This school year has been a year like no other. Whether students attended class in-person or virtually, their studies were likely disrupted by quarantines or technology issues leaving many kids struggling to keep up. How do you keep kids learning?
With summer vacation upon us, learning gaps could potentially widen as studies show students can lose on average up to three months of progress in reading and math skills over break. However, actively engaging children in math and reading during school break can reduce summer learning loss as well as strengthen academic skills and performance for the upcoming school year. But let’s be real, not many kids or parents are eager to trade in summertime fun for workbooks and flashcards.
How to prevent the summer slide?
One of the best ways to encourage learning over school break is to make learning fun by focusing on topics that interest your child and, when possible, using real-world experiences as educational opportunities. This helps kids recognize that learning opportunities occur every day through experiences, interactions, interests, and adventures, not just in the classroom. Follow these tips to help keep kids learning this summer.
• Hobbies are excellent learning opportunities because your child is likely already interested in the subject. Encourage them to expand their knowledge or skill through research. This could include activities such as planting a garden, star gazing, cooking, drawing, knitting and photography or collecting items such as cards, comics, dolls, shells and stamps.
• Let your child pick appropriate books and subjects they enjoy including comic books, graphic novels and magazines. This can cultivate a healthy reading habit which will increase reading skills as well as build on comprehension and vocabulary skills.
• Is your child eager to see the next big book-to-screen movie? Challenge them to read the book before they watch the movie. Afterward, engage them with comparative questions concerning the characters and plot such as which version was richer and more complex; was the movie adaptation accurate to the book; or did the characters look as you had imagined?
• If your child is young, set aside time to read to them. Short on time? Try reading to them during bath time. If you have an older child, start a family book club where everyone reads the book together. To strengthen comprehension, even with little ones, be sure to ask them for their thoughts on the story and characters.
• Book bingo. Create a custom bingo card. The card can contain titles from the school’s summer reading list, or maybe diverse subjects such as poetry, history, biography, sports, animals, mystery or other countries. Mix it up by making the center square a “reader’s choice” option. Most importantly, keep it fun by offering varying prizes as they mark off books in a row, on the diagonal or full card achievements.
• Build on vocabulary with a word of the day. Each morning select a new word and make a point to use it several times throughout the day to build understanding and retention. From traditional dictionaries to flashcards and dictionary apps, there are several age-appropriate options to help kids build vocabulary. Many dictionary apps and websites provide audio pronunciation to help with proper pronunciation, a thesaurus to discover related words and interactive games that help increase comprehension.
• Crafts and projects are fun and stealthy ways to engage kids in math. For instance, while baking or cooking, ask your child to read the recipe out loud and to help with measurements. Or have them help with measurements for home improvement projects such as painting a room or hanging drapes.
• If you have a child who loves sports, encourage them to practice their math skills by calculating their favorite player’s average hits, scores or yards achieved. Have them find the mean, median and mode for a team’s player heights and weights or calculate year over year or multiple year performances for their favorite team. Offering several simple to advance concept options, sports are a fun, relatable way for kids to practice math.
• Expand on everyday opportunities such as shopping. Depending on their math proficiency children, can help add ticket prices, calculate sales/discounts or compare unit prices for cost savings. If you can, pay in cash and have your child count the change. If a child is older, give them a budget to shop within. Not only will these activities keep their math skills sharp, but these lessons will also build on necessary real-world skills.
• Summer brings longer days and possibilities for family adventures. Whether it is a day at the water park, a weekend or a weeklong getaway, include your child in the planning. Invite little ones to plan a specific family activity while older children can help plan a day. Be sure to give them a budget. This activity will not only empower kids as they take part in the planning it will also engage several practical concepts including research, budgeting, timing and teamwork – if you have more than one child.
By making the most out of everyday experiences and focusing on activities and topics your child enjoys, summer learning just becomes summer – an enjoyable time for both parents and children and keep kids learning.
Written by Healthcare Network’s Director of Marketing, Gabrielle O’Boyle, with subject expertise from father of four and Pediatrician, Dr. Jorge L. Camina, Jr., MD, FAAP.