There are few things more satisfying than hearing the bell ring on the last day of school for the year, with the knowledge that summer vacation is stretched out before you. I remember those months seemed open-ended with possibility, although now as a parent to a toddler they are a looming source of stress.
Whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, those three months definitely correlate to learning loss. Studies have found that the summer learning loss in math and reading is equivalent to one month per year, but this doubles for children from low-income families – as their children are less likely to go to summer enrichment programs.
However, even if you have nothing planned for your child over the break, there are still things you can do at home to encourage their young
brains to keep working:
- Chat to your child. This may seem really obvious but even if you watch television together and ask questions and encourage opinions, this will help them have a more cerebral approach to life in general and will help them form opinions at school.
- Plan a vacation. This is such a great task for many reasons. Give your child a budget and a time frame. Let them research the place – this encourages reading. Let them work out a plan for each day within the budget. Being able to organise an event is a great skill to have, just ask my husband.
- When you are on vacation ask your child to write a postcard to a family member or friend. Penmanship is still a skill (for now) that a child needs and being able to tell a story is also a wonderful ability to possess. Also it’s a nice task away from the hypnotic glow of a computer screen or tablet.
- If you have older children ask them to cook you dinner. Aside from the planning they will need to do, cooking is great for math and once they have spent more than an hour in the kitchen they may appreciate you a bit more.
- Find out more about your child and their interests. If you see that they are playing a video game set in World War 2, take them to the library and show them some books on the subjects or take them to a museum where they can learn more about some of the events that they are fascinated by.
- Play boardgames with your child, Monopoly is great for math and Scrabble is fantastic for spelling.
- Encourage your child to get a penpal (safely) preferably someone who is their own age and lives in another country. Get them to write to them regularly, old-fashioned letters are best but may be a bit unrealistic.
- Talk to your child’s teacher about topics that are going to be covered next year. If impressionists are covered in art, then take your child to a local art gallery. If fractions are going to be introduced in math, then make a cake with your child and get them to assemble ingredients (make sure the recipe has fractions in it). This will help your child relate their education to real life events.
- Encourage your child to read and choose a book together. You should try and read the same book with them and discuss the characters, plot and outline. What parts made them want to keep reading? What parts made them want to stop?
- Try and encourage as much physical exercise during the break as possible. Whether it’s a long walk with you or an outdoor sports game with a friend. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.