Carey Ann Dodah is the Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning and a mother to a five year old and a three year old. Explore Learning provides extra tuition in English and maths to children aged 5 to 14. They have 116 centres located across the country with over 28,000 children attending Explore Learning centres each week.
What is the ‘Summer Slide?’
At long last summer has arrived, the break that children look forward to where they can spend some much needed quality time with their friends and family and while away lazy days playing in the sun.
However, these months can have negative consequences on their learning. Some rather shocking research* has shown that at least two thirds of children fall behind in their studies over the summer holidays, with children slipping back a worrying amount (up to three months) in their maths and English progress. This is known as the ‘summer slide’.
At Explore Learning we believe this does not have to be an inevitable part of the summer holidays. There are many ways to entertain children with genuinely engaging and educational activities – that don’t cost the earth.
Most of us have probably got ourselves into a good routine during term time of reading before bed (or even reading when they wake up if you have an early riser like me!) so try not to let that slip in the holidays. Reading is a proven and undoubtedly effective way to entertain children whilst also keeping them alert and proactive in their mindset.
Try and encourage your children to keep up their reading with a designated ‘story-time’ each day. Why not also use the story routine to help keep the writing skill going as well. It’s often the area that drops off more than anything else. You could get the children to keep a book journal. It can be as simple as dates and titles for younger children or as children get older encourage them to write a summary or book review to help develop comprehension and for you to check their understanding.
Whether they are writing stories, you are reading to them or vice-versa, ‘story-time’ can be a good and enjoyable way to keep your children’s minds engaged over the summer months. You could also encourage your children to review the books they have read as well to help check their understanding.
Mix shopping with learning
This is a simple way of allowing the children to become involved, and therefore entertained by what can usually be a dull, monotonous task. Ask your children to help you write the shopping list, then keep a tally of the costs as you go around the store. Ask them to try and add them up. You could even assign them items on the shopping list and they need to figure out the best deal. Or for older children fix a certain amount of money to spend and see who can come away with the most items on the shopping list. This is a great way to highlight the importance of mental maths in daily life and money awareness.
Visit the library
Libraries can be your saviour when threatened by the ‘summer slide’. They are a cost-free place to visit for some peace and quiet, whilst there is a limitless supply of materials to excite and inspire your child’s mind. All libraries participate in the Summer Reading Challenge and children can earn rewards for reading along the way. Check with your local library or visit www.summerreadingchallenge.org.uk.
Bake and read
Baking is a traditional, really enjoyable way for children to spend some time over the summer, and a great opportunity to involve some educational elements. Ask them to read out the recipe and instructions, or for slightly older children, ask them to divide / multiply the serving sizes to match the size of the cake being made!
Learn a new skill
Whether it’s a foreign language while you’re on holiday or trying out a summer crash course in a new sport or arts activity, the act of learning something new stimulates all the brain development that we want to keep active over the holidays. It also gives a child a sense of pride and something to talk about when they return to school. Discuss with them any interests they want to pursue, take photos of them participating and they can use it as talking stimulus later.
Games and apps
There are a number of educational apps available for your children to use, the Explore Learning Times Table App is free and an easy way to encourage your children to practise their times tables, for example. Just be sure not to exceed more than two hours of screen time a day.
Museums are an absolute treat in the summer, especially when the weather does not live up to expectations! They are a wonderful way for children to be exposed to new ideas and experiences that would not be available at home.
Perhaps the most effective way to ensure your child stays ahead of the game is through additional tuition; even the smallest amount can make all the difference. Explore Learning run free taster sessions so you and your child can see what it’s like. Find your nearest centre by going to www.explorelearning.co.uk.
Play dates are great for ensuring your child doesn’t take any backward steps regarding the social skills they have been developing throughout the school year. If it can be arranged to meet with children who will be in their class during the coming school year then even better as this can help to begin their transition into the next school year.
Of course the most crucial element of your child’s summer is for you all to have some quality time together as a family. Learning happens all around them at this age so don’t let it be a chore but something you enjoy and adds to the quality memories you will have over the precious holiday period.
*Research; COOPER, H., NYE, B., CHARLTON, K. and GREATHOUSE, S. (1996). ‘The effects of summer scores: a narrative and meta-analytic review’, Review of Educational Research, 66, 227–68.