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Recipe for summer learning

Reading, science experiments and free educational programs can help parents prevent the summer slide, when children can lose skills gained during the school year.
by Brandy McDonnell Modified: June 23, 2014 at 2:00 pm •  Published: June 23, 2014

Whether you call it the summer slide, the brain drain or just plain old learning loss, for parents, it’s a conundrum that can cast a pall over sunny summer vacation.

How do you keep the knowledge children earned in the classroom from slipping away in a hot haze of baseball practices, video games and cartoon marathons?

Dallas-based author and teacher Barbara Dianis said two studies done in 2011 showed that youngsters who took a complete scholastic break over the summer lost two to three months of learning. But the good news is that parents don’t have to pay for pricey summer camps or subject their children to flashcards and workbooks to keep young minds active.

Often, the recipe for summer learning can be as straightforward as mixing a dash of creativity, a few household items, a couple of simple games, some trips to the library and maybe a venture into the great outdoors.

Brain games

Laura Knight, instructional coach at Central Oak Elementary in Crooked Oak Public Schools, said her children enjoy bubble math: She blows bubbles, and they make a sport of counting them, then adding and subtracting as more bubbles appear or as they pop.

“Who doesn’t love bubbles? Any objects that they’re playing with, they can add and subtract. With older kids, you can just turn that into multiplication and division,” Knight said. “You can do it with blocks, cars, stuffed animals, anything they have. You can do it with snacks; teachers do that a lot of times during the school year.”

Dianis suggested challenging youngsters to a language-arts version of I Spy and seeing who can rattle off the most nouns, adjectives and adverbs in a given space.

Parents shouldn’t overlook classic word, board or card games as teaching tools, either. Mad Libs can offer hilarious English reviews, the card game Set encourages critical thinking and pattern recognition, and parents can borrow a pair of dice from a board game and roll out a math skills challenge for their youngsters.

“Just roll the dice, and they can practicing adding the two numbers, subtracting the two numbers, multiplying or dividing. It’s a real easy one, and kids love it, and so many of them need their math facts. You can also get dice at the teacher supply store that go up to 10 (sides),” said Dianis, an Oral Roberts University gradute who wrote “Don’t Count Me Out! A Guide to Better Grades and Test Scores Pre K-12th.”

While it’s tempting to let kids do much of their summer learning via educational TV shows, online games and various apps, Knight cautioned parents to set reasonable limits on screen time.

“You need to interact ... and make sure they are on the right track. Because sometimes they’ll just play the game and not really understand what they’re doing,” she said.

At the library

One of the simplest and most effective tactics parents can use is to read to or with their children every day, Knight said.

As if books and air conditioning weren’t enough, the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County also hosts free musical performances, story times and more.

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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