Tips You Need to Keep Kids Safe Online

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Keeping your kids safe in the age of continuous internet access and social media is tougher than ever these days. My wife and I work in information security, but even we struggle to keep up with evolving technology, so staying safe online is a frequent dinner topic in our family.

With new websites and apps coming out every day, it’s easy to see how parents can feel a little overwhelmed. So what can you do to keep your kids safe? The biggest step is to start with a conversation. And the good news is, there’s an online tool to help!

The Smart Talk is a fun and simple way to develop tech ground rules with your kids. Developed by LifeLock and the National PTA, the interactive website enables families to create personalized technology ground rules together by discussing key online safety topics. These include safety and privacy, screen time, apps and downloads, texting and calling and social media and respect.

After agreeing on healthy limits together, your family will end up with a personalized and official family agreement that you can print, sign and post in your home for quick reference and revise throughout the year.

Our family recently had The Smart Talk, and there were many lessons learned all-around. Here are a few tips that may come handy when you have a safety tech talk with your kids.

Tip 1: Talk, don’t lecture

Lecturing kids about online security works about as well as lecturing them about putting their socks away. They just tune out, hearing only, “Blah blah Internet blah blah chatrooms.” But when you’re able to have an actual conversation with your kids, and get on their level, they can begin relating what they do online and what their friends do online to the issues they hear about in the news.

Tip 2: Help your kids understand that the internet is not private

This false sense of privacy can lure kids into revealing far more than they should, with potentially devastating results (such as harassment and bullying, possibly even leading to assaults and suicide). Talk to your kids about what privacy means and remind them that anything shared over the internet or over a smartphone has the potential to be made public. Tell them:

  • Social media accounts can be seen by others
  • Text messages and “selfies” can be copied, forwarded and shared
  • Information can be accessed on an unlocked device or broken into and posted freely on the internet
  • Location data, commonly made available by devices, can reveal where the photos were taken or where they are located at that moment

Tip 3: Treat safety in the digital world the same as safety in the real world

When our kids are online, they’re connected with the entire world. Would you let your kids bring home random people off the street or from the shopping mall? Into your home, into their rooms? Of course not. Similar to how you teach your child to be self-aware in a mall, movie theater or amusement park—your kids need to learn safe behaviors in the online world.

Tip 4: Help your kids understand that anyone can pretend to be anything on the internet

With social media, video game chatrooms and other remote chat tools, strangers can become familiar, even though your child has never actually met them. Kids need to understand that people they meet online could be someone other than who they say they are. Teach your kids that unless you’ve met someone in person, they are a stranger. Any time a stranger attempts to convince your child to meet up unsupervised or share private information, your child should assume that’s not a nice or safe person.

Bring this lesson to life with a game: Ask your kid to list all of the things an alligator would say to convince a duck that they should meet up in the swamp at night. Then, connect the alligator’s motivations with a fraudster online that is trying to lure your kid into sharing information. It sounds silly, but such a game can help drive the point home.

Tip 5: Sharing is good until you share too much

You’ve seen the websites and apps that ask you to share your name, home address, age, birthdate, phone number and more. Kids grow up learning that sharing is caring, but what happens when sharing information could leave your kid vulnerable to identity theft?

When it comes to sharing sensitive information, teach your kids that the best answer is no answer. Your kids should also know that a majority of sites don’t need all of your sensitive information. Most times you don’t need to add all your private information. Have your child use their favorite movie character as their name and profile pic. Children are clever, creative and motivated. Give them a nudge and they’ll take it from there.

Remind your kids that their friends need to be safe online too. Kids are stronger when they’re looking out for each other, when they understand the problems and have a mindset to protect themselves.

Visit TheSmartTalk.org to learn more about having a conversation about these key ways to stay safe online.


Joe Gervais is the father of five children and the security communications director at LifeLock.

Is Your Child’s School Healthy?

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As a parent, there are many factors to consider when assessing your child’s school…teacher/student ratio, curriculum, facilities, location and more.

These are all undoubtedly critical components to a quality education, but have you considered whether your child’s school is a healthy school?

