The Summer Learning Slide

February 12th, 2013 posted by Natalie Gahrmann

How to Prevent Your Child From Going Down the Slippery Slope

Every June parents rejoice: “No more paper, no more books, no more painful long division!” Fast forward to September. Teachers lament: “What have these kids been doing for the past three months?” Students lose over a month of learning in general, and two-and-a-half months of math computation skills each summer, according to Dr. Harris Cooper, Ph.D., psychology professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Can children keep up without squeezing studying into family vacation time? You bet. Forget toiling over workbooks and flashcards. Sneak some academics into summer for kids from preschool to middle school with the activities below. Share the list with the babysitter, or slip it into your child?s overnight bag on the way to grandma?s house.



Margo, working mother of three (5, 3 and 9 months), favors quick, simple activities. “I don’t have time for elaborate science experiments or Martha-Stewart-type crafts.”

Make books

– Margo printed out digital pictures of her three-year-old during his bedtime routine. He put the pictures in order, and dictated captions to Margo: “I clean up my toys. I put on my pajamas. I brush my teeth. Mommy and Papi read me a story,” etc. She stapled the pages together, and- viola! He’s the star of his own story. Her five-year-old daughter’s book shows the things she likes to do with her two sets of grandparents- one in America and the other in Colombia. Both kids eagerly share their books with family and friends. Older children can go more in depth with hobbies, friends, or a family vacation.


Karen, part-time speech therapist and mother of two (9 and 7), instituted a weekly “Family Night.”

  • Bring out the Popcorn

    – Once a month, Karen reads a book with her kids and then rents the film version. “It’s fun to compare; some of them are really different,” she says. For preschoolers and elementary school kids, rent a favorite fairy tale on film. Then visit the library for different book versions. Check out these twists on the traditional Little Red Riding Hood tale: Lon Po Po (Ed Young) – Chinese version Flossie and the Fox (Pat McKissack) – African American tale written in dialect Little Red Riding Hood (Lisa Campbell Ernst) – set in the modern-day, American Midwest Older children love the Harry Potter series (both books and movies).

  • Let the Games Begin

    – Janet Braverman, math specialist at Dogwood Elementary in Reston, Virginia, recommends playing board games and cards with kids. “Anything with numbers or counting helps,” she says. Karen agrees. Her first-grader loves Monopoly Junior. “It’s a fun way to learn addition, subtraction, and counting money,” says Karen.


Tess, stay-at-home mother of two (6 and 4) and former teacher, views family vacation time as ripe for learning.

  • Bucket of Goodies

    – When Tess’ boys spill a bucket brimming with seashells onto her beach blanket, Tess seizes the opportunity. “How many shells are there?” she asks. “A thousand!” says Andy, the six-year-old. After some reflection, Nicholas offers, “Eighty-eleven.” “Let’s find out,” she says, and begins to draw circles the size of dinner plates in the sand. She helps the boys put ten shells in each circle. Andy counts by tens, while Nicholas practices counting up to ten. Tess uses anything from coins to cookies to teach basic math facts. “My sons think we’re just playing, but I’m helping them to build a foundation in math skills.” Kids older than seven can handle multiplication and division concepts, and all ages benefit from the estimation exercise.

  • Musical Math

    – When visiting grandparents means flying from Italy to Australia, Tess relies on some survival basics. “Each boy listens to a Walkman to help pass the time,” she says. “Math set to music has become a favorite.” Sara Jordan’s “Unplugged” series has addition, subtraction, multiplication and division versions. Multiplication Hip-Hop, (Sing 2 School, Inc.) and Schoolhouse Rock; Multiplication Rock have both received rave reviews. Harry Guffee tackles more complex math concepts, including exponents, long division and order of operations with his CD’s: Do the Math!, Got Math?/ Songs for Learning Volumes I and II and Doggone Math.


Dat, working father of two (9 and 6), shares his passion for cooking with his daughters. Check out these books that serve up tasty treats along with learning:

  • Cooking Up U.S. History: Recipes and Research to Share with Children (Suzanne Barchers and Patricia Marden) – Dat and his girls have made recipes that Native Americans and pioneers once cooked over open fires. “Thank goodness we get to use an oven!” he adds.
  • Science Experiments You Can Eat (Vicki Cobb)- Dat and his girls especially recommend the pretzels and the cupcakes.
  • Storybook Stew: Cooking with Books Kids Love (Suzanne Barchers) – activities and recipes to complement 50 favorite children’s stories.
  • Book Cooks (Cheryl Apgar) – stories and songs that teach each letter of the alphabet. The no-cooking-required recipes introduce fun in the kitchen for little ones.


“I have lots of tricks up my sleeve to keep this crew entertained,” says Carol, grandmother of five (1 to 11 years).

Floater and Sinkers

– “On a hot day, I fill a kiddie pool with water and we raid the fruit and vegetable bin,” says Carol. “We predict which ones will float, and which ones won’t.” “Then the splashing begins,” she says. They test each fruit and vegetable, making new groups: those that sank immediately, those that sank slowly, and those that floated. The ones with higher density sink. “Don’t be fooled,” she adds. “A watermelon floats, but a grape sinks!”


Dana, a middle school teacher, takes her nephews (7 and 10) on weekend field trips. “They appreciate the change of scenery, and we all learn something new,” she says.

Kid-Friendly Museum Programs

– Where can you walk through a model of the digestive system, explore a cave, or pretend to unearth ancient artifacts? At children’s museums across the country, of course! Visit the Association of Children’s Museums to find a museum near you. The Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) offers a passport program for kids. Log on to their website for a list of participating museums. Dana’s nephews both hold “passports” for Virginia’s museums, which entitle them to one sticker per visit and special discounts. From writing messages with a stick in wet sand to sharing a book together, learning and fun can easily go hand-in-hand this summer. “And in the fall,” Dana says, “summer learning pays off. I can tell which students slid back and which ones took a step forward.”

Natalie Gahrmann (3 Posts)

Featured Contributor

Error: Unable to create directory wp-content/uploads/2021/12. Is its parent directory writable by the server?
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

Contests & Giveaways

Win Fun Stuff!

Check out all the fun goodies we are
giving away here!

Featured Giveaway

***WE HAVE A WINNER!**** Our #2 Anonymous Poster says: What an awesome giveaway! I’d love to win this and give it to my grandkids for Christmas! Thanks for the giveaway  […]   READ ARTICLE

Giveaways change every couple of weeks, so be sure to check back often.

Coming up!

Orange Carrot Less-Drip Ice Pops

Parents are always looking for ways to sneak some vegetables into their child’s diet. Well, unless your kids are avid carrot lovers, just call these orange ice pops — they’ll […]