This blog post is written with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek
Children can lose anywhere from 2 to 3 months of classroom learning during the summer. Called “summer loss” or the “summer slump,” this phenomenon is especially prevalent in low-income households. But children don’t need to sit at a desk to keep the learning going, and it need not cost parents a penny.
In Becoming Brilliant, we point out that parents and caregivers can help children develop the skills they need for professional and personal success by talking and playing with them. The 6C’s of Collaboration, Communication, Content, Critical Thinking, Creative Innovation, and Confidence come alive in everyday moments and everywhere we go. Take Simon Says. This timeworn game helps children develop “executive function skills” – or the ability to control their impulses. This is pretty important when a child wants something someone else has… asking and not grabbing makes for a good citizen. That old standby Red Rover reinforces collaboration and communication and even Hide-and-Seek encourages children to engage in “theory of mind,” or knowing what others are thinking. ‘Where do they think I am hiding? I will hide someplace else!’
Keep the learning going and have fun at the same time. Perhaps you will even remember doing some of these things when you were a child:
1. Rap like Lin Manuel-Miranda! Rapping with children helps them develop story-telling skills and hones creativity and communication.
2. Put on a Play! Let children dress-up and put on a show, maybe acting out a story they like. This encourages the use of language (communication), creativity, and collaboration. Learning to tell stories is vital for writing and reading.
3. “Paint” the driveway or sidewalk with water. But where did it go? Talk about what happened to the water: evaporation! Children love to paint and to use those fat pastel chalks that wash off the next time it rains. Science and creative innovation marry here!
4. Shadow puppets or chase your own shadow. Why do the shadows change size, and why there are there shadows at all? Talking about these things builds content in science and communication.
5. Hand and String Games. When children play Cats in the Cradle, they use the string to make different patterns, great for creativity and problem solving!
6. Ball Bouncing and Hand Clapping Games. You can find them on the web. We still remember these games fondly. They build memory and executive function too!
7. Anagrams! Family vacations often start and end with ennnddllesss car rides. For the readers in your family, use that time to keep the troops entertained by spotting a word on a sign and seeing how many other words, of at least three letters, each person can make.
8. The License Plate Game. Write down the states you see on license plates. One of us still plays this on her own on long car rides! But where are these states? Any road atlas will have a map of the US, increasing children’s content knowledge of geography.
9. Make a Drum Circle Using Pots and Spoons. Games like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves incorporate collaboration, communication, and practice on executive function skills. It may be loud but why not have summer fun?
10. Create New Things from Junk. Maker Fairs are becoming especially popular, challenging children to create new devices or objects out of old parts -- encourage your child to turn into Rube Goldberg! From discarded vacuum pieces, to toilet paper rolls, to cardboard boxes, children can create art and sculpture from discarded materials found around the house!
Summertime… and the learning is easy… if we just look for opportunities to have fun and learn too.