Happy Summer everyone! It’s been an exceptional year and no one needs a break more than our kids (and well may be you parents). I’m a huge advocate of summer being a time to do something different and not choosing to do a lot of academic work. Playing, going to camp, swimming, and hanging out with friends is what summer is all about. Parents are often concerned about the summer slide. And it’s true, some kids enter September at a lower level than when they left in June. So how can we help kids keep their skills up but also have fun?
Younger Kids (Preschool):
Usually younger kids are happy to do anything their families are doing. For my kids receiving speech therapy I like to have parents incorporate a lot of talking and listening into their everyday activities. One of my favorites, which I do with my own son, is recapping the day. We love to take photos and then at night go through our photos and talk about what we did for the day. Starting at the beginning of the day is great practice for sequencing and using terms such as first, then, before. You can ask Wh-questions about pictures and model how to retell the day from morning until evening.
Scavenger hunts in the house or at the park are super fun. This may take some time to set up. Give your child clues about things that you have hidden around the area. You can incorporate one and two step directions and use location terms such as under, next to, and above. A low prep suggestion is to play Eye Spy using the same terminology. Eye Spy works great on long car and train trips.
Incorporating books that reflect typical summer activities into nightly reading. Kids can make connections about what they see in the book to what you are doing this summer: Here are some of my favorite books about summer:
And Then Comes Summer: Tom Brenner
The Night Before Summer Vacation: Natasha Wing
The Wonder of Summer: Kealy Conner Lonning
Llama Llama Series (Llama Llama Goes Camping, Llama Llama Sand and Sun) Anna Dewdney
When a Dragon Moves In: Jodie Moore
Jabari Jumps: Gaia Cornwall.
Elementary Aged Children
The ideas for this group are limitless. I wish I could fit them all here. However, many times I give my families ideas that are specific for their children that are based on their interests and what they will be doing this summer. Here are a few general ideas that you can customize to fit your child’s interests.
Journaling about summer. This is great for kids who are going to sleep away camp but its also a great way to document summer adventures. Take lots of pictures and set them up on the computer and have the kids write a sentence or two (depending on their level). You can also print the pictures out and make a scrap book. If journaling does not interest your child, you can try books with fun writing prompts such as the Once Upon a Pancake Series.
For kids who are visiting relatives or at summer camp, have them write letters or an email every other day to those back home. This will help kids practice recall sequencing and writing skills.
Family game nights are awesome. I am looking forward to when my son gets older so we can do these frequently. Games such as Headbandz, Taboo (Parents against Kids) and cooperative games such as Mole Rats in Space, and Gnomes at Night keep kids’ minds active in different ways. There are also online templates where you can make your own games such as Jeopardy. Some of my kids love creating Jeopardy games about an interest they have but maybe their parents don’t (hello Minecraft and Pokemon). For older elementary kids, games like Superfight, where you have to argue why your character (picked from a deck) with specific powers can beat another player’s character, works on verbal fluency, reasoning, and problem solving.
Helping Plan Summer Homework: Many of our kids get summer homework packets. Helping your kids come up with a schedule to complete the work so that they are not doing it all the last week of August will help them work on organizational skills and keep them doing some academics throughout the summer.
And of course reading. If your child is resistant to reading, have them listen to audio books. Research has shown that listening to audio books is just as effective in increasing vocabulary. Summer should be a time for fun books so let your child pick what interests them, even if its not your preferred genre. They will have plenty of experience with text that is not their main interest once school starts back up again.
Tweens and Beyond
This age group can be a bit trickier. They tend to be busier with sports, part time jobs, sleep away camps, and socializing with friends. Tweens and Teens also have interests that vary significantly from family to family and even within families, so there isn’t one idea that fits all here. If you have found a way for your tween or teen to willingly read and journal then you are way ahead of the game (and maybe need to be a guest blogger because parents want to know how!!). At this age, besides keeping up their reading skills, focusing on executive functioning skills such as planning, organizing, and executing ideas is a great way to keep kids’ brains active. Here are some of my favorite suggestions (some will work for younger kids if modified):
For families that travel: If you are planning to get out of town this summer, why not have your child plan a part of it. It can be an activity for a whole day depending on the age and abilities of your child. Let them research places, plan out the schedule, determine how you will get there and think about what (if any) thing they will need to take along. If you are camping maybe your child can be responsible for meal planning (for example all breakfasts) or activities to do at night. It might be wise to approve this plan before taking off!
For staycation families: The above also applies to staying around town. Your child can plan a day or activity that interests them. They will be responsible for thinking of all the logistics including how to accommodate younger and older members of the family that may not have the same abilities/interests.
For either of these options, keeping a photo book that can be turned into a family photo album or journal is a great way to incorporate writing and tap into kids’ creativity. Google Docs has a photo journal template. My personal favorite, if you have a Mac, is Iphoto. Websites such as Shutterfly also have album projects available. This will also work well for kids attending summer camp.
For families planning to do a home project or purchase a big family item: Have your child help you research all your options. Create a pros and cons list and read reviews of products that you might be choosing. Modeling how you make big decisions can help kids with analytical skills. Also, outlining the steps and creating a budget can help with sequencing and organizational skills.
I hope that everyone has a much deserved summer break. And as important as keeping up our skills is, it’s just as important to rest, have fun, and make connections with those that we haven’t seen in a long time. This year more than any other.