The research evidence is overwhelming. Students experience “summer learning loss” between the end of the school year and the start of the next school year. We may not even need the research because it makes sense that unless kids are involved in experiences that support their emotional, social, and academic development over the summer, they will not grow in these areas.
Good news! There is an unlimited number of activities that can support your child’s development during the summer months. The even better news is that we are not talking about sitting at a table and drilling your child on multiplication facts. That’s dreadful.
Better news! It doesn’t cost a dime. Let’s face it, money is something many of us don’t have much of to begin with and we definitely do not have enough to send our kids to a space camp on the moon or an acting camp in Hollywood.
So what should we do this summer? Wait. Let’s stop right there. Here are a three big ideas that will help as much as a long list of activities.
- The way you do something is as important as what you do.
- Learning possibilities are embedded in virtually everything.
- Formal and informal learning experiences are both valuable.
Watching TV can give your child a big brain boost. Yep, I said it. And I am not talking about watching “educational” shows intended to teach. Most of those are pretty bad and not very helpful. I am talking about any show on TV. Of course, if you just plop your kid down in front of the TV, well, you may not exactly be putting him or her on the fast track to college. The learning only happens when you watch TV together and talk about the show. It happens when you facilitate thinking by asking questions. Here are a few ideas:
- Who is the main character?
- What is the setting?
- Why do you think ________ did _______?
- What is the structure of the show?
- How was this show made?
- Who do you think watches this show?
- Why do you watch this show?
- Why does TV have commercials?
- What is that commercial trying to get you to do?
You get the idea. Television watching, like most anything else you do over the summer, can be transformed into a critical thinking and literacy learning opportunity.
Let’s go to the store. Any store will do. A trip to the store abounds with learning opportunities. In fact, the learning starts before we go. Let’s make a list of things we need. We can even look for coupons. Be sure to ask, why do stores have coupons?
The most common phrase parents use at the store is, “No, we cannot get that.” The second most common phrase is, “Stop hanging on the cart.” Let’s add a few other options into our store speech.
- Can you find the __________ in this aisle?
- How much does the _________ cost?
- How does the store decide how much something will cost?
- We are buying some _______. Is the better deal, to buy this size or this size?
- How does all this stuff get here to the store?
- Why does the store put some products at the end of the aisle?
- Why are there so many things to buy at the checkout line?
- How can we find out what is in this product? (No, don’t open it!)
Now we know the way we do things this summer is important as what we do. Likewise, we see that almost every activity offers learning possibilities. Now let’s take a second to distinguish formal and informal learning. Formal learning is when you set out to learn a specific thing and use a structured set of lessons to make it happen. Informal learning, on the other hand, does not have a specific goal in mind and takes advantage of learning opportunities as they present themselves. Our TV watching and trip to the store are examples of informal learning opportunities.
I want to leave you with a formal learning option. In this case, it is designed for kids learning how to read. You can download the story below, read it together, and do the activities after the story. Repeated readings are always a great idea. The story is one of 32 stories includes in the HELP early literacy program. If your child enjoys this story, let me know and I will post the other 31 stories along with additional tips for summer learning and literacy development.