What does it mean to be a healthy school? Take a look at my daughter’s school, Hillcrest Elementary, where I serve as PTA president. Hillcrest was recently named one America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

With the help of the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program Framework, my daughter’s school is now serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more, offering high-quality physical and health education and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models.
Why does being a healthy school matter? Healthy kids learn better. Not only that, but when kids have access to quality physical education and healthy meals, behavior also improves and attendance rates increase. Now that’s something that ALL parents can support!

It takes a village to ensure our children form these healthy habits early. From parents to teachers and food services staff, we all have a role to play in building a healthier generation.

lunch-at-hillcrestAt Hillcrest Elementary, the big changes started with teachers and staff. Physical education teacher Tina Birgen led the charge, coordinating walk or bike to school days, ensuring the availability of various healthy menu choices in the cafeteria and engaging staff in nutrition and exercise challenges.

Hillcrest Elementary also emphasized the importance of family involvement in becoming a healthy school. Parents were not only invited to attend activities with our children, but our PTA played in active role in supporting the school’s efforts. From publicizing events to giving teachers stipends to purchase jump ropes or other healthy incentives, we collaborated to build an environment focused on health and wellness.

When parents are involved, the cycle of success continues outside of the classroom. Our PTA supports teachers in providing healthy opportunities for students and staff, and then teachers support the Hillcrest PTA. This results in stronger parent-teacher relationships and healthier habits at home!

Hillcrest students and staff have demonstrated drastic improvements physically, mentally and socially. Through goal setting and proper wellness education, we have improved physical fitness levels, eating behaviors, self-esteem and overall wellness knowledge. All of this, because we—parents, teachers, students and community members—worked together and supported one another in this essential cause.

There are many ways you can get involved in the health and wellness efforts of your child’s school, including joining your local PTA and asking your community’s leaders for support to make healthy changes in schools.

Ready to join the movement to ensure every school becomes one of America’s healthiest? Find out if your child’s school is enrolled in the Healthy Schools Program and get started today!


Trish Matson Buus is PTA president at Hillcrest Elementary School in Brookings, S.D.

How to Protect Your Child from Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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To commemorate Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month, National PTA has invited Michele Snyder, executive director of Parent Heart Watch, to share how you can protect your child and raise awareness. 

I was recently interviewed by The Today Show and was asked if there were any positives that have come out of the loss of my 17-year old daughter Jenny to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). At first, it felt like a ridiculous question. How could there possibly be anything positive that comes out of the unexpected death of your seemingly healthy child?

Parent Heart Watch Members Gather at the 11th Annual Heart to Heart in 2016

Parent Heart Watch Members Gather at the 11th Annual Heart to Heart in 2016

After some thought, however, I knew my answer. There was a silver lining—the incredible people I have met while healing from this tragedy. Most of them are members of Parent Heart Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting youth from SCA and preventable sudden cardiac death. They are parents who have lost a child to SCA, parents with a child that survived SCA or living with a heart condition, healthcare workers, school personnel and others—all advocates who work tirelessly each day in their local communities to prevent this from happening to other families.

We know that sudden cardiac death can often be prevented and as a parent, you can advocate for your child’s safety by taking the Prevention Promise and using the Take 5 to Stay Alive toolkit to protect your child.

Here are the five promises:

  1. Determine any risk factors that are already present in your child’s life
  2. Become educated on prevention strategies like early detection and being prepared in case of an emergency
  3. Advocate in your community
  4. Review your school’s cardiac emergency response plan
  5. Talk to your doctor

Each promise comes with the tools and resources necessary to support your efforts. Take 5 to Stay Alive is easy and available now at ParentHeartWatch.org.

Don’t look back and regret that you didn’t take the time. It’s a matter of life and death.


At the 2013 National PTA Convention & Expo, the members adopted a resolution calling for public schools to develop emergency response plans that include summoning help, performing CPR and using automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to save lives threatened by sudden cardiac arrest. The resolution also calls for education about the importance of purchasing and maintaining AEDs and ongoing CPR-AED training in schools. In addition, the resolution advocates for legislation that would fund placement of AEDs in every school, while providing immunity for people who use the lifesaving devices in good faith. Read the resolution.


