5 Ways to Stop the Summer Slide
By Christina Katz
Summer is upon us—and so is the dreaded summer slide. But never fear. Believe it or not, you can prevent learning loss with a DIY at-home enrichment program that employs these ideas.
Issue a reading challenge. Your children’s brains will definitely turn to mush if you let them do nothing but play video games and watch TV. So sign them up for Sonoma County Library’s summer reading challenge (sonomalibrary.org)—or even create your own. We buy our daughter eight age-appropriate, reading-challenge books before school gets out. The rule is she must read for at least a half-hour on weekday mornings before she can do anything else. The half-hour often turns into an hour, or even hours, depending on the book. Keep your costs down by borrowing books, or buying second-hand books or e-books.
Ban cell phones in the a.m. In our house, phones are viewed as a privilege, not a right. As long as we pay for them, we get to model healthy cell phone behaviors no matter what the other parents are doing. So we don’t use cell phones until noon, every day, even when it’s not summer. The idea is that, instead of staring at a screen, Samantha could be doing something enriching or creative with her brain. However, we make an exception if the screen is being used in pursuit of self-expression. So if she wants to look up fashions from different periods so she can render them more accurately in her fashion notebook, that’s allowable. We also permit a quick phone check first thing in the morning to wish someone a happy birthday or to reply to a message.
Tackle life-skill projects. Teaching your child new skills can be a fun way to share your knowledge. Examples might be creating a garden with a toddler or preschooler, cooking a small meal with an elementary school child, redecorating a room with a tween, or balancing a checkbook with a teen. Such projects are great bonding opportunities. Heading out together to select seeds, shop for food, decide on paint colors, and visit the bank turns the mundane into a shared adventure. As parents, we know a lot, but we often don’t take the necessary time to share what we know. Summer is the perfect time to connect while pursuing age-appropriate training.
Schedule daily, weekly, and monthly chores. Before summer begins, sit down and make a chores list for each child. Divide it up into daily, weekly, and monthly chores so kids can’t wiggle out of helping with big jobs like cleaning out the garage or washing the cars. Kids like to feel like they are graduating to more sophisticated chores the older they get, so make sure the level of chore difficulty matches each child’s aptitudes and abilities. Kids can feel proud of pitching in, whether they simply empty the dishwasher daily, clean their rooms weekly, or do yard work with the whole family every other week.
Learn something fun. If you want to teach your kids that learning can be fun, put them in charge of exploring a topic they are excited about and watch what happens. Look for summer learning opportunities through your child’s school, local library, YMCA, or community center. In addition, video-training series are available online. Just make sure you screen the instructor, website, and material for security and age-appropriateness. You can even help your kids create their own curriculum using books and videos.
If you have company or go to someone else’s home, let the enrichment routine go for the sake of enjoying the moment. Routines create structure, which increase kids’ feelings of stability and security. But don’t be afraid to bounce the routine in favor of an impromptu trip to the beach.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz is a creative type who loves routines. She also loves bagging the routine in favor of a spur-of-the-moment adventure with the family, which is what summer is all about.