What’s So Scary About Summer Slide?

Summer slide. Sounds like it could be a fun water park ride. But parents hearing this term from schools and education advocates are learning that it can be quite a scary phrase. It’s the term used to talk about how many skills children might lose during the summer while they are out of school, or while they are waiting to start school for the first time. And, depending on what skills and what groups of children we are talking about, it can be quite substantial. So, what should parents do about this scary-sounding thing?

Well, first, know that there is a lot of debate about summer slide. Like we said above, it does seem to affect different groups of children and different skills in different ways. But the bottom line is: we don’t ever want our kids to stop learning, even in the summertime. So, following our own KITS advice for helping kids to learn new habits, we are not going to tell you what NOT to do (“Don’t let summer slide creep up on your child.”) Instead, we are going to offer you a few inexpensive and easy tips on what TO DO to help your child keep learning all summer long!

  • Help your child READ. Everyday. Everywhere. Everything! As you have probably guessed by now from many of our other blog posts, we believe in reading. This is such a foundational skill for many other academic skills. And books can teach children about lots of different things, from letter names to names of stars, and from how to make friends to how submarines are built. If your child is not reading on her own yet, read to her. And if your child can read by himself, it can be nice to have him read to you sometimes, so you can share time together and find out what kinds of books he likes. Also, keep in mind that you don’t just have to read books. Magazines, comics, graphic novels, poems, song lyrics, signs. They all count! Reading is one of the best ways to keep learning all sorts of things throughout the summer. Check out our infographic for more tips on encouraging summer reading! 
  • Play with math! Math skills may suffer most from summer slide. And I know a lot of parents might be thinking right now “But I don’t know how to teach my child math!” So use math in everyday activities and games instead. How? 
  1. Make up math challenges at stores. Ask your kids to add prices (for younger kids) or to figure out discounts (for older kids). Or have them pretend to have (or give them) a set amount to spend and have them decide what they could purchase with their money.
  2. Play board games that use math. Any game that requires counting (spaces, game pieces, or imaginary money) helps kids to practice math. Also games like Jenga and other building games can help with spatial skills. Or when kids have to keep track of how many points they and others have, they are using math.
  3. READ about math. We are sounding like a broken record, but if you read books about math you are doing TWO things to help your child keep learning. Check out this great list of books about math to get you started. 
  • Visit a museum! Your local museum is a great place to learn about art, nature, history and so much more! And many museums have exciting family activities in the summer. If you are worried about cost, check out Museums for All, which lists many museums that have reduced rates to help families afford to visit. 
  • Explore the world. Summer is a time when a lot of families take vacations. If you are going somewhere new (or even somewhere that you been before), think about things you could teach your child about the place. Most cities and towns have web sites with fun facts about them. Work in some math and geography by finding your destination on a map and figuring out how far it is from home or from other places that you are visiting. And consider checking out the local museums to learn more! 

Summer slide does not have to be a scary shadow over your children’s summer. You can keep having fun and learning all summer long! What kinds of things have you done to keep the learning going? We would love to hear from you!

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