It’s Summer – Let Them Slide…

lots of kids on slide…and swing and ride and build. Then play some more.

More than anything else, kids need time to play, especially in the summer months when unstructured time is abundant. Play is how children learn. How they process, discover, and master life skills.

But many educators worry about the “summer slide.” Not the shiny metal trough you find on the playground – but the one most kids experience over the summer. Research tells us that during the summer months children lose about 22% of what they learned in the school year – even more in lower income communities.  And the greatest loses tend to be in math. So teachers are forced to review and reteach previously learned material for about a month when kids return in the fall.

To prevent this brain drain, articles and marketers urge parents to keep the learning going thought-out July and August.  Drill flashcards, enroll your kids in enrichment programs, hire tutors, and buy games that reinforce their needs. And if your child struggled though the year in a particular subject, try out a math or reading camp where children get a heavy daily dose of one subject.

kids playing with ball

But is all this really necessary?

I’m a big believer that kids need a break. They need time to unwind from school and over scheduled days. Time to recharge themselves, not just their screens. Time to play with friends and family. To be who they are and discover what they can do. And that’s difficult to do when numbers, letters and schedules are in full force. It gets harder and harder to tap the imagination and just be.

When kids do have time to play, to go outside and romp with friends, to throw a ball, roll on the grass, read under a tree, swing really high, build a fort, create fairy houses, or make a lemonade stand – they are learning. They learn important life skills like negotiating who goes first.

kids playing in naturePrioritizing what steps need to happen when. They learn how to be alone and get lost in a book. They learn the wonders of nature. They learn about money. They learn perseverance when they try again and again to get it right.

Another way kids learn in the summer months is through volunteering. Helping out at a soup kitchen, in a senior home, at church, or by opening up your home to a child from a different culture. Kids learn a lot when they help a friend, a disadvantaged child or a senior citizen. They learn tolerance. They learn how to teach. They learn who they are. For a number of years, our family has hosted a Fresh Air Fund child named Evi.

DSCN1214I wrote about Evi and what my kids learned from her last summer. What they teach each other amazes me every summer.

Here’s a great top ten list of how to ensure kids have fun over the summer yet keep the learning going from Marina Koestler Ruben, author of “How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning — Without Paying for a Professional Tutor.” And Annie Murphy Paul, author of “Brilliant, The Science of Smart,” has simple ideas on preventing the summer slide and how relating to others makes us smarter.

From everything I’ve read on the best ways to balance out the “summer slide,” I conclude there are four important to-do’s for elementary age children during the summer:

baking boy

  1. Let them play – by themselves, with other kids – indoors and outdoors – without a screen.
  2. Read with them, to them, and next to them everyday. Visit the library weekly.
  3. Play games that use a dice, play store, or let them bake and cook with you so their math skills stay fresh.
  4. Volunteer in any way your family can, when you can.

So if they’re not out playing, remember to keep the reading, baking and game playing FUN. Summertime fun is full of learning.water slide


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