The school year is winding down and it is an opportune time to think about how to keep children engaged and learning. After all, the phenomenon known as “summer slide” shows that many children lose critical skills during the summer break.
The hot, hazy days of summer are an ideal time to support our investment in education by helping young people maintain their skills while discovering their natural abilities, satisfying their curiosities, and expanding their capacities to learn. Without the constraints of a busy school day, children can discover worlds previously unknown and foster new, lasting relationships with their peers and community. These activities can be fun and rewarding, and reinforce the idea that learning is indeed a lifelong endeavor.
Below are five suggested activities for you and your family:
- Read every day. Encourage your child to read at least 30 minutes per day, individually or aloud to you or a younger sibling. Make it fun – they are more likely to enjoy material they choose. Adults can help reinforce the importance by reading themselves, as children will read more if they see adults doing the same. Visit public libraries for resources and to participate in summer programs.
- Make math and writing more accessible by using it in everyday situations. Consider the many ways we use math and writing in our daily lives and ask your kids to do the same. Shopping (including back-to-school) is a perfect opportunity to teach your child how to calculate a budget. Ask your kids to write a letter to a loved one or keep a journal or a to-do list.
- Visit museums, historical landmarks, zoos, aquariums and parks. Our region offers numerous free or low-cost activities to keep minds and bodies active. From experiencing the history of the American Revolution and Industrial Revolution to observing different types of animals and plant life, young people love field trips. Regionally, we are endowed with cultural, historical and recreational resources that can make summer learning an unforgettable experience.
- Take advantage of the weather. Connect science to everyday life. From observing cloud formations and checking weather apps to exploring water evaporation in a pool, ask “why” questions about nature.
- Put down the electronics. Board/card games, puzzles and arts and crafts are an inexpensive way to connect as a family. These activities also promote strategy, problem-solving, reasoning and creativity.
The opportunities for children to develop and practice their reading, writing and math skills are endless, from home activities to family trips. Summer also provides time for young people to interact with their community in meaningful ways – doing volunteer work that instills civic responsibility, sound values and strong character.
As the thermometer soars, so do the stakes in education. Our children must be prepared to meet the rigorous academic standards of today and tomorrow’s challenge of an increasingly interdependent and competitive world economy. All of us – families, schools and communities – have a responsibility to ensure that a vacation from school is not a vacation from learning.
-Dr. Gladys I. Cruz