdoor Activities

Not only is playing outdoors during the summertime fun, but several studies have found that it gives kids exercise they need, promotes higher test scores, lowers anxiety and aggression, and increases attention spans and creativity.

  • Outdoor Families Magazine created the 30-Day Rewilding Challenge to help kids learn how to reconnect with nature with easy, daily outdoor activities. Download and print their calendar to get started.
  • Set up a nature scavenger hunt in your own backyard! Make sure to participate with your child, asking plenty of questions to reinforce what they are discovering and learning. My Kids Adventures has 10 different scavenger hunt ideas complete with full instructions, guides, printable lists, and everything that you need to conduct a hunt at home.
  • Learn the art and science of skipping stones. Kids can learn everything they need to know about how to skip rocks, play a few stone skipping math games, and learn the scientific principles involved in skipping stones across the water.
  • We all love bubbles. Have fun with the kids by learning how bubbles work and all the different ways you can have fun with them.
  • Paint like Monet! Send the kids out into the yard and use the grass as your drop cloth. With watercolors, instruct them to paint what they see. They’ll be observing the outdoors and flexing their creative muscles with paint.

Indoor Activities

You won’t always have the option to send your kids outside to play. But just because it’s an inside day doesn’t mean that the learning has to stop! There are enough educational games and inside activities for kids to last through the summer.

  • STEM skills — that’s science, technology, engineering, and math — are among the first to be forgotten when the summer slide begins. There are a ton of projects out there that promote cognitive development, spatial skills, and engineering and coding skills through empowering playsets and toys. Here are a few options:
    Genius Box
    Groovy Lab in a Box
    Green Kid Crafts
  • Summer learning workbooks are a great option that last the whole summer. The idea is to give kids, students, and their families a fun summer learning program that reinforces the concepts that were learned during the school year. Think Stretch’s summer learning programs and workbooks even align with all the state-specific curriculum standards including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), SOL, TEKS, and GLCE.
  • Learning Heros has a Readiness Check that kids can take to help with math and reading at home. The Readiness Check will result in providing activities you’re kids can do based on how they did.
  • One of the most effective ways to teach your children is through example! Take some time during the day and fix a bicycle together, tune-up the lawnmower, or bake some cookies in the kitchen. Kids love to do what mom and dad do—they have no idea that they’re learning!
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Educational App Games

The average kid spends roughly 6 to 8 hours per day in front of a screen. Make sure at least part of that screen time is spent learning and check out some of the super-fun, award-winning educational apps and games below.

  • Leapfrog seriously nailed it with Leapfrog Cooking Recipes. It introduces aspiring young cooks to the art of cooking, kitchen safety basics, and even sneaks in some math skills!
  • PBS Kids is famous for bringing learning outside of the classroom and into the digital entertainment sphere. Their huge selection of mobile apps has something in every subject for children of all ages.
  • If you think GarageBand is just a tool that comes with Apple computers, think again. The GarageBand app is actually a powerful digital music workstation and multitrack recorder that kids can use to create music and soundscapes. Perfect for kids who love music and want to exercise the right side of their brain. Plus, they can even export the beats they make and share them to social media or turn them into ringtones.
  • The Motion Math app for tablets and smartphones teaches the math skills of fractions, decimals, percents, and estimation. In the first controlled study of its kind, children who played the game for five days saw a 15 percent improvement in test scores and a 10 percent improvement in math attitudes.

If you’d like some more fun, educational activities, and ideas to try out with your children this summer, check out the PBS Parent Portal for exciting contests, games, tips, and activities in your area.

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