• Health & Wellness

    Tips for preventing ‘summer slide’

Waterslides and playground slides are part of summer's fun. But there's one slide to avoid when the weather gets warm: the "summer slide." That's the loss over the long summer break of new skills gained during the school year.

Summer slide isn't new, but it has worsened because of education setbacks brought on by the disruption of schooling during the pandemic.

On average, students lose two months of reading skills and nearly three months of math skills during summer break. What that means is they have to relearn those skills before they can move on to new material in the next school year. The good news is that parents and other caregivers can help minimize the learning losses.

While that doesn't necessarily mean enrolling your kids in summer school, it does mean intentionally weaving learning and skills practice into everyday activities.

Starting a summer routine of reading at least 20 minutes a day goes a long way. Let kids choose their own reading material, even if it's below their grade level. Being successful readers will give them a boost of confidence. Look for reading challenges like Pizza Hut's "Book It!" or set up a friendly reading contest with family and friends.

Getting started

Everyday activities are loaded with opportunities for learning. Add in the extras of summer, like spending more time outdoors, free programs offered by libraries and parks, camps and vacations, and you've got some great starting points for schoolwork that doesn't seem like work.

You don't have to go this alone. Involve your kids — and other parents — when possible. Your children will be more excited about learning through the summer months if the activities center on their interests, including new things they'd like to try.

Here are some ideas I've used with my children to help them retain those skills they worked so hard to learn.

At the grocery store, have your student:

  • Write down the grocery list.
  • Read signs throughout the store.
  • Weigh produce.
  • Use a calculator to add up the grocery bill as you go.
  • Compare multiple items/sizes/quantities to determine the best deal.
  • Count the number of items in the cart.

In the kitchen, use cooking and baking for your kids to practice numbers and math:

  • Measure the size of the pan needed.
  • Read recipes out loud.
  • Measure both dry and liquid ingredients.
  • Count the number of ingredients.
  • Cut fruits and vegetables into specific sizes, such as 1/2 of an apple or 1/4 of a banana.
  • Read about healthy eating at sites like MyPlate.
  • Calculate nutrient intake such as calories or protein.
  • Divide foods into portions at meals.

In the car, whether it's a short or long trip, have your kids:

  • Sing songs.
  • Practice spelling by doing a spelling bee.
  • Run through math facts like counting by twos or multiplication tables.
  • Spot objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
  • Read road signs and billboards out loud.
  • Practice directions like turn left or turn south.
  • Turn off the verbal prompts on a map app and read directions out loud.
  • Listen to kid-oriented podcasts on topics like science, space or mysteries

At the park, participate in the park's built-in learning to:

  • Look for and identify different leaves, trees, rocks, insects, clouds, wildflowers and weeds.
  • Listen for birds using a free app like Merlin to identify them by how they look or their songs.
  • Go on a free planned walk like stargazing, butterfly or pond exploration with a naturalist.
  • Sign up for other free programs that capture their interest.
  • Research the name of the park and where it came from.

At the community library, kids can explore these free resources:

  • Check out the various clubs, programs and reading options offered.
  • Choose something new like comic books, magazines, cookbooks or music recordings.
  • Visit the library's exhibits and special events.
  • Sign up for summer reading challenges.
  • Do an in-depth study of a person, place or event in history.

On a trip or vacation, whether for a weekend or week, open up a world of new experiences and learning by:

  • Researching where you're going, what there is to do, the history of the place, how you'll get there and more.
  • Letting them plot your travels on a paper map that you download and print.
  • Having them keep track of the miles, fuel use and costs.
  • Creating a photo album of experiences and findings big and small.
  • Writing and sending postcards.

At home, try some of these activities to spark learning:

  • Play board and card games, do jigsaw puzzles, do word puzzles like crosswords and sudoku.
  • Practice dexterity skills with little ones like tying or fastening shoes, working zippers and buttoning shirts.
  • Buy an inexpensive outdoor thermometer and rain gauge to keep track of weather events and compare findings with professional meteorologists.
  • Learn a new skill like cursive writing, coding or knitting via the internet or books.
  • Become a pen pal with a family member or friend, and write and send paper letters or practice typing skills by sending email messages.
  • Plan a backyard scavenger hunt; older kids can do this on their own.
  • Start a book club or book swap in your neighborhood.
  • Create a scrapbook of the summer with photos, writing and found items.

Summer is the perfect time to teach your kids that learning doesn't just happen in a classroom. Preventing summer slide will require some out-of-the-box thinking by adults, but the effort will be worth it when your students start a new school year ready to keep learning.

Maegen Storm is a nurse practitioner in Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine in Faribault, Minnesota.

This article originally appeared on the Mayo Clinic Health System blog.