Fun ways you and your child can enhance learning 

Even in pre-pandemic years, parents worried about “summer slide,” or a regression in their child’s knowledge and skills. And now with summer break in full swing, many parents are probably more concerned than usual about how the break will affect their child’s learning. Preliminary national studies indicate the potential for significant COVID-19-related learning loss, the impact of which will be more clearly revealed over time.  

As we hit the midway mark, here are some easy, no-pressure ways to enhance learning while still focusing on family fun. 

Make Reading A Daily Event, And A Family One 

Thankfully, libraries are now open and ready for visitors! Reading just 5-6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading skills. When children select reading materials themselves and read for enjoyment, they receive the most gains in reading skill achievement. They may need guidance from an adult, but parents should follow a child’s lead in terms of their interests and format.  

Books aren’t the only way to have literacy experiences. Look for other things to read (newspaper, daily comics, weather, magazines, online resources, recipes, graphic novels, anime), and direct young children to read in the environment around them (signs, letters). Keep reading aloud to your kids even when they can read independently; family storytime is a great bonding experience! And be a reading role model, letting your child see you reading frequently, and also discuss with them what you enjoy reading. 

Make Learning Opportunities Relevant, Natural, And Hands-on  

Avoid drills and look for ways to make learning connected to a child’s interests. With young children, use beads for counting and creating stringing patterns. If your child notices a flower or insect, ask questions to spark a desire for more information (What color is it? What do you think the ants are doing?), have your child draw a picture, or take a picture on your phone, and then look up information at home or at the library.  

Make a summer scrapbook and encourage your child to draw and write (or, for pre-writers, dictate to you) the story of their summer. When home, involve them in your tasks, rather than organizing structured entertainment. For example, have them measure something for you, such as scoops of soil as you’re gardening. And while some parents have had enough of screen education, educational websites and apps (PBS Kids and Dk Find Out!) present age-appropriate information in fun ways, and when viewed together, offer discussion topics. 

Have Fun Together And Be Creative  

Plan trips to parks, play games, do puzzles, cook, garden, and learn together. During the school year, our busy lives crowd out time for playful learning with a parent. Find a podcast to listen to stories together. Recommended by Common Sense Media include Circle Round (folk tales), The Past and the Curious (history), and Wow in the World (science).  

Old-fashioned board games, puzzles, activities following steps (building a model), or open-ended creative play (constructive toys with blocks, Legos, sidewalk chalk, dress up) all contribute to learning. For older children, encourage them to take on a new challenge that might “stretch” them a bit, such as riding a bike around the block for the first time by themselves, or cooking a simple meal for the family. The Let Grow Project gives ideas for experiences that can cultivate independence and good decision-making, skills that may provide one of the most important kinds of education they can have this summer. 

Lisa Phillips, MSW, LMSW, has been a parent educator at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital since 2001 and is a regular contributor to the award-winning “Parenting Corner” column. She can be reached at 504.896.9591;

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