10 ways to combat the summer slide in your kids’ education

As summer vacation continues, parents can feel pressure to occupy children with as many activities as possible – the more learning involved, the better!

How can families navigate the tension…

As summer vacation continues, parents can feel pressure to occupy children with as many activities as possible – the more learning involved, the better!

How can families navigate the tension between fun and games while minimizing summer slide and maintaining their child’s academic progress?

By using these practical tips, making enjoyable yet educational family memories may be easier than you think!

Activities for children in elementary school:

(1) Make time for read-alouds.

For decades we’ve known the academic importance of read-alouds, especially for young children. As early as 1985, the U.S. Department of Education was studying its benefits and published a detailed two-year report

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” researchers wrote. “This is especially so during the preschool years.” 

Reading aloud increases children’s vocabulary comprehension and helps them develop strong listening habits. By taking time to model tone, expression, and fluency, we’re also helping them associate reading with pleasure and enjoyment. 

Furthermore, parents can naturally develop critical thinking skills with both young and older children by read-alouds. Some quick methods include pausing in the middle of the passage to ask: “Why did (character) choose to (do action)?” or “What happens next, do you think?” 

If time is an issue, consider fitting these around your schedule at the most convenient moments for you. Instead of bedtimes, for example, try reading aloud while your children are sharing a meal together or listening to audiobooks while driving to various summer activities. 

(2) Add educational games into your schedule. 

Board games and card games can transform school subjects into daring adventures and contests your children may start requesting every day! 

For example, A Ticket to Ride can introduce geography to young children by naming cities in North America or Europe. Older children may prefer Historical Conquest, which uses collectible cards to summarize the lives of real-life characters during times such as the U.S. Civil War, the Wild West, or Revolutionary War. 

Even popular games such as Monopoly, Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit can contribute toward children’s math, reading or general knowledge skills. 

(3) Reinvent chores as teaching tools for your child’s work ethic. 

Just the word “chores” can make children groan – so let’s rename them “work ethic training modules” or anything else you prefer! 

We now have science-backed research extolling the benefits of chores to prepare your children for future success and happiness. 

“Researchers working on the Harvard Grant Study determined that there are two things required to maximize the chances of people being successful and happy in life: work ethic and love,” writes Bill Murphy Jr., contributing editor of Inc.com. “Love is for another article, but work ethic is the one that’s most appropriate here. And how do kids develop work ethic? They do chores.” 

However, families may need to reconsider and change their chore-assignment approach. Rather than presenting them as goals, such as making breakfast or cleaning house, parents should set age-appropriate “subtasks” for easier management, Murphy explains. 

“You might conclude that it would be too much to ask a 5-year-old to go through the house and empty the trashcans. But you could break it down into subtasks – maybe asking him or her to get the garbage bags from the closet, or to hold a door for you while you’re carrying.” 

(4) Leverage family travel and vacations as learning opportunities. 

When visiting friends or family over the summer, consider adding educational elements into your trip. Help your young children learn the names of cities and towns you travel through, along with destination sites and attractions. 

Older children can assist with more involved responsibilities such as determining places to stay, eat or visit along the way. They could even help research free or low-cost options to best fit the family budget! 

Activities for children in middle school and high school: 

(1) Explore summer classes. 

Short, one-day classes and certification programs can help your children earn money and gain employment throughout the rest of the year. 

For example, the Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) homeschool nonprofit is hosting a First Aid and CPR class July 13.  

Students can choose whether to take just the class or get certification for an additional fee. Babysitters and other childcare providers often use these certifications to charge a higher rate or secure more positions in the community. 

Children 12 years and older can participate, but an adult must accompany participants who are aged 12-16. 

(2) Conduct oral histories with grandparents and other relatives. 

Extended family reunions can provide the perfect setting for oral histories your children can treasure for generations! 

Help your kids gain a new perspective by interviewing a grandparent or other relative who lived through events such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Cold War or Sept. 11. 

Prepare a few questions in advance to help jumpstart the conversation, but feel free to take tangents during the interview as time allows. 

Both grandparents and children will benefit from the one-on-one time to relive these experiences and how these affected their worldviews – as well as today’s political and social landscape. 

(3) Try ‘kidpreneurship’ activities. 

Child entrepreneurship or “kidpreneurship” can help your family prepare for small business ventures and other jobs over the summer. 

Even if lemonade stands don’t work for your child this year, you can always encourage monetizing hobbies or activities such as coding, cooking or crafting. 

Along the way, parents can suggest related activities catering to their budding entrepreneur’s interests. These can include drafting business plans, revenue goals, accounting records, marketing materials and more! 

(4) Do family projects together. 

Planning a kitchen remodeling project or extensive backyard renovation? Involve your children in the process! They can gain valuable insights into the preparations and labor needed for their own homemaking decisions later. 

Home improvement projects can range from small tasks such as washing windows, gardening, or decluttering to more extensive goals like painting, siding repairs, or refinishing. When planning your summer endeavors, consider each child’s age and abilities to customize their learning experience. 

(5) Consider job shadowing. 

Older children can use the summer to spend a day with someone working in a career or job opportunity that interests them. My own job shadowing experience involved time with an immigration attorney and her team in the Kansas City area. 

Even if your child concludes a particular job doesn’t suit them, it may help them avoid pursuing a degree or certification they’ll never use! 

(6) Explore apprenticeships and internships. 

No one needs to wait until college for hands-on career experience. More youth – especially men – are getting jobs without earning a four-year college degree, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports

Both paid and unpaid internships can provide valuable experience to enhance resumes, develop confidence and build a portfolio of work samples. 

Meanwhile, apprenticeships can jumpstart many careers in construction and other industries. 

After COVID-19, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) noted an increase in apprenticeship applications. Demand for skilled, educated craft professionals only continues to grow since the pandemic. 

These 10 activities can help you maximize summertime schedules while also planning for your kids’ future. They may not see it now, but developing healthy mindsets and work ethics over three months will give them huge advantages for the rest of the year and beyond!