Avoid the Summer Learning Slide With Educational Activities That are Actually Fun

Filed under: Day Care & Education, Kids' Games, Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Education: Big Kids, Activities: Big Kids, Education: Tweens, Activities: Tweens, Activities: Teens, Activities: Family Time

Even during the jam-packed summer months, be sure to keep up with reading and other educational activities. Credit: Getty

Three months of swimming, sleeping late and watching a heck of a lot of TV can undo nine months of learning.

In fact, a century's worth of research shows school kids will "experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer," according to the National Summer Learning Association. But by making a few simple plans, the notorious summer slide of learning can actually mean fun for the whole family.

Here's some advice on getting your kids engaged in music, reading, science and social studies when they're on vacation. And, hey, you might even learn something, too!

Hit the Right Note

  • Summer is the perfect time for kids to explore music and musical instruments, plus, musical learning has benefits in the classroom (but your kid doesn't need to know that!). If your child already has picked up an instrument at school, continue lessons during the summer months. Some research supports the idea that structured, extracurricular activities may help a child's focus and intelligence.
  • If your child wants to spend more time exploring music, try a summer music camp.
  • If your child has yet to choose an instrument to try or hasn't had lessons, pick a few summer festivals or concert programs as an introduction to music. Go for variety and plan on enjoying the summer season soaking up the sounds.
  • Trying to select an instrument to play? Once you've narrowed the list, arrange for you and your child to try a few out. Check out online music lessons for a preview of what your child might be learning. Once you have decided on an instrument agreeable to both you and your child, arrange for lessons to start before school does. It might help with the transition back to classes.
By the Book

  • It's no secret that reading is an important building block in your child's education. By keeping your child's nose in a book, you can help to prevent a summer dip in reading levels. During summer months, children should spend 10 minutes reading per grade, each day. In other words, a third grade student should be reading 30 minutes daily; a second-grade student spends 20 minutes.
  • Community libraries are great -- and low-cost -- places for summer reading fun. If your son or daughter doesn't have a library card yet, why not go get one now? A majority of libraries have summer reading programs with prizes and incentives to encourage reading.
  • If you live too far from a library, the virtual rewards of an online reading club might be the answer. Some summer challenges record the amount of time reading while others -- such as Borders or Barnes & Noble -- record the number of books completed. Does your child have special interests? One program even encourages the reading of science books.
  • Some schools assign books for summer reading, while others send lists along to provide guidance. In addition to those books, encourage your children to find books that interest them.
  • Have little actors and actresses in your house? Enliven their favorite stories even more by having your kids act out their top books, or let them take turns reading aloud to each other.
Keep Cool Using Kitchen Chemistry

  • Are your kids tired of an apple a day? Add a twist to fruit by freezing it for cool snacks. It's fun and, if you add a few lessons along the way, it can be educational, as well. Seek out local farms or farmer's markets and let the kids help pick the produce, washing and prepping the fruit for freezing. Sneak in some science by helping kids discover most fruits consist of about 90 percent water, or that chemical changes produce typical browning when a fruit has sat around for too long.
  • And don't forget the most fun part: making and eating the cold fruit. Pop a banana, lemonade or juice in molds, or stick some fresh blueberries or seedless grapes into the freezer for a quick, cold treat. Other days, you may want to pull out the blender, teach a few kitchen measurements and experiment in mixing and matching fruits for hot-day treats.
  • Also try mixing fresh strawberries with yogurt, making it more fun by finding different-shaped holders or combining juice with whole pieces of fruit.
Be an Explorer

  • You don't need to take expensive cross-country vacations to encourage summer learning. For entertaining social studies lessons, try exploring your own home town. Many cities, such as Charleston, S.C., have programs to encourage locals to visit area attractions, often offering free programs or admission for town residents.
  • Did your child have a favorite field trip during the school year? If so, capitalize on that and start the summer exploring your local museum, zoo or aquarium together -- and let your child serve as tour guide.
  • Find a local spot to help reignite your own childhood passions or interests. To add a twist of education, create a game where each child learns at least one fact about each location you visit. Keep the kids involved and engaged in the planning, which can help pave the way for future trips away from home.
  • It may sound scary, but take a day or evening or even an entire weekend and turn off the phone and unplug the computer as you plan a stay-cation at home. Exercise your vacation-planning muscles and drop by your city's convention center or visitors' bureau to learn about something new in your area. Determine what might make the stay-cation more like a real vacation: Can the family forget about chores? Is camping in the backyard an option?

Related: Not Your Ordinary Summer: Taking a Family Adventure Vacation

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.