It’s no secret that children love summer vacation. No matter their age, there’s something about the warm weather and change in routine that makes summertime full of adventure and possibility. Still, parents often worry about summer learning loss—the idea that being out of school during the summer months can diminish the progress children have made during the school year.
Summer learning loss is a true concern: research suggests that up to one month of learning is lost during a three-month vacation. In our Primrose Summer Adventure Club, we keep young minds active through fun themes, like Music Hall of Fame, Inventions and Robotics and Beyond the Backyard, and stimulating and creative learning experiences. Children engage in activities such as inventing their own robots, acting out skits, exploring the outdoors and creating original art designs.
Rest assured, there are many simple ways to incorporate learning into your child’s summer experience at home, too. Whether you’re worried about summer learning loss or simply interested in ideas for warding off summer boredom, we’ve put together a few options that will help keep your child’s mind engaged all summer long.
- Plan a Field Trip (Ages 0-5): Set aside a day to plan an outing with your child. The following destinations have plenty of learning opportunities built in to their experiences. If your child is older, ask her questions about what she observes throughout your adventure to spark critical thinking. Many museums, zoos and parks also have online activity books posted on their websites that you can print before your visit.
- Learn about Wildlife: Go to your local aquarium, zoo or nature center to learn about the animals and their habitats. Read the information provided at each exhibit, discuss how each environment is different and practice counting the animals or fish in each enclosure.
- Explore a Garden: Visit a plant nursery or botanical garden to learn about plants. Talk with your child about the colors and shapes of the leaves and flowers and how they differ from plant to plant. Imagine what the plant might be “thinking.”
- Make a Splash: Go to the beach, lake or stream to observe animals, fish, plants and water. Invite your little one to explore the different textures of sand, dirt, mud, water and plants.
- Go on a Scavenger Hunt (Ages 2-5): This simple scavenger hunt checklist is easy to print and will add excitement to time outdoors with your child. Use them as you stroll around your neighborhood, visit a nearby park or to explore your own backyard. You can help build your child’s observational skills by asking him to identify the objects, shapes and colors on the checklists and mark your progress as you go.
- Create a Masterpiece (Ages 2-5): Exercise your child’s creativity through family art projects. Suggest that she draw or paint your family, her favorite animal or a place she wants to visit. Provide glue and other art supplies to spice up her creations. Summer is a great time to incorporate nature into art projects by having your little one collect sticks, leaves, flowers, pine cones and other items from your backyard to paint and decorate. As you complete your projects together, talk about the process and ask your child open-ended questions about her artwork. Discuss what she has created and showcase her masterpieces in a scrapbook or on the fridge.
- Play I-Spy and Simon Says (Ages 3-5): Kids’ learning games like I-Spy and Simon Says are timeless. Young children still enjoy them, and these games help develop observational, listening and executive functioning skills. Use the games to liven up everyday activities like shopping at the grocery store, eating out or running errands. Or, if you are going on a trip, play I-Spy during car rides or in airports.
- Take on a Summer Reading List (Ages 0-5): Reading is so important for children, and taking on a summer reading list can add a fun goal for your child to reach. It is never too soon to begin reading to your child. Even if your child is not able to express himself yet, he is still able to understand words. Reading together strengthens the parent-child bond and helps your child develop important foundational literacy skills that he’ll need later on.
Preventing summer learning loss doesn’t have to require lots of planning. A little creativity and together-time with your child go a long way! Be intentional about nurturing learning through simple and fun activities for kids like those listed above, and remember that your little one is constantly exploring and discovering the world around them. With your guidance and support, every day can be a learning adventure! (Looking for more summer fun? Check out these summer food science experiments!)