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Summer Slide: Tips for Keeping Your Whole Child Active this Summer

Photo by Per Swantesson / Stocksy / 1265528
Photo by Per Swantesson / Stocksy

For parents, summer break is often less of a break and more of a headache. Finding the right way to spend those three months can be daunting. To help parents make the right decisions about how children should spend their summer, we’ve combed the research and compiled proven tips to help your child continue to develop mentally, emotionally, and physically over the summer.

1. Read and learn as a family to prevent summer learning loss

The good news? Parents have a lot of control when it comes to summer learning loss prevention. 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.

2. Go to your local library for summer reading help

As if we needed more reasons to love libraries!  The Collaborative Summer Library Program found that children who visited the library were less likely to suffer summer learning loss. So check out your local library. They may have a summer reading program to that can help. Or simply let kids loose in the stacks to find books that interest them.

Photo by Evgenij Yulkin / Stocksy / 1865956
Photo by Evgenij Yulkin / Stocksy

3. Don’t forget math, the unsung hero of summer learning loss prevention!

You’re probably used to the idea of summer reading. But summer 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 up prices in the grocery store, or help with measuring and counting while cooking together in the kitchen.

4. Plan your summer vacation around educational activities

Find time in your family vacation for enriching educational activities like exploring museums, visiting cultural and historical sites, and exposing your children to the arts. The Collaborative Summer Library Program’s summer slide research shows that children who have access to extracurricular activities are not as likely to forget what they learned over the summer.

Photo by Bruce and Rebecca Meissner / Stocksy / 1973251
Photo by Bruce and Rebecca Meissner / Stocksy

5. Get up, get out, and get moving to support whole child health 

Parents rejoice! 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 benefit in all sorts of ways, including better creative problem solving, improved focus and cognitive skills, and even drops in conditions from nearsightedness to Attention Deficit Disorder.

6. Put reasonable limits on summer snacking

When kids are in school, they have a reliable eating routine. But in the summer, that routine gets interrupted by unstructured meal times and access to more snacks and sweets. In a 2016 study in the scientific journal Obesity, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oxford discovered a clear link between summer vacation and increases in obesity and overweight; obesity increased by 2.4 percentage points, and overweight by 5.4 points over the summer months in children between kindergarten and second grade. There was no increase during school months. To encourage good habits, consider spending time gardening or cooking healthy  as a family.

7. Resist the urge to let screens do the work

It’s easier than ever for more free time to become more screen time. 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 two, one hour of screen time is enough. For children under 18 months, screen time should be discouraged. Between 18 and 24 months, high quality educational media is appropriate when supervised by parents.

8. Encourage social and emotional development

It’s easy to forget how much school helps kids develop socially. Researchers from University of Chicago and Northwestern University have found that students lose around seven percent 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. Harvard University researchers believe that summer programs can help build friendships, increase self-confidence, and model independence.

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