Summer slide is known as the loss of academic skills, deterioration of focus, mindset and engagement in students over the summer vacation period. “On average, children lose about one month’s worth of school learning during the summer, and declines are worse in math than reading and, unfortunately, worse in children from lower Socio-Economic Status (SES) homes compared to higher SES homes,“ notes Dr. Jody LeVos, early childhood development expert. Research shows that higher grade levels show an even greater loss.
So what can parents do to avoid the summer slide while still giving their kids a fun, relaxing summer vacation? “The great news is that, with some simple tweaks to everyday routine, families can incorporate meaningful learning opportunities that can help prevent the summer slide,” says Dr. LeVos.
“Swapping out screen time for a hands-on puzzle is a great way to work on spatial skills and executive functions.” – Dr. Jody LeVos
Here are 5 tips for avoiding the summer slide that will keep your students engaged, enriched and excited for school to start back in the fall.
1. Read 2-3 hours a week
Research shows that “reading just 4 to 6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall,” notes Dr. LeVos. Depending on how fast your kids read, just 2-3 hours of reading each week could be the difference between falling behind at school or not.
If you’re traveling this summer, bring a small bag of summer books with you. Dr. Devos recommends “looking for different letters (and talking about the sounds those letters make) while in the car [as it’s] a great way to practice letter recognition and letter sounds.” Whether you’re driving, flying or getting on a train – books are a great source of entertainment and learning. Include your kids in the process of choosing their summer books, as studies show that kids who choose their own books are more likely to read and comprehend them than those whose books are chosen for them. “For older children, you can advance the activity by
looking for “new” words and trying to sound them out and guess what they mean based on clues such as context and images.” Find a local or online summer reading program that will engage and motivate your kid’s reading journey. Visit your local library or make a trip out of it and visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which boasts a rooftop garden, a giant wooden slide and inclusive tech.
2. Attend summer learning programs
Kids stay engaged when they are challenged and when they are amongst their own peers. Finding a program, class, or camp that gives your child a topic to focus on and a group of peers to spend time with is a great way to prevent summer slide. If you’re a working parent and don’t have time to plan an enriching activity each day, these programs can help you manage the work that goes into planning, motivating and supporting your kids for the whole summer.
Talk to your kids about their interests and any skills they’d like to learn. Summer is a great time to work on new skills or hone skills they’re already working on at school, like languages, instruments or math.
3. Visit museums, parks and new neighborhoods
Kids learn by doing and summer is all about getting out of the house, going on adventures and doing things you don’t normally get to do during the school year. We’re lucky to live so close to world-class, kid-friendly museums, most of which are free to enter. Museums are a fantastic way to keep kids learning, thinking and asking questions during the summer to help avoid the summer slide.
Sit down with your kids and talk to them about the different museums you could visit, narrow it down to a list of 3-5 you’ll go to over the summer. Come up with museum games and activities to make the experience truly immersive.
If you aren’t traveling this summer, it’s a great chance to play tourist in your own city. Talk to your kids about the history of the DMV; visit monuments, go on a water taxi tour, learn about sharks, find a local hike and talk about the trees, the animals and the plants.
4. Engage in enriching family activities
During the summer, kids often don’t have as much daily interaction as they do on a school day.
- On an average school day: kid gets the bus > sees their teachers > has a variety of classes > a lunch-break > a bus ride home and then after-school activities.
- On an average summer vacation day: kid sees parents and siblings > watches TV > goes grocery shopping > maybe sees a friend in the neighborhood.
Because summer vacation is full of quiet, down-time, it’s important that we keep our kids enriched with other activities to avoid summer slide. Humans are social beings and kids are even more so. That’s why it’s helpful to plan specific enriching family activities during the summer so that we don’t get distracted with all of our other responsibilities and forget to set aside that crucial bonding and learning time. Of course, it can’t all be fun and games, so try bringing fun and learning along for the ride. “When at the grocery store, invite your child to count out the apples or weigh the produce to incorporate math language and critical numeracy skills into an everyday activity.”
Some enriching family activities you can do with your kids this summer are:
- Choose one day a week and make it your family adventure day – give each family member a chance to choose the adventure for the week (museums, zoos, parks, preserves, theater, etc.)
- Pack a picnic, bring a blanket and attend an outdoor movie screening in the DMV
- Plan a family game night with board games or hire a private Dungeon Master for a family Dungeons & Dragons game.
- Attend a minor league or collegiate baseball game.
- Learn about STEM – try these STEM experiments, perfect for hot summer days.
- Make summer gardening a family affair – teaching kids about taking care of the garden, sticking to a routine and patience.
- Attend outdoor summer concerts and music events.
- Take a tour of D.C.’s most delicious frozen treats.
5. Use an online program to support learning
It’s inevitable that our kids will be getting more screen time over the summer vacation. But that time doesn’t have to be wasted! There are plenty of digital programs that kids can use this summer to have fun and keep up with their academic skills.
Begin is a digital and hands-on product that supports kids as they discover their passions, build new skills, and deepen their love of learning. Their programs range from “Learn with Sesame Street” for 2-5 year olds, “CodeSpark” for 5-9 year olds, “kidpass Tutors” for K-12 and more. You can find digital online games and programs on every kind of subject that will support your child’s learning while they’re on summer vacation.
Because we know our kids are going to be on their iPad, watching TV or scrolling through their cell phone this summer, trustworthy digital tools make it easy for parents to ensure that their kids screen time is actually valuable learning time that helps avoid the summer slide. If there’s a topic that you’re not able to support your child in (Hello, Math!) then it’s a great idea to get your child set up with some additional support in those topics during the summer.
Dr. LeVos emphasizes that “Putting a little time aside each day to explore a new topic (maybe visit your local library branch), dive into a making or creating activity, and to read physical books together – these simple activities can have an outsized impact on learning (and preventing learning loss) this summer.”