It’s every parent’s secret fear. That your child’s brain is really turning to mush this summer. All that pool water is making anything she happened to learn last year dissolve quicker than you think.
Take a deep breath. And read on. We’ve asked some experts – real teachers – exactly what your child should be doing every week all summer long to make sure he is ready for school in the fall.
“First and foremost, kids need rest,” says Michelle Hamilton, a second grade teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. “Summer break was designed for a reason. Because kids – and teachers – need that time to recharge their batteries. Parents need to make sure their children have lots of down time over the summer. This helps make the start of school more exciting in the fall.”
Though parents know this, it seems difficult for many to find the balance between structured camp settings and classes, and plain old free time for kids. Having both is good. Finding the balance is hard. Whatever day camps you plan for your child to attend this summer, make sure their days are filled with fun activities: swimming, sports, camping, crafts. The goal is to prevent this from seeming like school of any sort.
But what about learning? With the plethora of workbooks and educational materials targeted especially for summer, parents can feel the pressure that their child needs to be filling out worksheets in order to stay ahead. Instead, parents can focus on giving their child fun coloring pages, creating arts and crafts projects, and playing outdoor games that offer positive, no-pressure recreation with a dash of learning.
Here are some other ideas from teachers we surveyed:
- Read. Read to your child. Have your child read to you. Just read. Though it may sound obvious, it is the most highly-recommended activity by teachers. Older students likely get suggested summer reading lists from their schools. Make sure to monitor their progress for the whole summer, preventing students from waiting until a week before school resumes to pick those up. Younger readers can’t afford to take a break from reading. It can set their fluency and comprehension back, which can make them feel frustrated and unhappy about reading. The key is to read small amounts every day. A first grader, for example, should spend 5-10 minutes reading to a grown-up 5 days a week. And lots of other time listening as the grown-up reads to him. Need some great book picks? Check out our Summer Reading section.
- Target any area that was difficult for your child and use the summer as a time to catch-up. Did you notice he struggled with counting coins? Make sure to pull out the piggy bank this summer. Was writing painful and lagging? Buy a blank journal and model all the fun ways to use it. The key here is to remove pressure from the practice by incorporating learning into real-world situations.
- A little counting doesn’t hurt. For elementary students, math facts are easy to embed in their brains over the summer. Adding, multiplying, whatever the level – find a way to make a game out of it and use that time in the car to get in a little practice. Little being the key word. While you don’t want to go overboard, a few minutes spent reviewing each week can keep those numbers active in their brains. Games such as Multiplication Math War, Terrific Tens Go Fish, and Tic-tac-toe with an Added Twist make for great summer activities.
- Help your child learn about what she likes. If you have a horse-lover, summer is the perfect time for lessons. A child who thinks pyramids are cool might like to check out some books on Egypt from the library. Throughout the school year, kids learn about what they are told to learn about. Summer is the perfect time for learning to happen in a more organic way. Ask your child what she’s curious about. You may be surprised at her answer.
It’s always a good idea to ask your child and your child’s teacher what they think she should be doing over the summer. Together, you can make a plan for a summer that’s filled with loads of fun, plenty of rest, and kid-centered learning.