Eye on Extension: Stopping the summer slide

VALLEY — Research has shown that children can lose one to two months of math and reading skills over the summer. This loss of academic skills and knowledge over the break is known as the “summer slide.” Luckily, there are lots of ways parents and families can reduce this slide by creating learning opportunities for kids throughout the summer.

Sara Van Dyke from the National After School Association offers lots of great ideas to keep kids’ minds engaged all summer long. The first is to encourage kids to read every day, on their own or with an adult. Reading regularly helps kids sharpen their reading skills, which they’ll use in all of their school subjects. To make reading a part of your kid’s schedule you can sit down with your child to create a reading list or plan based on their interests. Utilize your local library to find free reading materials. Also, look into participating in your library’s summer reading programs, which offer incentives to help motivate kids to read.

Another way to engage kids in summer learning is to find ways to incorporate math in everyday experiences. Look for ways to have kids practice math daily, such as thinking about fractions while they help with meal preparation, or comparing prices at the grocery store. Also use puzzles, and board, dice and card games as opportunities to incorporate math into every day.

There are also many ways to incorporate science learning into summer schedules. Getting out in nature to explore and investigate helps kids to relieve stress, and it reinforces science skills. Encourage kids to get outside and look for interesting nature phenomena. This can be looking at plants, animals, water, weather, or anything else they find interesting. To increase learning, have kids document what they find through drawing, writing, or photography. Challenge kids to represent the data the collect in different ways by making charts, graphs and other visual displays. If your child isn’t as good with open-ended exploration, look online for resources to help you plan activities that will be engaging to your child, like a nature scavenger hunt.

Allowing kids to be creative is also an important part of summer enrichment. Set up time for youth to show their creativity through arts and crafts projects. This can be as simple as pulling together a bunch of art and craft materials and then letting your kids unleash their imagination. Also encourage storytelling, drama, and other forms of creative expression whenever possible. You can also look to community organizations for low-cost activities and classes that focus on these areas and sign your kids up!

One way to help kids work on critical thinking and time management skills is to set up a family project. Do something like plant a garden, plan a road trip, or host a garage sale. Have your children help create a plan to accomplish the project, including setting up timelines, tasks, costs and responsibilities. Then work together as a family to accomplish the project. This can help strengthen family relationships and life skills at the same time.

Last, but certainly not least, look for learning opportunities out in the community. Tons of local organizations offer low or no cost educational classes and events throughout the summer. Take advantage of these opportunities. Also look for places to explore as a family that have an educational component, such as local museums, nature centers, and historic sites. By working to engage our kids in learning throughout the summer through lots of small tasks, we can help them return to school in August in a stronger academic position.

Amy Henschen is the 4-H Youth Development Agent for Colorado State University Extension. To find out more about Extension and the 4-H program visit http://sanluisvalley.colostate.edu or call 719-852-7381. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.