Guest blogger Michele Snyder has been executive director of Parent Heart Watch since September 2010. In 2008, Michele and her husband Bob lost their 17-year-old daughter Jenny to sudden cardiac arrest. Since that time, Michele has dedicated her life to protecting other families from this tragedy.

Packed Lunch or School Lunch?

It is that time of the year again—back-to-school season. As you prepare your child to head back to school you may be asking yourself “did we purchase everything on the school supply list?” and “will they like their teacher?” or maybe “should we sign them up for football or soccer?” While you ponder those questions, another important one to ask yourself is “will my child be participating in the meal program at school?” The answer to this question could impact their health, your wallet and your time.

Nutrition

In order for a meal to be served at your child’s school, it has to meet strict nutrition standards. This means more fruits and vegetables, less sugar, fat and sodium and plenty of whole grains and lean proteins on your child’s lunch tray. Additionally, studies have shown that lunches from home tend to be higher in calories, saturated fat and sugar while also being lower in protein and fiber.

Cost

Your child may be eligible to receive free or reduced meals if your family meets a certain income eligibility cut-off. Make sure to fill out the income eligibility paperwork for your school to see if your child can receive free or reduced meals.

Also, you may not be saving as much money as you think by packing lunches. Studies have shown that packed lunches ring in at a higher cost than school lunches. A typical, well-balanced packed lunch may consist of a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, a bag of trail mix, a cheese stick, some vegetables and a piece of fruit, which rings at a price around $3.18 per lunch. On the other hand, purchasing school lunch at full price ranges from an average of $2.18 in elementary schools to $2.42 in high schools.

Time

If you prepare your child’s lunch every school day for the year, how many minutes do you think this accumulates to? If you spend 10 minutes preparing lunch for each school day, this accumulates to 30 hours of time spent throughout the 180-day school year.

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School Meals Tips

Here are some tips for encouraging your child to make healthy school breakfast and lunch choices.

  • Discuss the school meal your child will be having that day in a positive way, so they will be more open to trying new meals even if they are unfamiliar.
  • If possible, have lunch at your child’s school to demonstrate positive eating behaviors with your child. Make sure to try the fruits and vegetables and other meal components!
  • Discuss the fruit and vegetable options for the day and ask your child which option they will choose. This will help them feel more confident when entering the lunch line.
  • Pick a daily meal component and discuss the nutritional value of that food. This promotes a positive relationship with food and health. If you are unsure of the nutritional value of a meal component, look it up and learn together!

Packed Lunch tips

Despite the improvements to school meals, you may love preparing lunch for your kid every day and will continue to do so. Here are some tips to ensure your child is getting the nutrients they need in their packed lunch.

  • Try to build a lunch that mirrors USDA’s MyPlate, similar to that of school lunches. This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and lean protein.
  • Stay away from prepackaged snacks as these tend to be higher in sodium, saturated fats and sugars. These also tend to be the more expensive items in a packed lunch.
  • Stay away from added-sugar juices and sodas as these pack on the sugar and can cause your child to feel tired later in the school day.
  • Involve your kid in the lunch making process. This will create a sense of responsibility in the food process which has shown to increase consumption of the food prepared, especially fruits and veggies!
  • Check out the Alliance Product Calculator from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This allows you to see if a possible packed lunch item is a healthy choice for your child.

So what does it come down to?

If you can pack a lunch that is providing your child with the nutrients they need for a budget that fits your family, go for it! But if you are unsure or would like to save yourself some time and money, trust your school meals program to serve a healthy and affordable meal to your child.


 

Alysa Grude, the National PTA School Meals Fellow. Alysa holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Science and Dietetics and is currently pursuing her Master’s of Public Health in Public Nutrition.

Use TV Parental Guidelines to Find the Best Programs for Kids

Home from school with spare time, the summer offers many children the opportunity to watch more television. While each individual family has its own standards for deciding what’s appropriate for its children to watch, the TV Parental Guidelines is a helpful resource to help parents make informed decisions on which programs are suitable for their children.

What are the TV Parental Guidelines? 

