Your children probably look forward to summer vacation, which gives them a chance to slow down and recharge their batteries after an intense school year. There’s a downside to summer, though, and it’s called the summer slide.
“All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer,” says the National Summer Learning Association. Studies have shown that kids actually do worse on a test taken in the fall compared with the exact same test taken just a few months earlier. And most children lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer, with low-income students also suffering a drop in reading ability.
The good news is parents and other caregivers can help children prevent learning loss. The National Summer Learning Association has plenty of suggestions for activities to do with your kids. You can read to each other, participate in your local library’s summer reading program, explore parks and nature preserves, visit museums and other cultural centers and practice simple math — even when just in the kitchen or out shopping at the store. You can also touch base with your child’s teacher to ask him or her what your child should work on over the summer.
Here are some materials for you and your family to check out together. Yes, they’re educational, but they’re enjoyable, too.
The first time I heard about Flat Stanley it was because my niece’s school assigned the book and activity as a summer project. Basically, your flat friend gets folded up and mailed to someone. That someone takes photos of Stanley in action (bonus points for cool shots like surfing or visiting a national park) and then sends him back, so the student can write up an article about what Stanley did on his vacation. Find out more at the Flat Stanley website, which will even hook you up with other Flat Stanley participants. Think of it as pen pal 2.0!
If you’d like help coming up with some excellent book suggestions, visit Reading Is Fundamental, which lists 10 years of Caldecott winners, 10 years of Newbery winners, multicultural books and young adult books.
In honor of Maurice Sendak, my kids and I are going to check out his titles, including beloved classics such as “In the Night Kitchen” ($11.21; Amazon) and “Where the Wild Things Are” ($11.28; Amazon).
Keep science thrilling with The Young Scientists Club’s “Magic School Bus Science Club,” a subscription series for children ages 5 and up. Each month, your kid will get a package with themed science experiments — courtesy of Ms. Frizzle and crew — exploring topics such as stars, planets, fossils and volcanoes. Each kit is $19.99, or prepay for 12 months for $239.88.
Joan Holub, author of “Zero the Hero” ($11.55; Amazon), says she wrote her picture book in part to teach place-holding and arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction and rounding. But her main goal was to write a fun story kids could enjoy about the lowly Zero who proves his importance to all the other numbers. Another enjoyable math book for younger kids is “You Can Count on Monsters” ($24.95; Amazon) by Richard Evan Schwartz. Counting plus monsters equals awesomeness.
Andrea Pyros lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she raises her two kids and writes for http://theinsider.retailmenot.com/ — the online magazine of RetailMeNot, the No. 1 online coupon site in the world.