Engaging Your Child’s Brain When School’s Out
For school aged children, summer can be a joyous time of the year. Carefree hours of fun swimming, playing outside, and doing anything but school work. But, did you know that many school kids, especially those from low income families, can lose valuable amounts of knowledge over the summer months? Children may return to school in September having forgotten math facts and operations, having forgotten curriculum taught to them in the previous school year, and even having a lower reading level than they did in June. This, mommas, is referred to as the summer slump. Teachers report having to spend up to a month reteaching information taught during the previous school year. Of course, this creates a snowball effect where all the rest of curriculum meant for September onwards gets pushed back. So how can we prevent this? Here are some simple things to do that will keep your children’s brains engaged over the summer (without them realizing they are still learning!)
When there’s so much to do in the summer time, it may be difficult to get your child to want to sit down with a good book. Many schools offer summer reading lists, and depending on your child’s age and school district, you may even have mandatory summer reading assignments. If that is the case, have your child start early, right at the end of June, while their brain is still in “school mode”. If your child is very resistant you may want to make reading a prerequisite for other activities. For example, in my home for each time period spent reading (time depends on their age and stamina) my child can earn some time on a computer or watching tv. If the technology bug has hit your kid, why not allow them to read online? Sites like storylineonline.net read children’s classics to your student and keep them entertained as they read! Other sites like abcya.com or abcmouse.com offer different and fun learning games for your student.
There are many local establishments that offer fun reading programs over the summer too. These may help motivate your child to read. Check out your local library to see if they have a program for your family. Barnes and Nobles also offers a summer program where kids can earn free books! If you can’t find a program for you, why not take a trip to the library or the bookstore on your own? Letting your child pick their own book may encourage them to read!
Math Summer Fun
Try to make math fun for your little ones over the summer. Play math games together like addition, multiplication or subtraction War (rules are the same as the classic card game, but you turn two cards over at a time and either add, subtract or multiply them together). Games not your thing? Cook with your kid! The measurement of ingredients is great for the math mind! Take it a step further by having them plan and budget for the meal. There are also great math sites and apps available that can add that techno-flair all kids are begging for. Try Cool Math – a large collection of math and logic games that will keep your child entertained (and secretly learning) for hours!
Get Out Of Town
One of the best ways to engage your child is to spend time with them. Plan a vacation or even a Westchester “stay-cation”. You will be surprised how many authentic learning opportunities you can come across on every vacation. Reading signs on historical buildings will build knowledge and reading comprehension. Lining yourself up against a big bird holding a sign saying, “you must be this tall to ride” offers an opportunity for a measuring lesson. That same roller coaster ride can be an opportunity to talk physics. Don’t forget, open ended conversation where both participants are actively engaged is a great way to boost writing and reading ability because it helps to get your little one to be a critical thinker.
Why not expose your child to something new, a trip to an art or history museum perhaps? Try spending the day at a farm or zoo and talk about the environment or a food chain. If your child likes history, Westchester County is absolutely a great place to be! There are an abundance of museums and historical sites to take in. Try the John Jay mansion in Rye, or Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow. If you can’t take a vacation, what about taking a class with your child? Take a music class or a one day class on painting. Every opportunity to do something new is a hidden opportunity to learn.
While your at it, have your child keep a journal and write or draw about all the new experiences they have over the summer. Don’t stress the grammar and perfect composition, just help them build a love for the written word.
The Bottom Line
Everyone wants their kid to achieve and be successful. We all want what is best for our little ones. If that means pulling them out of the pool for a little academics, so be it! Avoid the summer slump, and you may just find that you and your child had fun in the process!