Ditch the Summer Slide
Your child is embracing the long days of summer, playing outside, jumping waves, and building sandcastles. With this time off from school, it’s easy to neglect academic skills. Yet summer is a long period of time, and without any focus on academic work, your child will likely have a hard time readjusting to school once the new year begins. Help your child prevent the all-too-common summer slide and transition with ease to the new school year with the ideas detailed below.
Take Advantage of Car Time
During the summer, many families embark on road trips. This may mean hours upon hours of time in the car. Instead of watching your child mindlessly glued to her iPad as the hours pass, play some road trip games that reinforce learning. Try engaging your child in a game of Mad Libs, for instance, where one player is designated as the scribe and asks the other players for words to fill in blanks in a story, usually in the form of a part of speech (noun, pronoun, adjective, etc.). You’ll have some great family laughs while reinforcing important grammar and writing skills. You can also play “I Spy” with your preschooler to practice visual perception skills or play the classic License Plate game with older children to reinforce geography. To play this game, have one player write down the name of each state they see on a license plate while driving, with the goal being to find license plates that cover all 50 states. Keep the games engaging and fun, and time in the car will fly by!
Carve Out Some Daily Work Time
While it’s important for your child to indulge in the outdoor perks summer offers, try to carve out some work time each day. You can choose the increment of time that works best, but 20-30 minutes per day is ideal. Your child may choose to read a book, newspaper, or comic during this time, or even do other learning activities, like a word search or crossword puzzle. Try to make it a family activity with a learning game such as Scrabble or Boggle and you’ll build in some bonus bonding time. You don’t even have to label this time as “work time ” — keep it fun and your child won’t even realize they are practicing academic skills!
Take advantage of warm, sunny days to complete experiments outside. For instance, go for a walk at a park or the beach and find a collection of rocks. Then lay them out next to one another and compare and contrast them. How are they the same? How are they different? What characteristics does each one have? Perhaps create a Venn Diagram on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, listing the similarities in the middle and differences on each side. You can even have your child write a creative story that involves rocks (or bugs, or flowers, or whichever item you select) to practice creative writing skills. You might have them do a research project on different types of rocks, how they are formed, where they are found, and so on. So many skills — including math, science, reading, and writing — can be reinforced with this type of activity.
For children who are in elementary school or above, try doing some money exercises throughout the summer to practice real-life math. If you stop at a convenience store, for instance, talk about which items you plan to buy and roughly how much each one will cost. Then tell your child that you will give them a $10 bill and ask roughly how much change they should receive. Do this activity in various places — carnivals, the supermarket, a coffee shop, and so on. This exercise will help your child grasp real-life math and money concepts.
Summer should be a time for rest, relaxation, and outdoor fun — but don’t let academics fall to the wayside! Try doing these learning activities with your child and you will prevent the summer slide while preparing him for academic success when the new school year begins.
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades preK-12 in NYC, NJ, and Westchester. She is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a study skills workbooks series emphasizing test-taking, note-taking, reading comprehension, writing, and executive functioning strategies, and the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series. These books are currently used at schools nationwide.