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10 Ways to Keep Kids Learning Through Summer

Last updated: June 12, 2024

School’s out for summer, but that shouldn’t mean an end to learning for kids. Without brain-stimulating activities, kids’ math and reading skills can slide, putting them behind once school starts again in the fall.

According to a study by Kappan, between 70% and 78% of elementary school students experience a decline in their math skills over the summer. For students finishing fifth grade, 84% see their skills decline before the start of sixth grade. When it comes to reading, 62% to 73% of students see their skills decline while school is out.

“It’s critical to keep children’s brains engaged throughout the summer,” says Dr. Amy Mandeville, a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “Adding some enrichment activities to each day can help keep prevent learning loss and keep kids’ minds primed.”

Fear not. Brain-stimulating activities need not be boring. Put some clever strategies into play, and your kiddos will have so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re learning at the same time.

10 Ways to Prevent ‘Summer Slide’

  1. Read. Books offer a great way to keep kids’ brains active throughout the summer. If your child is just learning to read, spend some time reading to him or her, too. Join the local library’s summer reading program to add a little incentive. While the kids are there, let them choose their own books. Children are more likely to enjoy reading when they can select genres or topics that interest them.
  2. Take a class. Many school districts offer low-cost summer school programs. These courses offer a fun and enriching way to keep learning going. Bonus: Kids can also engage with peers.
  3. Plant a garden. Children can learn a lot by planting and taking care of a garden. If you don’t have a lot of space, consider a container garden. Talk with them about what vegetables or flowers they might want to grow. Keep the conversation going as the plants continue to grow by discussing what makes plants healthy.
  4. Play games. Favorites such as Scrabble, Apples to Apples, and Boggle can help build vocabulary. Classics like Battleship, Yahtzee, and Mastermind can hone math and strategy skills.
  5. Practice math. Kids may groan at this suggestion, but there are fun ways to practice these skills. Parents can purchase a workbook and have kids do two or three problems a day, work with flashcards, or play some math-related games. Ask your child’s teacher for ideas or resources. Your kiddo (and their teacher!) will thank you when September comes around.
  6. Go on a nature hike. Our area is fortunate to have many parks and nature centers. Visit one and go for a walk with your child. Talk about the animals that may live in the park or what kind of trees they might see. Peruse the park’s website to build your own knowledge before going.  
  7. Get outside. Summer is made for outdoor time. Kids can color with chalk, play games, ride a bike, or go for a family walk. Time outdoors spurs creativity and provides physical activity, which is important to overall health.
  8. Bake or cook. The kids might only think of the delicious end result, but getting there requires math and reading skills. Children must read and follow directions and use math skills to measure out the ingredients. This also offers an opportunity to teach about healthy food choices.
  9. Visit a museum or zoo. A trip to a museum or a zoo is not only fun, it also offers learning opportunities. Depending on which museum you visit, your child can learn more about science, local history, or a particular subject. Zoos offer the opportunity to get an up-close look at animals and learn fun facts like what they eat and where they live.
  10. Tackle a puzzle. Puzzles require spatial thinking and problem-solving skills, which are terrific brain activities.

“With a good mix of leisure and enrichment, kids can go back to school in the fall both rested and ready to learn,” Dr. Mandeville says.

Your child’s family medicine physician or pediatrician is your proactive partner in tracking their healthy development.

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Tags: kids’ summer activities learning loss math skills reading skills Summer slide

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