Keeping Kids Engaged and Learning all Summer Long

The summer is no doubt a welcome break for students, but a 9 week hiatus from a formal program is long enough for academic skills slide.  There is evidence from research spanning over 100 years to support the reality of “summer learning loss”.  This research shows that students can loose up to 3 months of mathematic skills and slide significantly in spelling and reading.  While some summer school programs are available to students who need the most support, the research makes it clear that our long summer vacations interfere with academic growth for all students. 

This leaves the onus on parents and caregivers to fill the gap and keep kids engaged and active in order to avoid the summer slide.  But not to fear,  I’ve compiled some ideas here to help.  Follow the links for more resources and specific info about programs and events in Toronto this summer that will keep minds active while having lots of summer fun.

Educational summer camps are a great way to keep minds active over a long break.  There are many educational summer programs in the city that will appeal to a diverse range of interests. Many of the larger museum and gallery camps fill up quickly, but there are still many options for high-interest educational camps, such as the Creative Club Lego Camp (lego + robotics!) held right here at HPDS, or themed "Brain Camps" run by the High Park Oxford Learning Centre .  

Your kids don't need to be registered in a camp to take in all of the exciting exhibits and activities offered by Toronto's many museums and galleries.  Take a day trip to experience programs specifically for children, to educate, engage and inspire, like the super cool "Inventorium" at the Ontario Science Centre (their very own maker space!) or the Hands-On Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  If you are looking for more of an adventure and don't mind travelling, you might find something that sparks your interest at one of Ontario's 700 museums and historical sites. Talk about opportunities for experiential learning! 

Of course, one of the easiest ways to keep language skills developing naturally is to READ! As little as 30 minutes a day will benefit your child. Your child can join the Toronto Public Library Summer Reading Club for access to free fun activities and your own on-line log to track all of the great books he or she reads! Looking for a good recommendation?  Here's one of my favourite lists of kids books from a great parent resource site, Common Sense Media.  Road tripping this summer? Audio books for the whole family make for great company on long drives. 

Having opportunities to put pencil to paper over the summer is important to keep writing skills sharp.  Keeping a journal, making a vacation scrapbook or writing letters to a new friend from summer camp are great ways to do this, but informal opportunities, like making a grocery list, will benefit your child too.  Try to have your child write at least once a day, even if it is a short note. If your child enjoys writing, take this opportunity to start a writing project like creating a short story, a joke book or a comic book.

There are plenty of opportunities to keep math minds sharp this summer too.  My first recommendation is to continue practicing previously learned math skills through independent programs such as Jump Math, or to practice of addition, subtraction  and multiplication facts. As little as 15 minutes a day will build confidence in Math and help your child avoid the slide.  Math video game sites have games to target very specific skills in a format kids love. If you're looking for a more applied and hands-on opportunity to exercise those math muscles this summer, cook with your kids and have them follow the recipe and measure ingredients. If you have a vegetable garden, kids can keep a simple observation journal and record growth measurements each day.

Finally, if your kids are looking for some couch time on a rainy day or after a long, active day outdoors, there's plenty streaming to keep them truly engaged. Documentaries will inspire, educate and entertain, and you can find something that will tap into almost any interest - science and nature, technology, history, sports, art, music and more!  Check out these documentaries for kids from Common Sense Media, complete with age ratings and parent guides.  Looking for similar content without the screens?  Why not listen to a podcast, like this one by Tinkercast, made just for kids.

Do you have a favourite engaging or educational summer activity? Please share with us in our comments!

Happy Summer everyone!