Fighting Summer Slide with Everyday Activities of Intention

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Sarasota County.

For parents and caregivers of school-age children, the summer heat and the end of the school year can anticipate an exciting family vacation or mark the start of two months of rushing kids to camps and scrambling to find and afford childcare—all while still making it to work on time.

For many students, the break provides a much-needed chance to recharge and enjoy unstructured days. For others, it’s a time to take on more hours at work, prepare for college, or both. But it also marks the onset of “summer slide,” when students begin to lose the learning that they have gained over the course of the school year.  

While summer can certainly complicate an already busy schedule for many parents or caregivers, it is a great time to find fun (and hopefully easy) ways to keep kids actively learning while spending valuable time with them. 

There are so many great, inexpensive ways to keep kids learning. To celebrate the Herculean feat of engaging children intentionally through the summer, I wanted to share a few of my favorites:

  1. Take your child to the public library. There are many branches, and it’s a great (and air-conditioned) way to promote literacy and introduce your child to new books—for free. (And please know, if your child is in grade K–5 and needs a little extra support reading, you can get free books through the New Worlds Reading Initiative. It’s an amazing resource.)
  2. Enjoy the natural beauty that Sarasota offers. Visit a beach or explore one of the great state parks such as Myakka or Oscar Scherer. Create lists of all the different birds you see and research them. Do the same for other animals or the many plants that grow. Identify if they’re native plants and learn how they’ve been used over the years.
  3. Take a vacation—from screens. Pick a day (maybe Phone Free Fridays?) or even just a few hours a few times a week to spend without phones, laptops, tablets, smart watches or TVs. 
  4. Dig out that old card table and start a puzzle. You might be surprised how a puzzle can bring people together and foster collective problem solving. 
  5. Cook or bake with your child. Explore the science behind your creations. If you’re competitive, create cooking or baking challenges. Plenty of baking and cooking shows serve as humorous reminders that you don’t need to be a veteran cook, or even a competent one, to have fun in the kitchen and maybe even create something delicious.
  6. Cool off while spending time at one of Sarasota’s great museums. There is so much to discover about the rich history of our community, and many museums offer free admission on certain days or times.
  7. Find a new podcast and help your child find one. Share what you all listened to, what you learned and why you liked it.
  8. Create art together. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist. You can model risk-taking with your child as you both set out to create. Check out tutorials together and share in the learning.
  9. Look into community classes you could take with your child or find a free online course. Today, you can find free courses on just about anything!
  10. Volunteer together. There are so many great ways to get involved across the county, and volunteering teaches important lessons about giving back to a community and uniting to keep it strong!

Activities like these, most of which require little planning, and many of which are free, fuel curiosity and keep kids learning. They can help counter summer slide. Most importantly, they help parents and caregivers develop new connections with their children while creating fun summer memories.

Jennifer Vigne is president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Sarasota County.

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