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11 Ways to Keep the Kids Learning this Summer

May 18, 2011

With summer coming up many kids are getting ready to unplug their brains for 10 weeks. This can cause them to lose much of what they learned over the course of the school year. This summer backslide is a known issue that has frustrated teachers for decades. But the good news is that there are things we can do to prevent it.

1)      Take them to the Library: Nothing helps kids improve their reading like practice, and during the summer they have tons of time to read. Don’t go buying all the books they can read, that’s what the library is for. Plus, a children’s librarian will be happy to help your child find a couple great books that they’ll love. Keep them reading over the summer and they’ll be even stronger readers when the new school year starts ups.

2)      Don’t let them veg out in front of the TV all summer: Use the parental controls on the TV which most cable and satellite companies provide as a part of their service. This includes the ability to control the number of hours your child can watch per day and what they watch. Unless you’ve got a unique child who enjoys watching Discovery or History channel, TV is a low engagement form of entertainment. They’ll lose a lot sitting there watching Spongebob Montana. Getting them to do something else, almost anything else, will be more productive.

3)      Get them involved in an activity or sport: scouts, baseball, karate lessons, or whatever they like to do. Not only does it get them out of the house, but it reinforces routine. It also provides much needed social interaction for both child and parent. And, don’t overlook volunteer opportunities in the community, there are lots of organizations out there that could really use a little help here and there over the summer.

4)      Grab those work books: You see in the stores or online. Have them do a page of math review (for example) every day. Try trading pages from the workbook (or comparable practice available online) for extra TV or video game time. Forcing your student to use those skills will help prevent them from losing them, and even a little bit of DAILY practice can be very effective.

5)      Get sneaky with video games: We have a list of some of the more popular educational video games. Don’t expect them to be riveted for hours, but this may go over better than paper and pencil practice for some kids.

6)      Don’t be scared of the internet: Again, use the parental controls on your web browser, and keep an eye on what they’re up to. You can use this time in front of the computer as time they’re learning new computer skills, which are increasingly valuable in today’s world. Add to that, the reading required to use a PC, and although it’s not a panacea; they could do worse than to spend a couple hours surfing the net and figuring out how to make a podcast. Let their natural curiosity will guide them. Another great use of the internet is to have your little and not so little ones do the prep and research for family trips and outings. Looking up directions might be a task for an older kid, but little ones can look up hours, background info, and features or attractions.

7)      Give them chores: Replace the structure they had in school with a bit of structure around the home. It doesn’t need to be a lot, and it should be age appropriate. Little kids can help set the table for dinner, young adults can take out the trash or weed the garden, and a well behaved teenager handle almost any chore you can dream up. Being required to mow the lawn and/or weed the garden won’t ruin their summer.

8)      The summer is a great time to learn how to cook: Not only does it give an opportunity for simple math and fractions, but it pulls in reading and science skills as well. The level of complexity can vary with the age of the child. Tweens can be taught enough knife skills to make a salad and chop vegetables. If you’re looking for some entertainment, and have some time to invest in cleaning up after, invite your children to make a loaf of bread.

9)      Summer is an opportunity for gardening: Although teenagers are usually too cool to get into gardening if it hasn’t been introduced before, young kids usually enjoy tending to their young plants and watching them grow. They don’t need to have a big plot, in fact a couple of small containers can work nicely. This also is a great way to give them a couple chores mentioned above, and an opportunity for internet research (as in what and how to grow).

10)   Field trips: The planning needn’t be terribly involved. The local zoo requires no planning, and may have a summer family pass for a reasonable price. Have you ever visited that local battlefield museum, local farmers market, 4-H fair? Be spontaneous, show up and improvise, you’ll be amazed how much fun they can have with the simplest things. Check with you local parks and recreation department, they often have free lectures and talks on various topics throughout the summer.

11)   Get them a tutor: I saved this for last because I’m clearly not unbiased about tutors. If you can afford it, a summer tutor can be a great way to line your kids up for a strong start next year. Keep in mind that the best way to line this up, however, is to set it up before the end of the school year (so that the tutor can get a hold of your child’s teachers). With feedback from the teachers, a good tutor can use the summer to work on their weak areas and get them ready for next year.

With these tips in mind, you can keep your children moving and engaged throughout the summer. Keeping those young minds active will help them achieve great grades next year.

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One Comment
  1. Nice article. I’ve passed this on to my daughter and a couple of friends. Can’t stress how important it is the children don’t take all summer off from school. EB

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