Schools out for summer! No more early rises, no more sitting in class all day and definitely no more homework. With the long and sunny days of summer upon us this surely sounds like heaven to your kids! But come September will your children be learning new things or playing catch up?
Most students will experience ‘summer learning loss’ to some extent when they return to school after the summer. A recent study by the Rand Corporation, found that children lose two to three months of reading and math skills while on break. “Our brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised and engaged regularly,” says Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist and Care.com expert. “One of the ways we maintain our kids’ learning curve is to make sure they’re engaged in some way shape or form-even during the summer months,” Dr. Ludwig explains.
We’ve put together 12 handy ideas for injecting some learning into your children’s summer fun to keep their brains active.
1. Create a Summer Reading List
Studies show that when children read four or more age appropriate books over the summer, they can maintain the level of reading skills they achieved during the preceding school year.
Before the school year ends, ask your child’s teacher for a recommended reading list for the summer. Then, let your son or daughter choose what they want to read from the list – when kids pick out the books themselves they are more likely to read them and finish them.
2. Day Trips to Museums or Historical Sites
Look for museums that engage all of your child’s senses through interactive exhibitions. Check out science-based or living history museums near you for educational components geared toward kids. Or try a historic location, such as governmental buildings. Before your visit, head to the library or bookstore for some kid-friendly reading material on the topic. When you visit, your child can have a perceptible experience that complements what he already read.
3. Get Cooking
Dr. Ludwig suggests getting your kid to sign up for a cooking class or help you or your nanny make dinner at home. In addition to learning how to make meals for themselves, “cooking engages a child’s artistic sensibilities and gives them tactile lessons in math and fractions through measuring,” she says.
4. Use Workbooks
Pick up a few age or grade appropriate math, spelling, or grammar workbooks from a teacher supply store or a toy store. Or simply print some out from sites like Education.com.
5. Give them Puzzles and Mind Benders
Another option is to pick up puzzle books, such as crosswords or even Mad Libs. “They make kids think differently, solve problems and expand their vocabulary,” says Dr. Ludwig. Detective books and riddles are also a fun way to challenge their minds.
6. Explore the World through Books
Map out the places your child wants to visit around the world and find books that take place there. It is a great way to learn about far away places right from your own backyard!
7. Find a ‘Learning’ Nanny
If looking for a summer babysitter or nanny, why not hire someone with a background in education? Post your requirements as looking for a teacher or tutor who can make play a learning experience. Ask that at least three daily games or activities have a curriculum, with clear goals as to what the child will be learning, asked about and challenged with. The kids may never know. It should all be based on fun and adventure (Think: science-based scavenger hunts and baking with measurements).
8. Turn Your Kids into Authors
Encourage your child to pen their own story. “[This] encourages kids to tap into their imagination, organize their thoughts and communicate their feelings,” says Dr. Ludwig. Give your kids a theme-say, your family vacation-and have them write their own books. They can write, illustrate, design and even publish them as actual books on Scribblitt.
9. Make Play Creative
Plan interactive “out of the box” play for kids to challenge their own minds. The more independent this is, the better. Help them make a video they can share on YouTube, produce a play with some neighborhood friends, or plan a scavenger hunt. Check out this scavenger hunt site for ideas.
10. Start Making Music
If you’re child’s schedule is too packed during the school year to begin music lessons, make this summer the time to get them started on lessons. According to recent research children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training on non-musical tests of vocabulary and non-verbal reasoning. Does your kid already play the piano or guitar? Don’t drop the lessons just because it’s summertime. “Make sure your child continues practicing instruments through the summer,” says Dr. Ludwig.
11. Game Night
Make tonight a game night! “Playing card and board games with dice make math and spelling more tangible for children-all while having fun,” says Dr. Ludwig. Any board game will work, but a few of our faves: Scrabble for Kids, Boggle and Bananagrams.
12. Hire a Tutor
If you’re really concerned that your child might be behind come fall, consider hiring a tutor. “Just make sure that the experience is light and unpressured,” says Ludwig. Perhaps the tutor and your child can work outdoors or you can team your child up with a friend.
Have you tried any of these ideas? Share your experiences with us below!