Learning over the summer might sound counterintuitive – after all, summer is a break from school.
But not only is it necessary to prevent learning loss, with these best 4 learning activities to avoid the summer slide, you can also make it a fun experience for your kids too!
First things first – what is the summer slide? You might have heard the term or some variation of it before.
The summer slide is a phenomenon that researchers and neuroscientists have verified through years of research.
Over the summer break, kids tend to lose some of the learning they picked up while in school, often related to reading and math skills.
According to clinical and pediatric psychologist Dr. Katrina Lindsay, this loss can amount to 1-2 months of learning loss, and more for those experiencing learning challenges.
Why Does This Happen?
Neuroscience explains this through the concept of neuroplasticity.
When you learn new things, your brain creates new associations between your neurons or brain cells for that knowledge.
The more you reinforce what you’ve learned, these associations grow more robust and become stored in your long-term memory.
The brain has an almost limitless capacity to learn new things and benefits from doing so.
It improves your capacity for learning and memory, and even reduces the likelihood of degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s developing later in life.
On the other hand, if you don’t actively learn and recall certain information and experiences, your brain will decide it’s unimportant, and the associations will wither away.
As you can see, not having to go to school and not having regular homework can lead your kids to lose learning skills simply because their brain is not actively reinforcing these associations.
Younger kids, who are still picking up foundational skills in math and reading, and kids who experience learning difficulties, might be the most susceptible to the summer slide.
But the kids need a break, too.
After all, they’ve been looking forward to summer, and not having any schoolwork for a couple of weeks.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can counteract learning loss – starting with these best 4 learning activities to prevent the summer slide.
Best 4 Learning Activities to Prevent the Summer Slide
1. Reading by Choice
Unlike school, where reading is mandatory to perform well, your kids get to pick whatever they want to read over the summer break.
This could be fiction and nonfiction books, comics and graphic novels, newspapers, and magazines, catalogs, and TV guides – there are so many options.
The key is to encourage your child to explore reading in connection to something they enjoy.
Try out different genres of fiction, or different subjects that spark your child’s interest, like space or the different species of butterflies or their favorite athlete.
If they enjoyed a film on TV adapted from a book, encourage them to read the source material and see how the two compare.
Reading for fun – while making sure the level is not too easy or too difficult – keeps all the reading skills your kids practice in school in action while making it enjoyable and effortless.
This, in turn, reinforces the relevant neural pathways related to these skills and converts them into longer-term memory.
In fact, studies suggest that those who read and enjoy fiction improve their brain’s neuroplasticity.
You transport yourself to a different world, experience a bunch of different things and emotions, activating your imagination – all the while sitting at home with a book in your hands!
Reading is a powerful learning strategy, and reading for fun ensures that you build up this necessary skill while creating a healthy lifelong learning habit.
As a result, reading for fun naturally takes the number 1 spot for the best 4 learning activities to prevent the summer slide.
Summer is the perfect time to whip out the chef hats and aprons – and all those measuring cups!
Cooking is an excellent learning activity because it builds up so many different learning skills.
You read the recipe, measure out the ingredients, and pick up techniques all based on science (e.g., why would dropping an egg from the fridge straight into boiling water make it crack open?)
Search up recipes together, write or print them out, and guide your child safely around the kitchen to come up with your next culinary masterpiece.
Your child learns how to carefully read, understand, and execute instructions this way, for starters.
More so if they’ve made mistakes, like using a tablespoon of vanilla essence instead of a teaspoon.
Don’t get upset or discourage them for making mistakes!
Teach them to view these things as a learning experience, so they don’t repeat it and learn the importance of thoroughly reading the recipe through.
If they get stuck or don’t understand an instruction or technique, explain it to them, show them, or look up tutorials together.
The entire process of learning something new improves neuroplasticity, both for your child and yourself!
So cooking and learning new recipes can be a great learning and memory-enhancing experience for you both!
Since cooking also requires measurements, this is another great way to sharpen your child’s basic math skills.
If you’re making half the serving size of one recipe, how much of the ingredients are you going to need?
If you’re making twice the serving size, how much will you need?
What does “oz.” mean? What does “fl oz.” mean?
Learning like this won’t feel like a chore because your child feels involved and invested in the activity.
The learning is happening almost as a byproduct!
3. Going Out
Whether it’s a holiday to another country or a trip to the park, exploring physical environments also contributes to improved neuroplasticity.
Museums, exhibitions, art fairs, and so on are great places to encounter and learn new things.
If something sparks your child’s interest, you’ll find them poring over brochures and plaques to learn more.
Even a trip to the grocery store can be a learning experience.
You can give your child an amount of money and tell them they can pick up whatever they want, but it has to squarely round off to the amount you gave them.
This would incentivize them to put those math skills to work!
You could get them to read out the names of specific products to you or be in charge of the grocery list.
You can solicit their help and tell them to go find the laundry aisle and a specific product there while you finish stocking up on pasta.
Or you can ask their advice on whether a box of cereal which costs less than another box is worth the price, considering how many grams of product you’re buying.
Even ordinary activities out of the home can play a role in reinforcing your child’s learning skills, making them one of the best 4 learning activities to prevent the summer slide!
4. Games and Quizzes
Family quiz night can become great learning opportunities for your kids, too!
You might be playing games geared specifically towards learning math and reading – but classic board games like Scrabble and Monopoly build up your kids’ underlying skills too!
Have your child be the banker, and be patient as they figure out how much cash to collect from players, how much change to give back, etc.
Get them to read out the instructions on the Chance and Community Chest cards, and the rules of what to do if someone lands on your property.
Meanwhile Scrabble incentivizes them to learn new words and improve their spelling, sharpening their cognitive skills as they string words together with a limited set of letters!
With these best 4 learning activities to prevent the summer slide, I hope you can keep your kids entertained throughout the summer, while also keeping their learning skills polished!
Let me know which of these activities you’re planning to try out first!
Pat Wyman is a learning expert, university instructor, best-selling author and the CEO of HowtoLearn.com. She invites you to take the free Learning Styles Quiz on the home page.
Her courses, Total Recall Learning™ for Students, Total Recall Learning for Professionals™, Total Recall Speed Reading™and Total Recall Memory™ have benefited over half a million learners with higher grades, increased productivity and the ability to know how to read faster, learn and remember anything.
She’s worked with people in such corporations as Microsoft, Raychem and Sandvine and has won several life-time achievement awards for her work. Pat is a mom, golden retriever lover and big time San Francisco Giants fan! Come on by if you’re ever at a Giant’s game and she’ll welcome you with open arms.