6 Tips for Beating the Summer Learning Slide

by: Dwight Tracy https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

by: Dwight Tracy
https://freerangestock.com/photos/6708/beach-vacations-scenes.html

Summer is here! The weather is warm and kids are out of school, which makes it the perfect season to enjoy beaches, pools, lakes, cookouts and vacations. For most kids, it’s the absolute best time of year! But it is also the season for that dreaded summer slide. Research has shown that over the summer, kids lose an average of 2 months of math achievement and the losses are even greater in reading! The learning loss is cumulative, which means that those kids who experience summer learning losses every year in reading, will lose an average of 2.5 years of achievement by the time they reach middle school. Scary!! But don’t worry, we have a few easy tips to help slow-down, and maybe even reverse, that summer slide.

1. Make Reading A Priority

For young children, make books readily available in all of their spaces and make sure you read to them every single day. Start this when they are infants, although you may feel silly, it is so good for them!

For school-aged children, reading 5 to 6 chapter books over the summer can be enough to prevent reading losses*.  Take trips to the library during the summer and allow kids to pick out books themselves. Perhaps spend some time reading there. Hopefully, during the school year you already have a designated reading time, but increase the amount of time kids spend reading during the summer. Maybe instead of one reading time in the evening, have an additional one in the morning and/or afternoon.

For some kids, a reading chart helps to keep them on track and offers a sense of achievement and motivation to keep going (that competitive drive can be a high motivator!).

Don’t forget reading out loud! You can read to your kids, even if they are older, and always make sure your kids read to you. For some practical tips on reading out loud, check out our blog post on the benefits of reading.

2. Limit Screen Time

If you have read our blog post on the Intentional use of Technology, you will see why we believe that technology can help our children gain invaluable skills that will be increasingly necessary in our modern world. However, we should not let our kids simply vegetate and watch a screen or play video games 24 hours a day. Limit their time to no more than 2 hours a day and make sure that they are doing something purposeful with it. Playing with learning Apps such as Spanish Safari, learning some computer coding, and doing internet research are encouraged uses of technology. Even watching a fun movie as a family has great value! But make sure they get plenty of other activities and physical exercise.

3. Summer Camps

Summer Camps are wonderful opportunities for children to socialize and learn new skills. Many sports, museums, zoos, beaches, and schools offer summer camps and enrichment activities. If you are able to, take advantage of camps offered in your area. Many will offer weekly and daily rates so that you don’t have to commit to the entire summer.

4. Plan A Family Trip

Are you able to go on vacation this summer? Well, let your child(ren) help plan the trip! Provide them with maps, brochures, and help them do an internet search to come up with an itinerary. This will get them reading and researching, but it will be exciting and it will give them agency in the family trip.

5. Science, Math & Art Activities

Design enrichment opportunities and fun activities to keep them busy. This will keep them challenged and be great exercise for their brains. You don’t have to do them every day, but if you can manage to set some things up for them a couple times a week, it can go a long way in combating learning losses, but it can also offer up some great entertainment. If you are looking for some inspiration, check out our Pinterest boards. We have collected many simple, fun, and educational activities from some of the best that the internet has to offer!

6. Kick Them Out!

It may sound harsh, but seriously, let the kids go outside. And keep them outside. They will release a lot of energy, they will be physically active, and your house will stay much cleaner! You can provide them with some toys and outdoor activities, but remember, it is not your job to entertain your children. They need to be able to entertain themselves! Just set some ground rules, depending on their age and where you live, and let them play!

Summer time can be a welcomed relief for students, teachers, and even parents. There is something to be said for taking a break from the hectic school year. There’s no denying that children need free time to unwind, explore, and practice decision-making and time-management. However, they also need to have some guidance on how they spend their summer months in order to prevent learning losses, but also to prevent unhealthy habits and weight gain. Because let’s face it, if given the choice, most kids and teenagers would choose to sit around in front of their screen(s) all summer, eating junk food and wasting away. (Hey! Many of us adults would make the same choices if we didn’t have an example to set, am I right?)

What do you think of these ideas? Do you have some more to share with us? Join the conversation and leave us a comment!

