Don’t lose those skills!
Use "learning moments" and help your kids practice what they know
Every parent knows that learning moments abound during daily activities outside of school. Use these opportunities to hang on to reading, writing and math skills.
According to the National Summer Learning Association, students who don’t participate in enrichment or educational activities lose about 22 percent of skills gained during the school year, and teachers generally spend the first two months of the fall term reviewing.
Want to help your child retain what she gained without making it feel like work?
Here are some ideas:
Calculate tips. The next time you and your family go out for dinner, help your child determine the tip when the bill arrives.
Visit the farmer’s market. Peruse locally grown seasonal produce, or learn about fruits and veggies you may have never heard of and where they come from. Practice math skills by giving your child a list, a budget and money to shop at the market, or dictate the grocery list to your child and have him keep track of it. As you shop, talk about prices, sales and healthy choices.
Grow a garden. Your child can learn more about her environment by cultivating her own fruits and vegetables. No room in your yard? Grow a container garden together. She can take pictures or make notes in a daily gardening notebook detailing the life cycle of the plant, problems encountered and how she worked to solve those issues.
Lesson: Plant life
Cook together. Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. Depending on his age, Jessica Velazquez, a healthy living director for the YMCA, suggests putting him in charge of a meal once a week. “I remember being in third grade and having one night a week where I was in charge of dinner,” she says. “And yes, we often had cereal or mac ‘n’ cheese.” Following a recipe also helps him practice fractions and reading.
Play travel agent. Thanks to the Internet, any child can easily research a family vacation or a hometown field trip. Give her a list of questions to answer about the location, cost and hours of a specific site she wants to visit. Continue the learning when you arrive at your destination. Catherine Elder says she and her 8-year-old daughter like to observe and talk about the tides, climate and sea life on their annual beach vacation.
Tune in. If your child is passionate about music, attend local concert series in parks, which are often free. Encourage her to read about the history of the music and biographies of favorite musicians.
Lesson: Music appreciation
Explore nature. Apply what your child has learned in life science to your backyard. “We talk about birds, bugs, and how flowers and trees grow. My daughter teaches me things that she’s learned. It makes her feel good to know she is helping me learn, too,” Elder says. Science museums and nature centers also offer inexpensive classes and camps. Lesson: Biology
Go digital. Got a bug or plant enthusiast? Have her grab the camera and go on a naturalist hunt for different species. When she’s done she can make a digital presentation of her discoveries. “Many elementary kids know how to use multi-media even more than parents. They find it fascinating and think it’s fun,” Norris says. Lesson: Multimedia
Nurture creativity. Art education enhances creative thinking, motor skills and social and emotional development. Have a splatter paint party on canvas in your backyard. Watercolor on textured paper or make collages out of old magazines. Further explore the visual arts at pottery cafe´s and art museums. Lesson: Artmaking
Journal. Purchase an inexpensive journal or notebook that your child can personalize, then write a prompt or a question at the top of the page. Take turns writing messages and stories back and forth. Lesson: Creative writing
Read together. “Children often say they don’t like to read because they’ve only read things chosen for them by others,” says Helma Hawkins, a children’s librarian. Summer is the perfect time to help your child find books and magazines that match his interests. Read together or start an informal book club with your child and a few of his friends. Schedule an afternoon to discuss the selection over milk and cookies.
Practice time management. Assign a weekly project with a deadline for her to help practice time-management skills. “Base it on her interest so it doesn’t feel like work,” Norris says. She can select and research a specific topic, create a digital slide show about what she learned and then present it to you or extended family. Lesson: Presenting ideas
If you help her make the connection between what she learns in school and how the material relates to the real world, she’ll retain more skills she mastered in school and grow into a more engaged and enthusiastic learner.
Christa Melnyk Hines is the mother of two boys and author of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.