Disclosure: Lakeshore provided products to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed within are my own.
We are well into summer now, but don’t be fooled by the Back-to-School displays you are starting to see in stores! Students can lose a significant amount of the skills they have learned in school during the summer. As parents, it is mostly up to us to make sure our kids are at least at the same level when they start school in Fall as when they left their teachers in the spring. However, that is not always easy. I am hoping that this post gives you some easy summer learning ideas that you might even be doing already!
One of the easiest things you can do to support kids’ learning over the summer is to read often. Kids who read gain more incidental vocabulary (vocabulary they pick up through reading or talking) than kids who do not read as often. This vocabulary makes it easier for kids to read and comprehend harder books…thus enabling them to grow faster as a learner.
Be open in what you consider to be reading. My oldest will not read most fiction unless his teacher asks him to. He is a decent reader, but will easily become a reluctant reader if I push him too hard. So, since I want him to read, I surround him with books he WANTS to read. Sports Illustrated for Kids, Dav Pilkey books, and Who Will Win? books are always guaranteed to get him to read voluntarily.
Sneak Learning into Play.
My almost three year old and five year old are OBSESSED with the Alphabet-Bots from Lakeshore.
With the set you get 26 Bots, each one which transforms from a letter to a robot.
My kids will play for hours at a time with these robots, building teams of robots into words they know how to spell (e.g., Team C-A-T).
There are lots of ways to play and learn at the same time. Playing restaurant? Write a menu. Hooked on Skylanders? Create a new character and label his powers. Learning doesn’t need to be formal!
Play Games that Reinforce Skills Learned in School.
My 7 year old has been very interested in board games lately, so it was easy to sneak a few educational ones from Lakeshore into the rotation. This summer, we have been playing Allowance to practice money skills.
In addition, since his teacher mentioned we should continue to work on retelling and comprehension, we are using the game Pirate Island to read for detail and answer questions.
My son loves the “secret decoder” to check his answers, and he totally has not figured out the game is developing his reading skills. I love games that disguise academic skills so well that kids forget they are learning as they play!
Seek Out New Experiences to Build Background Knowledge.
As mentioned earlier, vocabulary plays a huge role in kids’ academic achievement. Another big factor is background knowledge. Without knowledge of a topic, kids have more difficulty comprehending the content. Consider this – do you have an easier time understanding a manual for fixing an engine or an article about macrame? You probably answered the topic that you have more background knowledge about. If you grew up around cars, fixing an engine may not be a foreign concept. If you are a crafter, macrame is likely in your wheelhouse.
By giving kids varied experiences, you develop this vocabulary that will enable them to read and understand science, social studies, and other content discussed in their classrooms. For instance, when in a classroom last year, the teacher read the class a book where rhubarb was a central focus of the plot. Only one child – a child who gardened with his family – knew about rhubarb and traditional rhubarb uses. He learned this from experience.
Go to the zoo, take trips, go to the grocery store, look at the nature around you – and TALK about what you see! You will build your child’s vocabulary and background knowledge with very little extra effort expended!
For instance, this week we went in the salt marshes of South Carolina and learned all about this special habitat!
I like to say that everything I learned in life I learned at camp. From ceramics and archery to zip lining and color war chants, camp gave me variety experiences in my youth that I took with me to adulthood. Likewise, these experiences gave me context to understand so much content that I experienced in school.
Make Learning an Intrinsic Motivated Activity.
As an educator, if I could give parents one piece of summer learning advice, it would be to not have dedicated learning time/activities. Getting a workbook and forcing kids to spend 10 minute or to do a few pages can actually backfire on you! My kids love working in workbooks, but it is because there is no pressure to complete them and we gamify the experience. Finish a workbook? You can “level up”! Try something that you thought was too hard – get a small reward. Regardless, the boys drive formal learning time – not me, and this leads to motivation, willingness to accept challenges, and accomplishment.
Keep a Dialogue Journal
Teachers often keep dialogue journals with their students in order to communicate about books and other academic happenings. Start a journal with your child to write/draw/respond about their summer activities.
Unlock Science and Social Studies in the Everyday.
Science and social studies are all around us. For example, after learning that Revolutionary War troops likely walked through our backyard, we became interested in learning about the local history in our area. Have a carbonated beverage bottle explode when you drop it? After cleaning up the mess, explain to the kids the physics involved. The world around us gives us ample opportunities to learn every day.
What are your favorite ways to promote summer learning? Share your ideas! We would love to hear them!