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.