By J.G. Noll
For many kids, summer means pools, unstructured time, and vacation. And forgetting. Some research points to a lost of an aggregate two to three years of reading level loss due to summer regression by the time a kid hits fifth grade. The loss is most pronounced in low-income students and owes to a variety of factors including stress and a lack of healthy, nutritious food.
Regardless of your family’s socio-economic status, there are many easy ways to help your kids continue learning and using the skills they’ve learned all year in school. Here’s how to do that:
1. Structured reading time
Whether you’re reading to them, you’ve got a book on tape and they’re following alone in a physical book, they’re able to read themselves, or they’re reading to a younger sibling or neighbor, make time every, single day for book time. The more they practice reading and the more they see words, the larger their vocabulary will (mostly) effortlessly grow.
2. Turn the junk off
Do the kids really need to watch that unboxing video of the lady with the creepy voice? If they’re watching TV, make sure that it’s educational and right for their age level. And no, it doesn’t have to be Caillou. PBS Kids is a great place to start looking for engaging and educational TV. Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix also offer many shows that can keep your kids sharp over the summer. Check out this list from Common Sense Media for more ideas.
3. Go for a walk
Get out in the sunshine and spend time in nature. The outdoor world is great for growing minds to explore. They’ll learn how to problem solve and think creatively while they play.
4. See teaching opportunities in the every day
The world constantly present real-world application for even some of the simplest skills your kids have learned. Capitalize on it this summer. Going to the commissary? Have your kids count the cans you buy. If they’re older, have them total up the tab. . . without a calculator. Model estimation skills when they’re playing in the sandbox. Have them read you a recipe while you cook. Ask them to sort their clothing by color, shape, or size when you do laundry.
5. Write letters to friends and relatives
Grab some postcards from a local shop (or have your kids make their own) and write notes to Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Bob, and their friends from the last duty station. Not only will they practice their penmanship, grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary skills, you can also teach (or reinforce) how to address a letter or postcard. That’s a skill that many kids–even teens–lack.
6. Encourage a craft
Arts and crafts are great ways to help kids use common skills while thinking creatively and strategically. Use pre-cut lacing cards to teach the basics of sewing. . . while they stitch letters or numbers. For slightly older kids, cross stitch is a great way to reinforce mapping and graph skills (after all, that’s really all that a cross stitch pattern is). Easy quilting, carpentry, or mosaics can introduce them to the basics of geometry and measurement.
7. Reward learning
If you’re excited and enthusiastic about learning, your kids will be, too. Talk about learning and school in positive ways. Show your kids that you’re still learning by talking problems and solutions through with them. Let them see you reading. . . and enjoying it.