Avoiding the Summer Slide with Learning Activities that Will Help Make Summer Fun and Educational
by Stephanie Whitley
Summer break is here and you are likely thinking about family vacations, summer camps and a more relaxed schedule for your family. What you might not be thinking about is how the summer months might affect your child’s learning. The “summer slide” is the regression of skills that takes place between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next school year and can for some students mean significant learning loss.
The good news is that the summer slide can be prevented with a little planning and some creative thinking. The following are a few tips to consider this summer to prevent regression for your child.
1. Stick to a schedule.
The school year is highly structured. Not only is the school day structured, but extracurricular activities also force families to live with a busy, highly organized schedule. The liberation of summer offers a stark contrast to the structure of the school year. Balance can be achieved, though, to keep those learning muscles strong while providing fun, rest and relaxation.
Many students with individual education plans also have structured schedules with minimal unstructured time to aid in the predictability of events. A summer schedule does not have to include minimal unstructured time, but rather down time can be entered into a child’s schedule. Changes in the schedule can also be learning opportunities for your child as they learn to tolerate changes. Consider creating a visual or written schedule and post it in an area of the home that is easily accessible. Another consideration is to utilize a schedule that is similar to the schedule your child uses at school. Rethink has tons of fun printable resources you can download and print straight from our website!
Read to your child, with your child and have your child read to you every day. Daily reading does not have to be limited to the child’s favorite book or story time, but can include: the cereal box, street signs, signs at the pool, etc. The idea is to expose your child to numerous opportunities to hear written language.
3. Indulge in learning trips.
When planning the family vacation, consider destinations that have an educational element embedded in the destination (such as visiting NASA’s Space Center) or that are along the route to the family vacation destination (such as stopping and reading historical markers).
4. Take advantage of the teachable moments.
Maintaining social skills and life skills can be as important as maintaining academic skills, especially for children with special needs. Everyday life provides numerous opportunities to practice skills with a child, whether it’s planning the family vacation, running a lemonade stand or setting the table. Below is a list of other activities to consider:
- The Grocery Store Trip: Involve your child in the process. From helping to create a shopping list and finding items in the store to paying for groceries and unloading them at home, your child can practice valuable skills, including writing, spelling, reading, sorting, and labeling.
- The Family Walk: take a walk in your neighborhood. You can have your child count objects such as trees or houses or classify plants. To add a social component, you can have them complete artwork prior to the walk and then drop it off at a neighbor’s house. This way your child can practice everything from academic skills like counting and classifying to social skills like initiating greetings.
- Park Play/Rec Center: Have your child invite one or two friends to meet him/her in the park, or at the local rec center, for time to play and socialize. A few of the skills your child will practice with this activity include: gross motor skills, language skills, phone skills (when calling to invite a friend) and socialization.
- Lemonade Stand: Your child can aid in making the lemonade or baked goods. The child can help design and build the stand. Running a lemondade stand can give your child opportunities to practice reading, counting, following directions and socialization.
- Setting the Table: Your child can aid in setting the table for family dinners and when guests come over. A few of the skills your child will practice with this activity include: counting, one-to-one correspondence, organizational skills, spatial reasoning and fine motor skills.
- Planning Family Vacation: Have your child help research different ideas for family trips. They can help pick out the destination, find the appropriate place to stay, plan the route, plan the events to occur during the trip and help organize the vacation photos for the family scrapbook. A few of the skills your child will practice with this activity include: typing, reading, sorting and language skills.
When it comes to your child’s learning, summer doesn’t have to mean stagnation or regression. With a little planning and organization and by thinking about everything you do with your child as a teachable moment, you can make summer fun and educational for everyone!