Hurray for summer and the days of backyard sprinklers, lemonade stands, and nightly neighborhood gatherings for “Capture the Flag.”
Summer is all about relaxing, playing, daydreaming.
It’s all good stuff, except that several researchers, including Harris Cooper of Duke University, find most students lose about a month of the academic gains they have made in the previous school year.
Summer break takes an even bigger toll on underprivileged children who don’t have the benefit of family vacations, sleep-away camps, trips to museums and libraries, and enrichment classes.
Rebecca Lieb and Lindsay Akers, who specialize in helping Akron Children’s patients achieve school success, firmly believe parents can strike the balance between letting kids have fun while avoiding the summer brain drain.
Dr. Lieb is a clinical psychologist, and Akers, a school psychologist in Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center.
“Learning happens in so many ways and when kids least expect it,” said Dr. Lieb. “They learn math skills as they cook with you and help you compare prices in the grocery store. They learn new words when you read to them and you talk through daily activities.”
Some parents use workbooks to keep up academic skills or require time for silent reading each day.
That may work for some kids, but, if it doesn’t, don’t let it become a source of conflict.
“You can achieve the same level of learning by playing a board game, doing crafts, and involving kids in other hands-on activities,” said Akers, who has worked in local school districts and works with parents who have children on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).
Here are some other tips:
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is set aside time each day to read aloud with your children. Don’t quit when they begin reading themselves as you will still be able to read them more difficult material and introduce them to new vocabulary.
“As you read, stop and ask a few prediction and `why’ questions,” said Dr. Lieb. “Ask, `What may happen next? Where do you think the story is going? And why do you think the character did that?’”
Find Fun on the Cheap
Summer enrichment opportunities don’t have to cost a lot of money. Story time and other fun activities at the library are free. Museums and zoos offer discounted admission days. A family membership is a good deal if you plan frequent visits and it gets you into reciprocal institutions.
Libraries enable you to bring new children’s books home weekly. Shop yard sales to affordably build your own permanent collection. You should be able find wonderful titles for a fraction of new book prices.
The Internet is an unlimited resource for parents looking for enrichment ideas. Look for sites that offer games to reinforce math skills and instructions for simple science experiments.
Many children’s book authors have their own sites. With a simple Google search, you can find everything from jump rope rhymes to recipes for summer classics like strawberry shortcake and kick-the-can ice cream.
“A lot of parents and teachers really enjoy the website, Pinterest,” said Akers. “It’s very visual – a virtual bulletin board where you can ‘pin’ and share ideas for crafts, projects, lesson plans, recipes, household organization, and all kinds of fun activities for kids.”
Also watch for Groupons and other online deals on family activities. For example, a recent deal offered half-price tickets for a train ride through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
If your child has a learning delay, is on an IEP or you want a more structured approach to summer learning, by all means, hire a tutor.
“Ask your child’s teacher or principal for the names of active or retired teachers,” said Akers. “They have the added knowledge of knowing your child’s curriculum and may even know your child and his unique learning style.”
Whether your child is an infant, pre-schooler or school age, you can teach much through the most simple of interactions – talking, sharing a meal, playing a board game, going to the park, developing household skills. Limit screen time this summer and the real world will be your child’s best teacher.