Summer is the time for lounging in the pool — a time when school is the last thing on your kid’s mind. And while summer should include ample time for relaxation and play, it’s also a good idea to incorporate activities that keep your child’s brain active and attentive because “summer learning loss” is a real thing.
Many teachers report that the first few months of the school year are used to play catchup on ideas and skills that students have forgotten over break. To help you help your children mitigate these losses, we’ve rounded up some simple and fun activities that will keep kids of all ages learning and practicing necessary skills — without being a summer buzzkill.
Ages 4 to 6
At this age, it is important to keep your child’s foundational reading skills strong. Practice sight words (words that appear frequently in texts, such as “and” and “each”) and letter blends (ch-, tr-, pl-, for example) in fun ways so your child can build on them right away at the start of the school year.
Crossword puzzles: Find crossword books or printable sheets that give your child opportunities to get more and more familiar with letters and sight words.
Chalk: Use this old-school tool to get your child outside. Writing by hand with chalk helps with dexterity. Plus, it’s a fun way to have them write letters and sight words for practice.
Sight Word Twister: This is fun for the whole family. Add a simple twist (pun intended) to the game by adding a sight word flashcard to each dot on the Twister mat for your child to read.
Focus on counting from 0 to 100 at this age — and on simple addition and subtraction. The difficulty level of these will depend on your child’s unique skill level. You can always use manipulatives — small toys or objects — to make counting less abstract and to model problem-solving.
Problem of the day: Set up a question on a whiteboard or piece of paper and have your child complete one a day — at breakfast, in the car, or whatever works for your schedule. For example, you might write down, “Suzy has three hats and John has two hats. If Suzy gives her hats to John, how many hats will he have?” You can talk out the problem and/or draw out the problem and build skills cooperatively.
Water balloon math: Write numbers on water balloons with a marker and set up targets (paper plates, chalk on the floor) with numbers. Have your child pull two water balloons, add or subtract them together and throw them at the target with the correct answer. If your child isn’t at this skill level, you can turn it into a counting game, counting as you toss.
Ages 6 to 9
Continue strengthening your child’s reading skills at this age, possibly helping them read their first chapter book. To keep them in the groove of reading over summer, try the following ideas.
Library reading programs: Most public libraries have a summer reading club with prize incentives. This is a great way to keep your kid motivated while also supporting your local library. Don’t forget that you can request specific titles your child wants, and the library system will deliver the book to your local branch.
Journaling: Keep your child writing and using those literacy skills through a journal. Daily diary entries, writing prompts and “finishing the story” are some good ways to start. Check out We Are Teachers for useful writing prompts.
Kids in early elementary are practicing mental math and word problems and, in general, working on “fluidity” and solving number problems with ease and speed. Keeping this up in the summer will help your child feel ready to go come August.
Yahtzee: Yahtzee is a game the whole family will enjoy. Rolling and adding up dice helps with mental math, number sequencing and pattern recognition.
Grocery store budgeting: This is a great activity that can easily be adjusted to skill level. Your child can add up the prices (round up to the dollar for younger kids), add with decimals (older kids) and even practice fractions if you talk about discounts or coupons. Just bring your child to the store on a day you’re not in a hurry and see what kind of real-life math happens.
Ages 10 and up
Kids ages 10 and up often have a strong literacy foundation, so the hardest challenge over summer might simply be getting them to apply those skills to reading and writing — without a teacher around to tell them to do so.
Reading bucket list: Right when summer starts, make a list of specific books, or set a number goal, to complete over the summer. Choosing books they’re already excited to read should make for less grumbling. Or use book-movie adaptions for motivation. If your child reads “Ella Enchanted,” “Coraline” or “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” watch the film versions afterwards and talk about similarities and differences they noticed.
At this age, beginning algebra is central to mathematical learning, so think problems with missing variables.
Real-life math stories: Use your child’s life as inspiration to practice algebra. For example: “I bought 20 chip bags last week, and now there are 8 left. How many have already been eaten?” If they’re sports fans, use game points as problems. And take turns being the problem creator and the problem solver; agility with numbers grows with practice.
Daily math: Having kids “solve for x” is a standard algebraic task, so you might repeat that daily math problem idea from above. Do it with both numerals (x+5 = 12) and words (“I had some marbles, then Mom gave me five more. Now there are 12. How many did I have to start with?”) One math puzzle at breakfast every day, all summer, is a great way to squeeze in learning with that glass of fresh orange juice.
Tracy Martin is an editorial intern at L.A. Parent. She recently graduated from Chapman University, where she studied English literature and creative writing with coursework in the theories and methods of tutoring. She tutors students ages 4-14 and has worked as a nanny and camp counselor.