Stop summer brain drain with fun and educational activities

Today's guest blogger is Anita Kulick, President & CEO of Educating Communities for Parenting in Philadelphia. ECP offers a variety of programs and services for teen and adult parents, adjudicated delinquent youth, young adults aging out of the foster care system, preschoolers, and children at grave risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.

With the start of summer, the last thing most children and parents want to think about is school. Let's face it, the majority of us are looking forward to some down time from the daily routine, homework, special projects, studying, and especially the battles over completing assignments on time.

But just because school is closed for the summer, doesn’t mean learning should take a vacation for two months.

Research shows:

  • Most children will experience some learning loss if they don’t engage in educational enrichment activities over the summer
  • On average, children lose between two to three months of grade level equivalency with math skills suffering the most

And the summer skid doesn’t end when school begins again in the fall:

  • Teachers usually spend the first six to eight weeks of the new year re-teaching lost material.
  • Students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.
  • A loss of three months in elementary school can widen to a gap of 18 months by the end of middle school.
  • Low income children with the least access to summer school and academic enrichment programs experience disproportionally greater learning loss than middle-income students. 

Summer learning loss is a serious problem, but by taking education out of the confines of the classroom and putting it right in the middle of summer playtime, you can stop the learning loss in its tracks. The slower paced more relaxed days of summer provide the perfect backdrop for your children to experience the connection between what they learn in school and why it’s important in real life.  

There are countless ways for you and your children to make summer learning an adventure and not a chore:  

  • Have your child sign up for his or her very own library card and visit your local branch often - in person or online. Your child will discover the library has much more than just books. Libraries have everything from weekly story hours and engaging group activities, to summer reading challenges that encourage children to read as many books as possible.
  • Plant a garden and watch what your hard work produces. Don’t have a yard? No excuse, use flower pots.
  • Make a family documentary, interview older relatives, document their stories and invite everyone to the premiere.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Write a neighborhood newsletter or start a neighborhood website.
  • Take lots of pictures and make your very own picture books. 
  • Put on a puppet show and make everything yourself from puppets to stage. It can be as simple as using paper lunch bags for hand puppets with two chairs and a sheet for the theater. Older children can design their own marionettes and build a wooden stage complete with moving curtain.
  • Make a family cookbook filled with everyone’s favorites. You can even have a “tasting” party for your relatives and give each of them their personal autographed copy.
  • Do something for somebody else. Lead a community service project that helps you and your neighborhood.
  • And let’s not forget about keeping up with academics. The Internet provides a wide assortment of grade appropriate games, puzzles, and worksheets to help sharpen math and reading skills. These are helpful both for children needing to catch up and children wishing to start the new school year with a head start.

The following websites are just a few that can help you find projects and academic supports that are just right for your children:

Scholastic: 6 Ways to Combine Summer fun and Learning

GreatSchools: 10 Fun Ways to Keep Your Child Learning This Summer

Parenting: 101 Fun Things To Do in the Summer

Money Talks News: 14 Free or Dirt-Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

Family Education: Stop the Summer Brain Drain! Sites that build your child's math and reading skills

Learning should be part of everyday is perhaps the single most important lesson that you can teach your child this summer. We start learning from the moment we’re born and continue learning for the rest of our lives. It isn’t confined to a classroom or limited to the courses offered in schools. Learning takes place all the time, all around us, and lessons are found in everything we do.

If you want to guarantee academic success, help your child uncover a personal passion for learning and spark a love for life-long learning. They’ll take it from there!

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