Since the late 1990s, virtually all programs that air on television—with the exception of news and sports—are assigned a rating that provides parents information about the content and age-appropriateness of the program. These ratings, called the TV Parental Guidelines, fall into two groups: ratings for programming created specifically for children and ratings for programming intended for general audiences.

The TV Parental Guidelines are designed to be easily recognizable and simple to use. The Guidelines appear in the upper left corner of the TV screen in the first 15 seconds of the program and often reappear after commercial breaks. While most programs on television are rated, television commercials are not and cannot be blocked through parental controls.

Understanding the TV Ratings

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How Can the Guidelines be Used with Parental Controls? 

Families can use the TV Parental Guidelines simultaneously with parental controls in TV sets and cable and satellite set top boxes to block programs they believe are unsuitable for their children. Parents have the ability to block programs based on both the age-based ratings as well as the content descriptors.

Contacting the TV Monitoring Board

The Monitoring Board is responsible for overseeing the TV Parental Guidelines and for working to ensure uniformity and consistency in the application of the guidelines. Parents can find more information about the ratings and the board at TVGuidelines.org.

Viewers can also contact the board by mail, phone or email with any questions or complaints about TV ratings.

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Missi Tessier is the executive secretariat at the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Implement Healthy Habits All Year Long

Lysol is a financial sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

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The summer break has officially begun and your children are likely making the most of every minute of every day, from summer camp and playdates to BBQs and picnics! As part of the Healthy Habits Program, Lysol hopes to spread the word on the healthy habits you can teach your children and practice this summer, starting with changes you can make in your own backyard. Whether your family is vacationing at the beach or throwing a BBQ at home, arm your children with the knowledge to help them stay healthy and truly make a memorable summer break. Some simple ways include:

  • Grill with Knowledge: For your summer BBQs and picnics, give your children a lesson in food safety using the CDC BBQ IQ[1] Key takeaways include properly washing surfaces that have come in contact with raw meat and thoroughly washing veggies. And of course, washing hands before and after they eat!
  • Drink Water and Have Fun: Longer days mean your children will likely be spending more time outside. Remind them of the importance of staying hydrated while playing outdoors A good rule of thumb is have them drink five to eight cups of water a day.
  • Clean to Support Your School: Lysol and Box Tops for Education partnered to help promote healthy habits and support schools across the U.S. If you’re one of many parents who collect Box Tops for your children’s school, you can now also collect from Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray.

Visit Lysol.com/HealthyHabits for more information on the Healthy Habits Program.


Rory Tait is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives the Lysol Healthy Habits campaign, a program focused on educating parents across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices. Box Tops for Education and associated words and designs are trademarks of General Mills, used under license. ©General Mills

[1] CDC.gov. “BBQ IQ. Get Smart. Grill Safely” (Accessed June 1, 2015)

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Protecting the Progress We’ve Made in School Nutrition

shutterstock_432895717It’s hard to believe that before long, it will be back-to-school time again.  Like many of you, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been hard at work this summer preparing for the upcoming school year. Over the past six years since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, schools across the country have made incredible progress in ensuring all children have access to more nutritious food in school.

Today, joined by Kelly Langston, president of North Carolina PTA, USDA is announcing four final rules that continue the Obama Administration’s historic commitment to building a healthier next generation. While they won’t make any drastic new changes, these rules will ensure the positive changes schools have already made will remain in place and improve children’s health for years to come.

National PTA has advocated for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs since they were first created, and I am proud to have PTA join us for this announcement. You have been one of USDA’s most valued partners, advocating for changes like stronger nutrition standards and more family and community involvement in local school wellness policies to promote nutrition and physical activity in schools. Thanks to your advocacy in Washington and your leadership in local school districts, 98% of schools nationwide are now meeting updated, science-based nutrition standards and serving meals with more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy—and less sodium—in age-appropriate portion sizes. USDA is also seeing healthier school environments overall for the more than 52 million children who attend schools that participate in the USDA meal programs.

One of the biggest advances made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the Smart Snacks in School rule, which ensured for the first time that all food and beverages sold a la carte in the cafeteria, in vending machines, or elsewhere on the school campus meet practical, science-based nutrition standards in-line with the requirements for school lunches and breakfasts. Schools have already implemented the Smart Snacks rule and are offering an impressive variety of options that meet the new standards and are popular with students.  The Smart Snacks final rule USDA is announcing today will ensure this progress remains in place.

