Summer break could mean learning loss for some kids

The arrival of summer means one thing for students and parents: a much needed break. But just because school ends doesn’t mean learning should.

Experts at Florida International University warn that summer can offer potential setbacks to some children’s academic and social development unless parents take steps to keep their kids active—both mentally and physically.

“There are many parents who want their kids to relax and have fun, and that’s understandable,” said Education Professor Laura Dinehart. “But it’s possible to have fun and keep kids engaged in activities that can enhance their learning. Learning can be fun and summer offers that opportunity.”

The long break from school can result in some children forgetting some of the academic skills learned over the school year. Experts call it “summer learning loss,” which puts children at a disadvantage once school starts again. Experts say extra attention should be placed on those kids who stay at home during the summer.

“Your brain has to keep working,” Dinehart said. “It doesn’t make sense for kids to spend that amount of time without stimulation. It’s very possible for skills to regress.”

Summer isn’t just a potential pitfall for academic progress, however. For some children, social skills also can suffer setbacks if two months go by with no interaction with their peers.

“When you have kids who are at risk or don’t have greatly developed social skills, there’s an increased chance for problems,” said Jessica Robb, director of outreach at FIU’s Center for Children and Families. “They get out of the practice of making friends, or even following directions from an adult.”

FIU experts suggest enrolling children in summer camps, and keeping up with reading and math. If a family’s budget doesn’t allow for camp, Dinehart and Robb suggest that parents take every opportunity—even a walk around the block—to keep children engaged.

“Take walks with your kids and teach them about colors,” Robb said. “Summer gives you a big dose of time to be with your kids—and there’s no reason why the learning process should stop.”

Six useful tips to keep kids ahead of the curve this summer:

1.     Keep the activities diverse: swimming, music, art, math.
2.     Keep a routine: it’ll be easier on them—and you—on the first day of school.
3.     Maintain their friendships: Invite their friends over for play dates.
4.     Keep them social: Even if your kids are staying at home, talk to them throughout the day.
5.     Continue your nightly readings with them
6.     Introduce a summer family board game tradition: an easy—and fun—way to keep the brain working.