Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Avoiding "Summer Slide"

Almost everyone has heard of summer slide, the loss of skills so many students experience during the long break from school.  Skills that our children (and their teachers) have worked hard to master during the school year are lost, simply because they aren't revisited for several months.

It doesn't have to be that way, maintaining skills through the summer can be as easy as having your child join you in doing chores, running errands, and playing games!  Here are some ideas that may help you enjoy the summer with your children, while keeping their skills sharp.

Number 1: read.  Read together, have your child read to you, show your child you value reading by modeling it - with a book, a magazine, a news article... whatever suits you.  Children who see their parents as readers are much more likely to want to be readers.  Try some of these reading techniques:
 - Snuggle up together, give your child your full attention for a few minutes, and take turns reading pages in a book that is just right for them.  Knowing that they only have to read one page at a time can really support struggling readers, and having a special time with you makes it even more appealing!

- Read aloud to your child.  Yes, you did that when they were 3 or 4, but don't give up on reading to your 10 year old either!  Find a novel that you think will appeal to them, and read one chapter each day.  My husband and I read all but the last of the Harry Potter books to and with our children - until our oldest, a teenager, finally asked if he could just have the last book and read it himself.  It was hard to let go of that tradition!
- Have your child read something they enjoy out loud to you while you are busy.  Driving somewhere?  Have them read to you, or listen to an audio book in the car together.  Our family favorites were the Hank the Cowdog books, and my children still quote them.  Your local library will have audio books available to check out.  An added advantage of this?  Listening to part of a series may get your child hooked on the stories, and interested in reading more of them.
- Try poetry!  Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky write witty and awesome verse for children, and many of them are short and sweet, enticing children who may not want to read something "long".  Again, your children may end up quoting their favorite lines for years to come.

- Read a book that has also been made into a movie, then watch the movie together and compare them.  My children and I really like the Roald Dahl books: Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
- Reluctant reader?  Bring in something they are interested in: dinosaurs, cars, makeup, technology, etc.  Magazines designed for tweens make reading seem cooler, and more interesting, and once again, they are available at your public library!

Number 2: Do some math together.  No, not flashcards.  Real life math is a lot more fun, and more effective.  You could:

- Try cooking together.  Even very young children can help you count scoops of flour or spoons full of other ingredients. 

You can teach them to measure carefully by paying attention to fill lines.  For children who are able, try halving or doubling a recipe (they'll want to double that cookie recipe for sure!)  Cooking lets your child measure temperatures, read recipes, set timers and more, with a delicious incentive at the end of the process.  As always, decide what you think your children can safely learn, then teach them how to use sharp or hot kitchen products carefully, and supervise closely. 

- Do chores.  Have your child sort and put away cutlery, and set the table.  Have them fold towels (can they make it into quarters or eighths?) and match pairs of socks. They can count how many toys they put away, how many stairs there are to vacuum, and much more.  When you do chores together they seem to go faster, and are a lot more fun.
- Tell time.  Digital clocks are easy enough for most 4 or 5 year olds to read, as long as they can read 2 digit numbers.  At 2 years old my oldest son would wake up at the crack of dawn, ready to play.  We got him a digital clock, and told him he needed to stay in bed until the first number was a 6 or more.  That first night he was up at 12:06, 2:36, 3:16.... every time he saw a 6 anywhere.  The second night I made a paper frame to go around the hour space, and explained that the 6 needed to be in the box.  He never got up too early again!
- Count money.  Yes, it is hard at first, but it is such an important skill!  Start with just pennies. Then practice counting by 5 and 10, and counting nickels and dimes.  Slowly put the different coins together, adding quarters last.  One of my favorite ways to help families practice coin counting together is to have parents empty (or partly empty) their pockets of coins in the evening.  Challenge your child to count how much money there is: if they add it up correctly, they get to keep it!  Talk about motivation!  Again, start with whatever your child can manage, and slowly increase the challenge. 
One summer when my own children were 9 and 5, I challenged the 9 year old each day with a money problem, such as how to make 52 cents with exactly 8 coins (4 dimes, 2 nickels, 2 pennies).  He got to keep it if he could figure it out - with the added advantage of keeping him quietly busy for a few minutes!  Then I had him put together a small box with the same coins in it for his brother to count.  
-Add it up.  When you need to run to the store for a few items, have your child try to figure out how much your total is going to be.  As you put each item into your cart, tell them the price, and let them figure it out - calculators optional. 

Number 3: Observe the natural world around you.  Children are natural scientists, investigating everything around them.  Get outside and look for bugs, leaves, animals, clouds... whatever fascinates them.  Ask questions along with your child, and when you find something you are both interested in, look up the answers.  Your library is a great place to find books on everything, but you can also help your child learn to look things up on the internet.

Go to the zoo or the aquarium, and read the information displayed about each animal.  Take your time, and if there are times when zoo keepers are available to talk about the animals, take advantage of it!  You may be able to look up information about special programs on-line, and time your visits accordingly.

Number 4: Play games.  Board games teach our children how to take turns, pass the dice, count and move spaces, and more.  Many games have a learning component - look for some that you played as a child, and make a family tradition of playing together.  No money for games?  Try simple drawing games such as the dot game and tic tac toe.  You can also have your child invent a game board, and take turns rolling a dice to move, or use flashcards as questions to answer in order to move. 

There are so very many ways you can make learning together fun, you probably remember doing some of these things, and others.  My mother had us look for numbers on license plates (how high can you get before the drive is over?) and letters in the environment around us (start with A and work through the alphabet).

I realize now that those games served several purposes: they entertained us, kept us relatively quiet, and engaged our brains too. 

I recently created some games for 5 - 7 year old children to help parents engage their children, while entertaining and keeping them productively occupied.  If you are interested, please check it out at the link below.  There are four game boards for children to color, and game cards for sight words, telling time, adding, subtracting, shapes, coins, rhyming, color words, and patterns.  I think it covers a whole lot of skills, and playing to learn is so much more engaging than worksheets!

Bye Bye Summer Slide!Bye-Bye Summer Slide!

If you have more suggestions of ways to keep children engaged and learning during the summer months, please leave them in the comments below!

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