Fun Activities to Keep School Skills Sharp During the Summer

Just like athletes who continue to practice and train during the off-season, children need to keep practicing their academic skills during the summer vacation from school.  Nearly every child suffers from summer learning loss. Many students lose one to two months’ worth of reading and math performance during the summer.

By Jill Jolton
Fun ways to strengthen math skills:

- Number Challenge is a great game for school-age children to play and at the same time practice their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. Begin by having each player write the numbers 1 - 18 on a piece of paper. Each player should also have 18 pennies. The first player rolls three dice. They must use any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division to come up with one of the numbers on their paper. When they have performed the arithmetic for the group, they use one penny to cover the number that was the sum of their equation. The next player does the same thing and so on. The game is over when a player has covered all of their numbers.

- Find fun ways to practice fractions: Use measuring cups on the beach, at the playground or at the pool to introduce fractions to young children. Or use the small segments of a Hershey bar to teach equivalent fractions to older school kids.

- Kids can learn about money by having a lemonade stand in their neighborhood or budgeting for a day at the movies and conducting all the financial transactions at the theatre themselves.

- A deck of playing cards can be used to encourage number recognition and concepts of greater and less than.

- Help the kids mix up a batch of homemade playdough (recipe). They will practice reading and measuring while making the dough and then can use the dough to make shapes, do size sorting, and make counters to aid in simple math problems.

- Go online for fun math games and more! Many sites offer fun game-like worksheets that parents can download and print out. Or kids can play a bunch of on-line games that involve solving age appropriate math problems!

- Many board games involve math or reading skills and the kids will be having so much fun that they won't realize that they are learning at the same time! Check out classics like Yahtzee, Boggle or Scrabble.

Reading, writing, social studies and more:

- Madlibs is a fun game for older kids to practice their vocabulary and parts of speech. Great for travel!

- Make sure everyone in the family has a library card and make frequent visits. Many local libraries have storytimes, summer reading programs and fun special events. Also, the librarians are always qualified to help make book selections for your young readers! Kids might enjoy a family read-aloud book too. Choose a book that is slightly above their reading level and read a chapter every night.

- Start a neighborhood book club: Everyone reads the same book and then gets together to discuss the book and enjoy treats and fun! (Tips of how to start your own book club.)

- Catch up on correspondence with family and friends by writing letters or postcards! It will be fun for the kids to get mail if anyone writes back!

- Pick a word of the day and offer small treats (money for the snackbar at the pool or other small incentive) for using the word throughout the day.

- Use current events to encourage personal learning and research. With the Olympics right around the corner, spend some time with a globe talking about where the athletes are from. Also, find books and other materials about the presidential election that will make the coverage of this national event more meaningful to kids.


How to Keep Learning Alive During School Vacation
With the arrival of another school vacation, students relish the break from their academic routine. But parents may be worried that hard-earned gains in learning will be lost during the hiatus from the classroom. Award-winning teacher and education writer Judy Molland offers some tips on how to keep the kids learning – in different and, yes, fun ways.

Keep Learning Alive during Vacation

This podcast is one in a series of Straight Talk About Schools podcasts.