May 29, 2008

Preventing Summer Learning Losses

By Janet Golden, 4-H Youth Development & Distance Education Program Leader

4-H summer funSchool is almost out and many parents are frantically planning or finding summertime activities for their kids. If you have not, it is not too late. Many kids will go to day camp or overnight camp, but there are also great activities that you can do as a family to make the summer an extra special time. Not only will your family bond further, your children will not forget the things they learned in school this past year and will be prepared when the new school year starts. According to Ron Fairchild, executive Director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning, summer learning is of critical importance. If youth are not engaged in educational activities during the summer they will experience learning losses. In fact a child can lose 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in math. Beyond the learning loss, children need to be involved in activities because unsupervised time is dangerous for kids. They are much more likely to be injured or take part in risky behaviors if they are not engaged in supervised activities. Plus, children gain weight three times faster during the summer if they are not engaged in physical activities and eating healthy. All these reasons are plenty to get you planning some educational activities for summer. The following are some ideas to engage your child’s mind and body and make summer the fulfilling experience it should be.

  • Create a summer activity calendar for the family – By creating a summer calendar for your family, you are not only coming up with a plan for all of your activities, but you are also teaching your child how to plan and organize. It also allows your child to share what they think will be fun, which will cut down on them telling you they are bored, because they were part of the planning process. Depending on their age, you may need to help them by giving them activities to choose from.

  • Teach your child a new skills around the home – Does you child know how to sew on a button, iron clothes, use a washing machine, cook, or make simple repairs around the home? Summer is the perfect time to tackle some of these skills. Your child will learn something that will help them throughout their lives and it is something they most likely will only learn at home.

  • Develop a safety plan for your home with you child – Summer is a time for more accidents, so safety has to be on everyone’s mind. Together develop rules for summer safety around water, bike riding, playing outside, and sun protection. Also, with hurricane season beginning June 1 you can prepare or update your hurricane kit and evacuation plan.

  • Incorporate math into every day activities – As research has shown, math competencies decrease over the summer, so spend extra time on activities that will help your child retain this knowledge. Most kids may not want to sit around and complete math problems, but you can make math fun by incorporating it into daily activities. For example you can calculate distances through Google maps for the places you are going in the car and then calculate the gas it takes to get there. You can also incorporate math while cooking with your child.

  • Create your own summer camp – Maybe your plans do not include sending your child to summer camp, but there is no reason you can not plan for one at home. It would be fun to plan a whole week of activities that normally would take place at a day camp including crafts, outdoor fun, and fieldtrips. You could even have a theme for the week using some of the resources for 4-H day camps throughout Florida.

  • Plan a virtual vacation-Whether or not you plan on taking a summer vacation it is fun to dream big and plan one. You can use the internet with your child to explore the United State and other countries and cultures. You can incorporate math and consumer lessons into this activity as well.

  • Have a family art show-Kids love to do crafts and create art projects. At the end of summer invite some friends and family over for a barbeque and display all the art that was created over the summer.

  • Become a green family - Sustainable living is the process of making small changes that have big impacts on the world around us. Your family can take some simple steps like recycling, reducing energy usage, and walking or riding your bikes instead of driving when possible. In order to make a commitment to being green Take the Pledge and Check Your Green Commitment to decide what habits you will change in order to make the world a better place.

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