“No more pencils, no more books…” While there’s no doubt that many parents and children look forward to summer vacation for a break in routine and some relaxation, the summer period can also have a negative impact on your child’s academic development if he/she does not engage in some form of academic activity. Summer learning loss is defined as the loss of academic skills over the typical two-month summer break.

Recent North-American studies have shown that all students, regardless of academic ability or socio-economic status, are affected by summer learning loss if they do not engage in academic activities over the summer period. On average, students lose 2.6 months of academic ability in Math and approximately 1-2 months of reading ability. The same goes for writing/spelling skills. This learning loss can be even greater for students with academic difficulties or for those from lower income families where opportunities to hone skills over the summer period may be much less accessible.

Here is a top 10 list of ways to prevent summer learning loss once the temperature rises. Try one or all of them (they are in no particular order), but remember to be consistent in whatever technique you choose. Above all, remember that learning can and should be fun!

#10: One hour a week
Take just one hour a week and have your child enrolled in a regular summer academic activity: a reading or writing group, tutoring lesson for English or Math, a specialty activity that’s science-based (combining reading and Math), etc. Remember, tutoring centers are not just for struggling students, but can help in maintaining your child’s grades or preparing for the upcoming school year!

#9: Summer Camp
If you’re a working parent, you may already be exploring options for summer child care. Summer day camps are a great way to provide your child with exciting experiences, and they can also offer educational benefits too! Look for a camp that has a good balance between physical activity and educational activities. Does the daily schedule allow for reading time, academic games or other activities that require reading, writing or computation?

#8: Let’s log together
Throughout the school year your child is most likely assigned some form of daily reading and is required to fill out a reading log. Keeping up this pattern throughout the summer months is a sure-fire way to ensure that your child continues to read and progress. Make a reading log on your home computer (or have your child do it if old enough) and get the whole family involved. Everyone must read for 15 minutes a day and log their achievement. Use meal times to discuss what everyone has read that day, or choose a time to monitor whether everyone has been following through. You can also read to younger children or read together—bedtime stories have never been so useful!

#7: Become a stealth parent
Also known as “stealth teaching”, tricking your children into learning isn’t only for reluctant learners. Stealth teaching involves finding ways in your everyday routine to quietly sneak in some learning time. For example, when baking for a party or event, have your child help by reading out the list of ingredients or finding equivalent fractions to measurements provided. For spelling skills, allow your child to write out the grocery list as you dictate the items needed. While waiting at the dentist or doctor’s office, play a game of “I Spy” with a twist—see who can point out an item in the waiting room and spell it out, or who can make a fraction with the number of people wearing glasses in the room. Many seemingly lost moments going to or from errands can actually be recycled into learning opportunities.

#6: Summer vacation planning
Planning your summer vacation getaway? However old your child is, she can help you prepare in some way and practice writing, spelling or even Math skills. Ask your child to write out a list of emergency supplies to pack or a list of clothing items everyone in the family will need to pack. Have her add up the cost of your road trip snacks or amusement park tickets. For older children, give them a total budget to work with and ask them to plan out their dream family trip!

#5: Exercise the brain—10 minutes a day
An easy, inexpensive solution to making sure your child reviews curriculum content over the summer is to purchase an exercise book that contains a mixture of reading, spelling and Math exercises. Most bookstores and even drug stores carry a few different kinds. You might consider asking your child’s current school teacher for recommendations. Have your child work in his activity book for just 10 minutes a day. No need to force your child to do several pages at a time—a few exercises per day will do the trick and make it feel less of a chore. Try selecting a time of day when your child wouldn’t normally be outdoors, such as early morning right after breakfast or in the evening before bedtime.

#4: Create a VIP reading group at home
Chances are, your child and his closest group of friends share common interests. Arrange to have a weekly reading group (alternating households) where your child and his friends can read pre-determined portions of a book and then talk about their favourite characters or moments in the plot, write out an alternate ending to the book, or even have each child summarize out loud what has happened so far. Sleepover, anyone?

#3: Daily journal
If you are concerned about your child’s writing skills over the summer period, incorporate daily journal writing into your child’s routine. A small paragraph of a few sentences on a topic of choice is enough to keep the juices flowing. Make this activity more enticing by making sure you do it too, and at the end of the day you and your child can share what you have written. You can even get silly and use some wacky journal entry prompts such as, “If I had a pet alien, its name would be…”

#2: If you can’t beat ‘em…
Getting your child to drop the video game controller during the summer is easier said than done for some. With a little negotiation, you can have your cake and eat it too. Allow your child 15-20 minutes per day to play educational interactive games on the Internet on sites you have pre-approved. Everyone wins! Just be sure to set your parental filters. Here are few sites to get you started:

www.thekidzpage.com/learninggames
www.wonderville.ca
www.learninggamesforkids.com
kids.nationalgeographic.com

#1: Set an example
No matter what tactic you choose for combatting summer learning loss, remember that young children often take their cues from their parents. If your child never sees you enthused about a book or magazine you are reading, don’t be surprised if she’s not pounding down the door to the local library. If your child is not shown by your example that Math skills are important in everyday life situations (How much tip should Mommy leave the waiter? How much will our new swing set for the backyard cost after taxes?), it is unlikely that she will be interested in developing these skills during the lazy days of summer. Bottom line: lead by example!