Education, Parenting

Avoiding The Summer Slide

Educators and researchers are getting a little concerned about what happens to all of the momentum and learning from the school year that seems to go on hiatus over the summer.

The National Summer Learning Association reports that that, at best, children show no growth or advancement over the summer. At worst, students lost two to three months of learning. Students who do not have access to stimulating and informational summer programs show the greatest losses but they are not the only ones. Studies show that the “summer slide” is somewhat greater in math—especially computation—and in spelling than in reading.

It may be that reading skills are more likely to be maintained because parents and families are more aware of the need for reading and more familiar with activities that support this skill set. So the first step to combatting “the summer slide” is to shift our thinking about what kinds of activities enhance learning and build skills that children need without taking away the fun and relaxation of summer family time.

Let’s start by thinking academically. Is there a subject or skill that your child enjoys? Encourage it. Send a child who likes to experiment to a science camp; get a child who enjoys books hooked up with the library or form a book club or just keep a journal of everything he reads. Got a story lover? Go to museums and take the tours. You and your child can learn.

Keep thinking. Maybe there is a subject or skill your child struggles with. Summer is an opportunity to find a fun way to build those skills without the pressures of the classroom. A child who doesn’t like math may enjoy using a scale with weights, or measuring everything in her room, or figuring out how many two-inch brownies can be cut out of a 9×13 baking dish. Combine reading and math skills to survey friends and family on favorite fruits or colors and graph the results. Got a story lover? Go to museums and parks and take the tours. You and your child can learn about art, history, and more just by listening to relevant stories.

Some children really need the break from structure, while others will enjoy setting goals and then breaking their own records. As long as they are enjoying the process, learning is happening. If it becomes a chore, rethink it!


Here are some basic guidelines to help ensure that your child will “keep up the good work”

    1. Keep it simple.  Do not burden your child with rudimentary drills such as site words or math tables. Children learn best through hands on activities and exploration.


    1. Make it relevant and natural.  If you are driving and come to a stop sign or red light, use it as a teaching moment.  Encourage your child to think like a scientist by exploring possibilities (“You love rolling your ball down that ramp.  What do you think might make it roll faster?  Slower?”). Curiosity is contagious!


    1. Have fun and be creative.  Use board games to reinforce colors and critical thinking skills. Give your child chalk to write numbers or the alphabet on the sidewalk, or to draw pictures of different types of weather. Encourage play with building materials, such as blocks or boxes, which uses concepts related to spatial reasoning.



By Jenni Evans, The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital

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