About 70% of elementary and middle school students are exposed to some form of food or beverage marketing at school.  The Local School Wellness Policy final rule, also announced today, ensures that any food or beverage marketed on school campuses during the school day meets the same Smart Snacks standards.  National PTA has long been a strong supporter of robust school wellness policies that create healthy, supportive learning environments as children spend a majority of their day in school. National PTA was instrumental in developing this rule, which requires schools to engage parents, students, and community members in the creation of their local school wellness policies, and empowers communities to take an active role in the health of their children. States and local communities will continue to have flexibility in developing wellness policies that work best for them.

shutterstock_293985629The two other rules announced today, the Community Eligibility Provision final rule and the Administrative Review final rule, will codify changes that have improved access to school meals for low-income children and strengthened oversight and integrity in the programs at the State level. The Community Eligibility Provision, another major advance made under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, allows school districts or individual schools with high numbers of low-income children to serve free meals to all students, eliminating the need for parents to fill out a free lunch application and reducing burdensome paperwork for school administrators so they can focus on what’s most important—feeding kids. More than 18,000 high-poverty schools serving 8.5 million students are now participating in this streamlined option, which has been shown to increase student participation in breakfast and lunch.

When kids return to school and Congress returns to work in September, USDA and the Administration will continue to call on Congress to reauthorize the Federal child nutrition programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee has already passed a bi-partisan bill that would protect the progress we have made and earned PTA’s support. The Senate bill would also support grants and loans to help schools purchase the kitchen equipment and infrastructure they need to prepare healthy meals, which National PTA has called for.

Children’s ability to learn in the classroom and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to ensure their health.  USDA is grateful for National PTA’s partnership in ensuring every child in America has the opportunity to grow up healthy and succeed in school and later in life. Together, we have supported these healthy changes that will benefit our children—and our country– far into the future.


Tom Vilsack serves as the nation’s 30th Secretary of Agriculture.

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Reducing Underage Drinking–One Town Hall Meeting at a Time

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Summer vacation is in full swing. This can be a relaxing time for students as they have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and break away from the stress of school. Unfortunately, it can also be a risky time, especially for teenagers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Report, “Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation among Adolescents,” during summer vacation, more teens start using alcohol than in other months.

Parents and teachers can play a vital role in reducing underage drinking. By working together to reward each student’s decision not to drink and ensure that social events do not provide a drinking environment, parents and teachers are in a powerful position to address the perils of underage drinking.

One of the ways SAMHSA addresses the prevention of and increases the national conversation about underage drinking is with its Communities Talk: Town Hall Meetings to Prevent Underage Drinking initiative. Having these conversations makes a difference. In 2014, 83% of the town hall meeting participants reported gaining new knowledge about the prevention of underage alcohol use, and 48% of event hosts reported they planned to follow up their event by developing a prevention strategy.

The initiative provides several tools and resources to help parents and teachers begin this conversation. SAMHSA provides community-based organizations with a $500 stipend to mobilize their communities to prevent underage drinking. Tools to help you plan an event include an underage drinking fact sheet, a Guide to Youth Engagement in Underage Drinking Prevention Events, success stories and parent resources.

Join the over 1,300 communities nationwide in hosting a Communities Talk: Town Hall Meeting to Prevent Underage Drinking:

  1. Email info@stopalcoholabuse.net to express your interest in hosting a meeting. Please include the name of your organization, contact name, contact email, contact phone number and name of an affiliate national organization.
  1. Register to host a Communities Talk meeting. After you send an email expressing your interest, you will receive an invitation to register. Then, you will have the opportunity to receive a $500 planning stipend.
  1. Plan your Communities Talk meeting to prevent underage drinking using the resources available.

Frances M. Harding is the director for the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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Be a Summer Meals Champion!

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It’s that time of year: Teachers have wrapped up their lesson plans, students have all handed in their finals, the physical education department has packed away the sports equipment and the school nutrition staff have hung up their aprons. Summer is here!