*http://www.trelease-on-reading.com/summer-reading.pdf

Three Hacks to Get the Most Out of Screen Time & Technology for Children

Photo by Tum Gouw Creative Commons Zero https://unsplash.com/@punttim

Photo by Tum Gouw
 Creative Commons Zero
 https:[email protected]

Technology makes our lives easier. However, many of us live in constant fear that tech gadgets are “taking over our lives”. Even if this is true, with some helpful tips and self discipline, we can make sure that we are still in control!

Most adults can remember what it was like before we had a tiny computer in our pockets dictating our every move. But for our children? Well, they know no such world. My one-year-old picks up anything that resembles a phone and speaks into it “hellooooo”. My almost three-year-old (yikes!! I can’t believe she is almost three…) can work a tablet with no problem. This is their reality and it is the world in which we must parent. So, how can we make sure technology empowers our children and enhances their life experiences, instead of it turning them into zombies that can’t function without it?

The Answer Is Time Management & Intentionality

Limiting the time our children spend with screens in front of their faces is important. Excessive screen time not only leaves children looking and acting like those zombies we dread, but it takes away from so many other activities they need to participate in in order to fully grow and develop. Reading, active play, speaking and communicating with others are all extremely important activities that are hindered by excessive screen time.

But beyond the screen, we also need to think about their play time. What kind of toys are they playing with? Do they have a lot of bells and whistles? Do they use batteries? The less a toy does, the better it is for their development! Take a moment and think about how your child plays. Does he or she KNOW how to play? If you stick them outside will they entertain themselves?

I have to check myself often. My kids have so much access to technology, that I have to intentionally create time and activities in which they will use their imaginations. A couple of weeks ago, we were out in our front yard visiting with neighbors. The girls were looking for something to do and my first thought was “hey, let me go bring them some toys for them to play outside.” And then I stopped myself. Why not let them flex those imagination muscles? So, we set up an outdoor kitchen and I picked up a couple of leaves and told my daughter to cook some chicken with it. Next thing I know, she is running through the yard looking for all kinds of “food” to cook in her new play kitchen. It was amazing!

My Three Rules For Better Technology Usage:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
    The first step is actually doing some simple research on a show, app, toy or video game. Watch it or play it for yourself first! You need to decide if there is any educational value in what they are watching and whether they are learning inappropriate behaviors from the show or whether it goes against your family values. Just because something is made “for children” does not mean the content is great for them. If you find that your child is behaving a certain way, maybe whining, screaming, kicking and punching, it may very well be something they are watching or playing with.
  2. CONSTANT INTERACTION
    The second step is to interact with your child before, during, and/or after his or her time with a tech gadget. Children learn the most from interpersonal interaction! So, something as simple as having a conversation about what they are watching or playing will really help cement what they have learned. Describe what is happening (especially for younger children), explain things that seem to be too complicated for them, and ask open-ended questions. Taking the 5 to 10 minutes to do this will really make such a difference!
  3. BRING TECHNOLOGY TO LIFE
    The third and final piece is to bring some of these experiences to life! Try to plan activities or outings that go along with a show or game that your child really enjoys. Is your child playing a literacy game? Well, create some literacy games to play at home! Does your child love a particular show or movie? Pretend to be the characters from said show or movie, play a memory game with those characters on it, draw a comic strip based on them, etc. For some great hands-on activities that you can adapt to your child’s interests, be sure to follow us on Pinterest!

Technology can be great if it is purposeful and intentional. There are many educational shows, apps (like Spanish Safari), and video games that can open up a whole new world of learning and possibilities for your kids. Children can learn literacy and math skills, see places they have never seen, practice a new language, and even learn decision making and empathy from some of these well-made products. However, this will not happen by just passively watching television or playing video games for hours on end.

As parents, we are all trying to do the best for our kids.  Let’s not fear our tech world or just be passive observers. Make it work for you and your family! Set boundaries on technology and encourage them to explore, learn, and be active!

What about you? How do you make tech gadgets work for your family? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Related Reading:
*HealthyChildren.org
*Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
*American Academy of Pediatrics