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10 Tips to Avoid the Summer Slide & Sneak Learning into Play

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

It’s official. School’s out for summer!



The playground in our neighborhood got a total makeover just in time for summer break. It was in desperate need – all the metal was rusting and one of the 3 slides present was missing half the bottom landing so children who dared to use it ended up tumbling directly out onto the old and always damp mulch. Now the whole thing is bright, fresh, bigger, and better. I attended the grand opening party with my son and he was a fast fan, even of the enormous (and slightly terrifying) 3 story slide. He climbed his little legs all the way up the steps and ramps to the top and fearlessly dove right into the plastic tube, careening down at high speed and popping out at the end, his face lighting up even more when he saw me waiting for him, clapping at what a brave boy he is and encouraging him to keep going and exploring. His absolute favorite thing at every park is the tallest slide he can find, and I completely get it because I remember the rush and freedom of the wind in my own face as a kid. And as long as the playground slide is the only one we participate in, I’ll be a happy mama.



What is the Summer Slide?

The “summer slide” refers to the regression in skills that occurs in children during the summer months when they’re focus on education is a little more lax. On average, children can lose up to 2 months worth of knowledge and skills over the summer, and even scarier is that it’s cumulative – meaning that each summer puts the child further behind and they can’t catch up even after returning to school. By high school, children can have a gap in performance of between 2-5 years. It’s estimated that teachers spend around 6 weeks at the beginning of each school year just to recap and re-teach the knowledge from the previous year that children lost during the summer break.


How do I stop the Summer Slide?

Studies show that just 15-20 minutes of reading a day and 2-3 hours per week dedicated to working on educational skills can dramatically reduce the effect of the summer slide in children. Reading 4-6 books during the entirety of summer break can even reverse the summer slide statistics! But I know what you’re thinking. “That all sounds great, but it’s going to be WW3 to get my child to do schoolwork during school break!” But with a little creativity and the list I’m about to share here, you’re going to be set for summer!




How do I get my child to participate in education while on summer break?

Great news – it can be super simple! I think us grown ups tend to overcomplicate things because it’s just what our brains are used to, but sometimes you just have to take a moment to scale back and you’ll see that almost any situation can be used as a teaching moment. These are my top activity suggestions for beating the summer slide in your house this year:


1. Garden together. Whether it’s vegetables, herbs and spices, or flowers, gardening is a learning activity all it’s own (I’m still a novice, but I’m trying!). It’s an easy opportunity to discuss nutrition, the science of pollination and photosynthesis, or even just bugs!

Create garden labels so you don’t forget what you planted where, and let your child do the writing.


2. Similarly, just taking a nature walk can be extremely beneficial in opening opportunities for communication about nature and science. Count the butterflies you see, collect cool rocks, see how many items you can find for letters of the alphabet. The possibilities are endless!


3. Cook together. Yes, it will be a slower meal prep and probably twice as messy, but cooking is an easy, fun, and amazing way to teach math and reading skills by following recipes, measuring ingredients, mixing, etc. Plus, you get the added bonus of eating something delicious afterwards.


4. Schedule a family game night and opt for games with an educational theme. Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Patty-Pillar, and Catch and Count Fishing Rod are all fun games for little ones that encourage learning colors, numbers, and critical thinking. Are your kids too old for those? Choose a card game and place your bets with sweet treats!


5. Visit local learning institutions. Local historic sites, children’s museums, and botanical gardens are all great community places to plan a family outing. Not sure how to find interesting historical places in your area? Check out this list by state and county!


6. Visit your local library. Most libraries will do a summer reading program for children that includes a lot of fun activities on site or that can be picked up and taken home. The take home crafts are always a hit, and being in the library more often means more access to books, which we already know leads to a bigger interest in reading! Libraries also have a wonderful digital selection that you can access from anywhere now, too.


7. Join a reading challenge. This can also be something offered by your public library, but if you missed sign ups or prefer something more low kay or personal, you can always create

your own. Maybe it’s creating the habit of one hour of quiet time after dinner each night, where you can also be an example of learning to your children. Maybe you set a daily 15

rewarding with this free printable reward chart for that little bit of extra motivation!


8. Encourage your child to write. They could write letters to family that live out of state or to friends that are spending the summer away. They could even do creative writing prompts or a daily journal to document something fun or good that they experience each day.


9. Listen to audiobooks. Have a long car ride ahead? Load up on some audiobooks and get your kiddo listening! You can use apps and services such as Audible (10 day free trial on Plus) or Kindle, or you can check out the online services available through your local library and public school systems through Overdrive, Libby, and Sora. Check out my mini-tutorial on IG about accessing the digital freebies with just a device and your library card ➡


10. Find educational apps for tablets and phones. Teachyourmonster.org has fun games for literacy and math skills. Amazon Kids has a ton of great games with favorite cartoon characters that are geared toward math and reading skills, too. My son’s current favorite is a cooking game that teaches the alphabet through multiple different kinds of mini-games, such as finger tracing letters to expose food items or filling a shopping cart with foods that start with certain letters.


I'd love to hear other ideas that I can add to my list for future reference. Share the ways you incorporate learning into summer fun.

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