Summer should be a time of excitement, discovery and exploratory learning. It shouldn’t be a time for crucial skills like math, reading and science and to backslide. Nevertheless, summer learning loss is a real thing, and it’s one of the main contributors to America’s growing achievement gap.
Many schools, districts and states offer summer school as a solution, but when 90 percent of summer school programs are remedial, it’s no surprise that parents are reluctant to enroll their children. On the other end of the spectrum is year-round schooling, which has been proven to be more effective at stopping summer learning loss, but that too is only available in certain areas of the country.
Additionally, 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 (Time).
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 (Oxford).
Here are a bunch of fun educational games, activities and ideas to help you keep your kids learning all summer long.
Outdoor activities for kids
Not only is playing outdoors during the summer time fun, but several studies have found that it gives kids necessary exercise, promotes higher test scores, lowers anxiety and aggression, and increases attention spans and creativity.
- Nothing’s wrong with getting a little down-and-dirty on a warm summer day, and it’s a great way to teach kids a little basic geology, too. The Shrimp and Grits Blog has a couple games called Guess the Tree’s Age and Digging in the Dirt that are genius.
- Check out the National Summer Learning Association’s Summer Learning Day Map to pledge, find and share different local summer learning programs and events across the country.
- The National PTA has some excellent summer activity suggestions to help stem summer learning loss. Some are going on a tour of a local manufacturing plant (think the Herr’s or Crayola factories) and keeping a summer journal.
- 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. Here’s an awesome resource for you to bookmark from My Kids Adventures. It has 10 different scavenger hunt ideas complete with full instructions, guides, printable lists and everything that you need to conduct a hunt at home.
Indoor activities for kids
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. Companies like Goldieblox and Roominate have a ton of projects (geared towards girls) that promote cognitive development, spatial skills, engineering and coding skills through empowering playsets and toys.
- Young boys shouldn’t feel left out when it comes to STEM skill-building activities and fun, though! There are plenty of educational subscription boxes perfect for girls and boys alike. There’s the Genius Box, Groovy Lab in a Box, Green Kid Crafts and so many more to choose from.
- Printable vocabulary cards and games offer hours of learning fun on rainy days. They come in different subjects and can be found for all ages.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Five Finger Rule: Here’s a tip to use that will help you determine whether or not a book is too-advanced for your child’s reading level. Ask your child to read 100 words from a book and teach them to raise a finger for every word that’s too difficult to pronounce. If all five fingers end up raised, the book is probably too difficult and you should choose one that’s at an easier reading level.
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. Kids’ outdoor time is bound to increase during the summer, which means so will their time in the kitchen. Feeding hungry bellies and hungry minds with the Cooking Recipes game also introduces aspiring young cooks to the art of cooking, kitchen safety basics and even sneaks in some math skills!
- Do you have an up-and-coming architect or engineer in your household? With SimCityEDU, parents and teachers alike can teach children problem solving skills through four different environmental challenges.
- 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 game 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.
- Math, science and reading may get the most publicity when it comes to summer learning loss, but don’t forget about valuable socialization and communication skills. For children who are just learning how to develop their social skills, or for children who are shy, The Social Express is an excellent educational app game that teaches with engaging animated lessons.
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.