For nine months out of the year, elementary school students practice reading, writing, art, social skills, science, technology, physical education and more. They have an established routine, and they grow rapidly.
And then summer break comes, allowing kids more time to just be kids — and more time to forget everything they learned during the school year. As parents, it’s important to help young children get the rest and play time they need without letting them regress too far academically.
Megan Litster, a kindergarten teacher at Westridge Elementary School, gave her students three pieces of homework for the summer: first, to read every day; second, to write every day; and third, to have fun every day.
“That can be a starting point for parents,” Litster says. “They can build activities into their routine to help their child read, write and have fun every day. For different families in different stages, that will look different.”
1. Read every day.
This may seem obvious, but it’s because reading really is important. Parents can help kids improve reading skills by reading to their children, not just sending their kids away to read.
“Even if a child reads well, she can benefit from being read to,” Litster says. “When they read, they can solidify phonics skills, which is great. But being read to will help build comprehension and vocabulary skills. Children are often able to understand text at a higher level than they can read.”
2. Write every day.
Like reading skills, writing skills are important to success in any subject area. Helping young children practice the writing skills they gained during the school year will help them succeed in the fall. In this case, quantity is more important than quality.
“It’s a good idea to let your child choose what he writes about and not critique it,” Litster says. “It’s just about producing a lot of writing every day and building confidence. If kids are confident in their skills, the mechanical stuff can be more easily fixed when the school year starts.”
3. Practice the difficult stuff.
“Summer is a good time for parents to look at anything a teacher may have indicated that a child was struggling with,” Litster says. “They can help their child improve in those areas by making it fun. Do what you can to make learning active.”
For example, kids who struggle with math might benefit by practicing them with sidewalk chalk, or by playing a game where they run to the correct answer.
4. Nurture interests.
On the flipside, summer can be a great time to let your child explore subjects that they’re particularly interested in. If your child loves learning about dinosaurs, a trip to the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point would be an excellent choice. If your child loves construction vehicles, you can check out a book about them from the library or go on a “field trip” to find construction vehicles in your city.
“If there’s something your child is really interested in, the summer will give you time to do multi-day projects with her about it,” Litster says. “You can get books from the library, visit museum exhibits, or do crafts that center on what interests your child. And of course, they can always draw on these subjects during writing time.”
5. Visit a library.
Sometimes being your child’s parent and his teacher can be overwhelming. Fortunately, public libraries can help with that.
“Libraries have summer reading programs, and that can be additional motivation for kids,” Litster says. “They also have special story times and other learning activities in the summer.”
6. Have fun.
Most importantly, summer is one giant opportunity for play time.
“There are a lot of social and academic skills that kids can learn through play,” Litster says. “Yes, summer is a great time to help kids learn, but it’s also a great time to let them have more hours at home and enough downtime to get bored and have to find something to do. Having to come up with their own ideas is good for their development as well.”