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How to Combine Learning and Fun

5 tips to keep kids’ brains active and avoid the summer slide

(Family Features) Summer break provides a chance for kids to cut loose and enjoy the freedom of a less structured schedule. However, as parents and teachers know well, months away from academic pursuits can make for a rocky start to a new school year come fall.

During the time when students lose some of the achievement gains they made during the school year, known as the “summer slide,” parents can help kids avoid this learning recession and stay engaged with these tips and ideas from the experts at KinderCare.

Read and learn as a family. Research from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education shows that spending time reading and writing as a family and encouraging kids to read on their own has a bigger impact on preventing summer slide than any other activity. Find books, poems or even museum display cards that correlate to places you see or visit during the summer. Take turns reading a chapter book with an older child or start a new series to read together.

Don’t forget math. Over the summer, math skills often fall by the wayside, according to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Experts recommend getting creative to prevent math learning loss. For instance, ask children to help add prices in the grocery store or assist in measuring and counting while cooking together in the kitchen. Math can also be part of outdoor play. Children of all ages can count objects they find outside, like the number of trees in the neighborhood or the number of rocks collected on a nature walk. If it’s too hot to go outside, count and sort items like blocks or toys by shape, size and color indoors.

Get up, get out and get moving. One of the healthiest uses of summer time is free and available to all: nature. According to research by North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative, kids who spend more time playing outside are better creative problem solvers and have improved focus and cognitive skills. Outdoor play can be adventurous, like hiking, or it can be simple, like a backyard scavenger hunt for certain leaves, flowers or bugs.

Resist the urge to let screens do the work. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents balance the need for media literacy with reasonable limits on screen time. For children over the age of 2, one hour of screen time is enough. For children under 18 months, screen time should be discouraged. Between 18-24 months, high-quality educational media is appropriate when supervised by parents.

Encourage social and emotional development. Researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University have found that students lose around 7% of their progress in social interpersonal skills for each month they are out of school, likely caused by children spending less time around their peers. Scheduling play dates or enrolling children in summer programs can help offset the backslide by helping children build friendships, increase self-confidence and model independence.

Learn more about how you can prevent summer slide through fun, educational summer activities and programs in your area at KinderCare.com.

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