Balancing Fun and Learning in the Summer
During ten months out of the year our kids are filled with homework, studying, projects, papers and tests. All academic year they are focused on school – or we as parents are focused for them and struggle to convince them to take school as seriously as we do! Throughout the spring months kids are visibly itchy to spend more time outdoors, and less time in school. Come June, kids (and teachers!) are looking forward to having a break and relaxing in the sun. For parents (besides thinking of how we are going to entertain our kids 24-hours a day for two entire months), a valid concern may be how we can either improve or enhance our kids’ academic levels so they do not regress through the summer months.
Simply put, we do not want to get “dumber in the summer.” Here are three easy tips to keep your child’s brain active and learning (without making it look like it is hard work).
1. Read. Read. Read.
Studies show the brain may actually regress when it is not in use, causing kids to fall behind in reading levels. It is important to read at least 15-20 minutes a day, every day, during the summer.
For little goobers, reading to them will increase their fluency and will teach them the art of great voice inflection. Help make reading fun by taking field trips to the library and by reading their favorites (even if it is for the 179th time!).
For older kiddos, reading text messages and social media posts does not count as reading (just in case you were wondering, since one of my middle schoolers asked me that recently!). However, magazines, comics, online articles and even blog posts are indeed reading! Succumbing to kids’ interests may increase the chances of perpetual reading (just be sure summer reading assignments get completed before September!).
2. Expose. Expose. Expose.
When I taught second grade I remember I had a handful of students who although were not stellar mathematicians or straight A students, their background knowledge really set them apart from their classmates. Getting exposure does not mean trips to Europe every summer. It could mean day trips to landmarks in your area you may never take advantage of, or going to museums. It could also mean visiting local parks and looking up information on bugs or exposure to a variety of cultures by going to different restaurants or street fairs. You can treat the summer as a fun internship for your child - exposing them to a new idea or activity every other week or so, then continuing or enriching conversation on the new idea or activity in everyday happenings.
3. Have a Schedule, But More Importantly - Have Fun!
There is a reason why students and educators have off for the summer, and it is not only because the air conditioning expense (or lack of air conditioning discomfort). Breaks are most definitely needed in efforts to recharge. However, losing oneself in watching an entire television series during the course of a day/week on Netflix, or hours upon hours of YouTube how-to videos may numb our kids’ brains (or our brains!) a bit too much. Sleeping in an hour longer and relaxing are important, but so is having somewhat of a schedule and staying active. An idea is to have your child complete 30 minutes of reading, 30 minutes of non-electronic play, and 30 minutes of something around the house (i.e., practicing an instrument, drawing, working out, mowing the lawn, etc.), before obtaining the WiFi password for a limited time.
Implementing these simple ideas will not only be beneficial to your child’s academic level, but it will also bring you peace of mind, and perhaps even strengthen your relationship with your child. Your child’s brain (and their future teacher) will thank your efforts!
Wondering how to vacation smarter not harder when traveling with your kids? Read another one of my posts here! Be sure to visit my website for future blog posts or subscribe to the mailing list to receive monthly newsletters catered to parents, educators, and anyone working with kids.
Always learning, always growing, always aiming to inspire!
Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with nearly two decades of experience in working with children and families. She is the CEO of Free to Be Mindful - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators.
Vanessa has been featured on the Today Show and is passionate about helping others Learn, Grow & Inspire… all with mindfulness in mind.