How to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer Break
I think I speak for just about every parent when I say that I look forward to summer break with equal parts excitement and stress. I look forward to not packing school lunches and readily wave goodbye to homework for a few months. However, I also stress about what I am going to do with these kids all summer so we don’t all drive each other crazy!
We all want to keep them busy, happy, and LEARNING all summer long. They have worked so hard over the school year and while I want them to have a break, I also don’t want them to forget all they learned!
During summer break, children in every grade level who stop actively learning will lose some of what they have learned during the school year, also known as the “summer slide”. In one single summer, children can lose two months of reading skills and two and a half months of math skills.
Encouraging your children to read, reading to them, and keeping their minds actively learning and engaged through the summer is the number one thing you can do to prevent learning loss in your children.
Whether you work inside or outside of the home, there are many easy ways to continue learning over summer break without a structured learning environment. With some intentionality on our part, almost anything can be made into a learning experience!
Get Out and Learn Together
My kids love when we learn something new together and show much more interest than if I’m teaching something I already know. You could start a garden, learn a new card game together, read a new book series, or visit a new park or hiking trail!
Local museums, zoos, botanical centers, etc. are a great place to continue summer learning. Plan a visit day and then talk about the things you loved seeing during your visit. Read all there is to learn at the location and then research and learn everything you can about it together about it when you get home or go to the library! You can choose a new topic every time you visit somewhere.
A lot of cities offer free programs through their library system or City Parks and Rec during the summer. Our library offers a ton of programs: toddler and preschool story time, Lego nights, summer afternoon/evening movies, art and cooking classes, and more. It’s a great way for kids to interact socially with others and learn about new topics.
Most libraries also offer a summer reading program for children. Older children have to read a certain number of books and younger children a certain number of minutes (reading themselves or being read to) to earn prizes along the way. There’s something about a prize and the fact that it’s a competition that makes my kids motivated to read and get in at least 20 minutes every day.
At Home Fun
Even though it’s tempting to think we need to be out doing big and grand things to make the summer fun and educational for our kids, there is so much learning in our regular day. You don’t have to spend all day researching crafts and science experiments on Pinterest – if that’s not your thing.
A walk around the neighborhood can turn into a discussion and hunt about nature, wildlife, and caring for our environment.
Plan a picnic and let the kids pack the lunches while you talk to them about food groups and nutrition.
Baking cookies can be it’s own little ‘science’ experiment. Start a discussion about fractions.
A huge driveway mural of sidewalk chalk can be a lesson in art and creativity.
They could write a letter to their grandparents and brush up on their writing skills. Whatever you do, just talk about it!
You can even create your own holidays and plan a special day to celebrate something silly. For example, make Friday ‘Watermelon Day’ and spend some time during the other days of the week preparing for it. Think of and shop for recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that have watermelon in them. Talk about how watermelons grow and consider planting your own or visiting a farmer’s market. Make some simple watermelon crafts to display on Watermelon Day.
Scrapbook Your Summer
Take pictures all throughout the summer and once a week have some printed. Buy a cheap blank scrapbook or notebook and let the kids document their summer! Older kids can work on their writing skills. Younger kids can draw pictures about their favorite parts. It’s a great way to encourage their creativity and a good way to break up a long afternoon. Plus, it’s the perfect keepsake to remember their summer.
Let Them Be Bored
Despite our best efforts, there will be times we hear from our kids, “I’m bored”. And it turns out, that’s actually not a bad thing. Letting the kids be bored encourages them to use their imaginations and develop problem-solving skills. It inspires them to explore and find other interests they may not have otherwise. In this fast-paced culture, it’s important for them to develop the ability to not need constant stimulation. So the pressure is off, parents!
Our rule of thumb is that we try to have one actual activity planned for each day. Maybe a trip to the zoo, a picnic at the park, a library program, or a play date. We can fill in little things like trips to the library, errands, playing in the backyard, etc. around those things. The rest of the time is unplanned play time!
Whatever you do this summer, just keep finding the everyday things to keep kids active and learning. Take time to relax and enjoy each other. Before we know it, the school year grind will start again and we will miss these slow summer days and nights!
Amy Cook is a Midwestern wife and mom to four boys ages 8, 6 and 3-year-old fraternal twins. She has a degree in Biochemistry and worked in medical research for 8 years before becoming a SAHM when her twins were born. Now she runs her Etsy shop and graphic design blog, Loving Our Messy, offering free printables and design tools. Her other passions include baking, watching baseball and all things creative.