Your child’s academic intellect is like a muscle. If they don’t use it, atrophy sets in.
There’s no better example than summer learning loss. Kids in general lose about 1 or more months of math and reading skills over the summer. The loss is even more significant for low-income children.
Short of sending your kids to summer school, you have options to keep them sharp during the summer, said clinical psychologist Rebecca Lieb, director of the Autism Diagnostic Clinic and School Success Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The key is to keep it light and build in a reward system, Dr. Lieb said.
“Short little bursts of learning is probably the best way to get buy in,” she said. “Even twice a week for 10 minutes a day is beneficial.”
- Library programs are ideal. The Akron-Summit County Public Library offers “Mind, Body & Sole,” a reading and exercise program that awards prizes and gives out freebies.
“Any program that has a positive reinforcement component is great,” Dr. Lieb said.
- Come up with your own reward program. Have your child do a math worksheet a couple times a week for extra time at the pool or extra screen time.
- Cooking and shopping are great ways to keep younger kids sharp. In the kitchen, they have to figure out directions, measurements, fractions and double recipes. The reward could be a batch of cookies or favorite treat. In the store, have them figure out what 10 percent off means or how sales tax affects the price.
“There are a lot of different ways you can find math problems throughout the day,” Dr. Lieb said. “It’s a good outcome. They got the shirt they wanted but they have to use their brain and do the math to figure out the 40 percent discount.”
- Travel is an opportunity to sneak in some learning. Have the kids read about historical sites or attractions, hunt for landmarks, calculate mileage or estimate travel time based on speed and distance. If you go to an amusement park, have them read up on roller coaster physics and apply what they learn.
“They get to ride the coaster. That’s the reward,” Dr. Lieb said.
- Consider educational apps. Dr. Lieb recommends commonsensemedia.org and PBSKids.org to find the best learning apps.
- An hour a week of tutoring can help a struggling child prepare for the new school year. Teachers often tutor in the summer. Check with your school district for a list of tutors.
Summer is a wonderful time for kids, but the long layoff from school can have a significant impact.
“The first part of the school year is spent reviewing because it’s hard to dive into new material when students aren’t on a level playing field,” Dr. Lieb said.
“It’s not just about learning either. Kids have to get into the mode of being a student, of studying, staying organized and getting out of bed 2 hours earlier. That all can have an impact on academics.”