For many, the final toll of the school bell is full of promise. Days spent splashing around the pool, riding bikes with friends and competing in watermelon seed-spitting contests lie ahead! But for some, summer takes on a different meaning. For the child who remembers the times he had to go without lunch last summer while his mom was working two jobs, summer can mean being hungry. For the single dad who is struggling to figure out how to cover the extra costs of feeding his kids now that they aren’t receiving breakfast and lunch at school, summer can mean feeling stressed.

But it doesn’t have to be that way… USDA’s summer meals programs make it easy for children to continue receiving the daily meals they need when school is out for the summer. At tens of thousands of sites across the country, kids and teens 18-years-old or younger can come together in a safe environment to eat healthy meals at no cost. Often, the sites offer opportunities to engage in educational and physical activities as well. These sites are strategically located in areas where many children receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year, to ensure access for those who need it most.

Last year, USDA served about 3.8 million children more than 190 million meals through the summer meals programs! But this still only represents about one in six of the children who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year. That is the critical summer meals gap we’re working tirelessly to fill. The goal of the summer meals programs is to fuel children and teens to reach their highest potential, but that can only be done if families know about the programs and how to find a site near them. That’s where you come in!

As parents, teachers and/or community leaders, you can be a summer meals champion by helping to spread the word in your communities. Pass out information at school, tell your neighbors, announce it at sports practices, send an email blast through your community listserv, post it on Facebook or ask to post a flier at your local grocery store—it doesn’t matter how we get the word out about the summer meals programs, just that we do. Together, we can give kids and teens the summer they deserve and ensure they return to school in the fall fueled up and ready to learn!

Find a Site Near You:

  • Visit the Summer Meals site finder (in English and Spanish; mobile version available)
  • Call (866) 348-6479 (English) or (877) 842-6273 (Spanish)

Text FOOD (English) or COMIDA (Spanish) to 877-877, operated by a USDA partner

You can also find Summer Meals promotional materials and resources, and learn how to participate in the program.


Dr. Katie Wilson is the Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Engaged This Summer

Summer break is an important time for children to bond with family and friends, participate in enriching outdoor activities and enjoy a break from school. But while enjoying the free time and taking advantage of all the season has to offer, it is essential that children do not take a break from learning.

Research shows that children experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months. Keeping children engaged in learning during summer break will help ease the back-to-school transition when the time comes and help them start the new school year on the right foot.

Summer activities provide fun, teachable moments—connecting real-life activities to what children have been learning in school reinforces those skills. These moments also provide great opportunities to expose children to new ideas and information and allow parents to encourage creativity.

Here are four ways to optimize learning during summer break:

Explore a National Park, Museum or Historic Site—Parks, museums and historic sites provide opportunities to bring learning to life for children. Many historic sites stage reenactments of battles or demonstrations of life during that time period. Almost all of the parks have activities for children. Ask your children to identify things they learned in school and nurture their navigation skills by making a scavenger hunt for your outing. You can also put your kids’ math skills to the test by giving them a set amount of money and having them manage their spending throughout the day.

Read Every Day—Studies show that reading daily during summer break is the most important activity families can do to prevent learning loss. Take your kids to the local library and borrow books to read over the break. And spend time reading together as a family—it helps children develop their literacy skills and excel academically.

Go to a Cultural Festival—Many communities host cultural festivals during the summer months, which are great occasions for children to learn about different cultures. Sample authentic food and drink, listen to storytellers, watch traditional dances and enjoy the artwork created by local artists from that culture. After attending a festival, discuss the experience as a family and encourage your kids to Google answers to any questions.

Keep a Journal—Summer activities abound, and recording them in a journal is a great way to capture those memories. As an added bonus, encouraging your kids to write about daily events helps boost their vocabulary and practice their handwriting as well as their grammar, spelling and creative writing skills.

Family schedules can be grueling during the summer—running from camps to swim meets to baseball and softball games—but it is important to keep learning a priority. Engaging in educational activities for an hour or even 30 minutes each day will support children’s success and ensure they start the new school year on track.


 

Laura Bay is president of National PTA, a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement. In addition to leading National PTA, Bay is a coordinator for assessment and instruction for the Bremerton School District in Bremerton, Wash.