According to the National Summer Learning Association at Johns Hopkins University, all students experience learning losses when they are not involved in educational activities over the summer. Eileen Huntington, Cofounder of Huntington Learning Center agrees that planning meaningful activities for the summer months can prevent children from regressing—and help them be ready for the next grade. “It sounds overwhelming to come up with a summer full of educational activities, but there are so many great things children can do to continue learning in the summer that don’t involve homework and studying,” says Huntington. “Look within your community for inspiration. You’ll likely find lots of fun programs and opportunities that your child will enjoy—and his or her teacher will appreciate!” Huntington offers these sparks to find fun summer learning activities in your community:
Search for summer programs or camps. There are many camps, schools and programs around the country focused on overall academic enrichment and others targeted to specific subjects. Contact your local college or library (or ask your child’s teacher) for summer learning programs in your area.
Do fun science experiments. Your child’s teacher may have ideas for summer science experiments that will captivate your child from June until September. Try tracking and charting the daily temperature and weather, planting a garden and measuring (and journaling about) its progress, or other observation projects—birds or other animals in your area, neighborhood traffic or even the mailman’s daily schedule. For short experiments, check out the “Fun Stuff” section of the National Geographic Kids website, which features many easy science experiments. Your local nature and science museum may have resources and suggestions for educational and fun activities for kids, and may also offer classes and camps.
Turn a hobby into an educational activity. Summer is an ideal time for your child to explore interests. Why not turn his or her passion into a summer-long lesson? Give your baseball fan a list of the Major League Baseball teams and have him or her research five fun facts about each—such as the oldest player, year founded or origin of the team name. Check out baseball documentaries and books from the library about your child’s favorite player and team. Learn together how to calculate a batting average and track the performance of your five favorite hitters.
Plan hometown field trips. Vacations are great ways for families to research and learn about new places, but there are many opportunities right in your community for your child to explore the history, science and culture of your area. Regularly visit the library for programs and events for kids and the whole family, and be sure to also explore the zoo and the local art, nature, science, history and other museums in your town. Your local chamber of commerce may also be an excellent resource.
Talk with your child’s current teacher and, if possible, his or her teacher for next year about ideas for summer activities that will help your child transition smoothly into the upcoming school year. Your child’s future teacher may have curriculum information to share with you that can guide the level, types and format of activities you choose. “Be creative,” says Huntington. “With a little creativity and thinking ahead, parents can keep their children engaged and learning all summer long.”