Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

Updated: Feb 4, 2019

Summer Learning Loss Can be Recognized as Early as Grade 1


girl at campfire playing guitar


The last day of school is a time of great excitement when children forget their textbooks, tests, and projects for a lazy summer. It is often a relief for both parents and children to “put school away” for the summer. Unfortunately, many children who don’t engage in learning activities in the summer find they have forgotten things or fall behind their peers once the new school year begins. Summer learning loss or “the summer slide” is the phenomenon that occurs when children forget academic material after taking long breaks from school. Research regarding summer learning loss suggests that:

  • On average, students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in math and reading.

  • Teachers spend the first four to six weeks of the new school year re-teaching material from the previous year.

  • Summer learning loss has a greater impact on low-income students, contributing substantially to the achievement gap in reading between them and their higher income peers.

  • Summer learning loss is cumulative; over time it can create a gap of two and up to five years by the time students reach high school.

While summer learning loss has been shown to affect all areas, math is especially hard hit

Children can increase their math retention by 2/3 by doing only 10 minutes a day. Here's how to boost math skills this summer

Stop regarding math as something kids will only learn -- or use -- in a classroom.

Math can be worked into most situations. Here are some examples.

  • Ask what's people favorite ice-cream flavor is, and ask your child how to present the data. Encourage them by helping them create a bar chart or other pictograph.

  • At the summer pool? Help your child calculate the volume and weight of water.

  • Track the daily temperature and convert Fahrenheit to Celsius.

  • At the grocery store, ask your child to help figure out which box of cookies is closest to the $3.00 price point. Similarly on menus, ask your child to point out items that are in the $5 - $10 dollar range. Or, depending on skill, ask how much the juice and a burger would cost.

  • Count the fruit / vegetables as you put them in the bag.

  • Practice time and distance on road trips. Count down the number of exit stops. Figure out how long it will take to get to your destination if you're travelling at say 60 kph.

  • On the beach collect and arrange seashells in groups of 2, 4, 6 etc. At home, collect and arrange groups of other objects into similar sets.

And don't forget....

Regular physical activity can lead to increased concentration and improved mathematics and test scores.


Ways of incorporating exterior physical activity into your summer plans

  1. Encourage learning a new skill such as swimming.

  2. Go on walks and explore your city.

  3. Get some chalk and play Hopscotch.

  4. Allow/encourage toddlers to walk rather than sitting in a car, pushchair or being carried. It can take longer but keeps them active

  5. Reins can be used to keep walking toddlers safe rather than strapping them into a pushchair

  6. Ways of making walking more fun: • count birds, trees, aeroplanes, white cars etc. en route • avoid stepping on cracks in the pavements • race to a landmark – giving toddlers an earlier start or let them use a scooter or bike

  7. Use stairs rather than lifts and escalators

  8. Take toddlers to a playground for at least 20-30 minutes each day where they can run, climb and jump – especially toddlers who do not have a garden to run around in or do not attend childcare facilities where physical activity is encouraged

Ways of incorporating physical activity indoors into your summer plans

  1. Encourage toddlers to help in tidying up their toys or tidying up around the house

  2. Jump rope: If you have downstairs neighbors who complain, go in the hall or outside your building. For more fun, pick up a book of jump-rope rhymes.

  3. Obstacle course: Create a furniture course in your apartment or take chalk and make a course outside. Add in specific mental or physical challenges to keep them guessing.

  4. Wheelbarrow, crab, and bear-walk races: Holding one of these tough positions gives you a real workout.

  5. Animal races: Hop like a bunny or frog; squat and waddle like a duck; and so on.

  6. Balloon ball: There are endless ways to play with balloons or balls indoors. Try to keep it off the ground or just play catch. Mix it up with balloon tennis!

  7. Follow the leader: Add to the workout with energetic movements such as jumping, stomping, and squatting.

  8. Freeze dance: Turn on the music and shake it up! When the music stops, freeze in your pose and hold it until the music begins again.

  9. Scavenger hunt: Write up clues and hide them around the apartment. Kids can race to find each clue for a small prize at the end.

  10. Jumping jacks: Simple but good for coordination and they get your heart going. Try it when your kids can't sleep!

  11. Parachute: This kiddie gym standby can be re-created at home with sheets. Each kid takes an end of the parachute or sheet and fans it upward while one of you runs underneath. 

  12. Bubble wrap attack: If you get bubble wrap in the mail, jump on it until it's all popped

  13. Clean-up race: Set a timer or put on a song to see who can right the room the fastest.

  14. Tickle tag: Chase your children. When you catch them, it's tickle time.

  15. Temper tantrum: Have a fit for the fun of it. Flail, stomp, and scream.

  16. Carnival: Set up carnival games such as "Knock Down the Milk Cans" (we used Tupperware).

  17. Hallway bowling: Fill up water bottles and use any ball you have.

  18. Pillow fight: No explanation needed.

  19. Sock skating: If you have hardwood floors, put on socks to skate around. Try spins or hockey stops, or see who can slide the farthest. Make sure to move the furniture and watch for splinters. My kids also like to up the speed factor with a couple of pieces of wax paper under each foot.

  20. Bubble bashing: Blow bubbles and let your child try to smash them.

  21. Wrestling: Put down a mat, or play on a rug or bed. See if your kids can wrestle you to the ground.

  22. Pushover parents: Plant your feet and see if the kids can budge you. If you move your feet, they win. Stand on one foot to make it easier for little kids.

Image courtesy of oxfordlearning.com

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