For kids, summertime typically means long, lazy days spent playing in the pool or at the park. And while rest, relaxation and unstructured play are certainly key to a successful summer, without opportunities to sharpen academic skills, the progress your child made during the school year could be in jeopardy. According to the National Summer Learning Association, students can lose up to two months of math skills and up to three months of reading skills during summer vacation, which can put them at a disadvantage when they head back to school in the fall.
But the “summer slide” is preventable — and there are a range of academic opportunities available — none of which include setting up a classroom and lecturing to your kids for several hours a day. Try a few of these tactics to ensure your child maintains (and even gains) knowledge in June, July and August.
Get familiar with your local library’s programming.
While the local library should be a regular stop during summer vacation, go beyond the books and find out what other academic resources and programming your library offers for kids. During the summer, many public libraries have free programs designed to encourage kids to read. With log books, prizes, reading lists and other activities, children from birth through high school can participate in summer reading programs.
Libraries also provide school-aged children with a variety of opportunities to participate in other learning activities, such as story times, board game tournaments, craft days, coding classes and science projects. Most programs are free or cost a small fee to cover supplies.
Add a little education to your staycation.
When the weather gets too steamy for outdoor fun, plan to visit local cultural institutions like museums, historical sites, science and technology centers, aquariums and planetariums. Up the educational value by having your child read informational placards to you (or read them aloud to your child). Then, have your child draw a picture or write a short story about the visit, ask questions about his favorite exhibits, and talk about what he learned. Many institutions also offer designated children’s areas with more activities and games that provide additional learning opportunities about the subject matter.
Enroll your child in academic-focused classes and camps.
There’s no shortage of academic classes and camps available for kids of all ages during the summer. Depending on your child’s interests or academic needs, you can choose programs that focus on arts and drama, STEM, reading or foreign language — to name a few. Many camps and classes are offered on a short-term basis in the summer (such as a four-week class session or a one-week camp), making it the perfect time for your child to try out new subjects and learn new skills without committing to months of lessons.
Hire a tutor.
There are plenty of reasons you might consider hiring a tutor for your child during the summer: Summer is a great time for a child “catch up” in a subject that has been challenging during the school year; a tutor can help mitigate summer backslide; and a tutor can even provide your child opportunities for growth in areas that are of interest to her. One-on-one instruction from a tutor also allows for lessons to be tailored to your child’s pace and preferred style of learning.
Schedule family game nights.
Choose a board game to play or puzzle to complete as a family one night a week. While game night may not feel academic, puzzles and games promote problem solving and critical thinking — skills that need to be kept sharp during the summer months. Check out games that include trivia, memory challenges, geography, strategy (chess or checkers) or vocabulary words (Scrabble, anyone?). Remember: To ensure fun and not frustration, choose games and puzzles that are age-appropriate for your child.
Encourage learning through everyday activities.
Avoiding academic backslide during the summer doesn’t have to be complicated or include a structured school-like setting. Parents and caregivers can incorporate learning into almost any activity. Create math problems out of measurements while cooking with your child. Ask your child to add up how much allowance he is owed for chores he completed. Have your child research the city your family will be visiting on vacation. Take advantage of everyday learning opportunities to ensure that your child is prepared to head back to school at the end of summer vacation.