Teachers and parents are in a battle every summer. It is a battle to keep knowledge in children’s heads. Educational researchers even have names for this loss of knowledge. They call it the “summer slide” or the “summer slump.” But there are weapons to use in this battle, and many cost little to nothing. Here are 12 things you can try with your children this summer.

1. Get children their own library cards.

Go to the library weekly and let children pick their books. Keep each child’s books in her own cloth bag (like a grocery bag). Keep a reading log of the books read. Many schools will give prizes at the end of summer for this. The public libraries do, too. Check with your library.

2. Set up a TV/video watching schedule.

Let children pick their favorites. Limit viewing to no more than 2 hours per day. Have children write out the schedule for themselves. Introduce the concept of a table to organize information. Use this to teach telling time, calculate elapsed time, and the difference between a.m. and p.m.

3. Take field trips to local, interesting sites.

Older children can do Internet research to read about the site before you go. It doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many local sites that are free or only have a small fee: Campbell’s Covered Bridge, the Furman Bell Tower, Poinsett Bridge, Caesars’s Head State Park, Duke Energy’s World of Energy at Oconee Nuclear Station, Hartwell Dam & Lake Visitor Center and Big Oaks Recreation Area (1 mile over the state line on U.S. Highway 29 in Georgia), Hagood Mill in Pickens County, Hub City Railroad Museum in Spartanburg, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum & Baseball Library.

4. Let children help with weekly shopping.

The kids could help by writing a grocery list, clipping coupons, using a calculator to keep up with the total cost at the store and by comparing prices between products.

5. Give children chores to do around the house.

Make a check off chart and pay them an allowance when they complete their chart. Use real coins and dollars to help teach counting money. Teach them to write the amounts two ways using a cent sign (125¢), and also a dollar sign and decimal ($1.25).

6. Car learning.

Don’t waste all that time in the car watching videos. Drill math facts in the car: Call out addition, subtraction, multiplication or division facts to children. Get a book of fun poetry and help children memorize their favorites. Sing a song (“Fifty Nifty United States” by Ray Charles — it’s on YouTube — is a good one) to learn the names of the 50 states.

7. Get sidewalk chalk.

Have children write summer sentences on the driveway and then illustrate them. They could do poems, letters, stories — anything with words.

8. Use plastic magnetic letters on the refrigerator.

There are a lot of ways to use these magnets. Give your children words to spell with the letters. Put up a long word and then the kids have to see how many words they can make with just those letters. Give them letters to a word that is mixed up and ask them to put the letters back in the correct order to make the original word. Play a game like Hangman. Call it 10 strikes and give them 10 chances to fill in the letters to make a word.

9. Play Hangman 

The Hangman game (or make a robot if hanging a man is too violent for you) can also be played anywhere you have to sit and wait with older children such as restaurants or doctor’s offices. Use a small notepad or an app on your phone to set up a name, saying, TV show or book title with blanks for each letter and spaces between words. Have your children guess letters and see if they can figure out the answer before the man — or robot — is completed.

10. Find the treasure!

Devise a treasure hunt with paper clues. Children read a clue and figure out where to go to find the next clue. A cooler full of cold drinks and healthy snacks could be the treasure at the end. Older children could even devise their own treasure hunts for each other. This is good practice for reading, writing, sequencing and problem solving.

11. Send kids to an academic camp.

Choices include computer camps, science camps, technology camps, inventors camps, writing camps, art camps and many others. Look in Upstate Parent magazine for advertisements for many good camps in the Upstate, or check out the Upstate Parent Camp Guide. You can also check out the Upstate Parent calendar.

12. Art and music?

Let children take music lessons or art lessons if they are interested. The YMCA, churches, community centers, art museums, universities and other local businesses (such as art supply stores) can be a place to find inexpensive options for lessons. The mental discipline required for these lessons carries over to academic learning.

About the author

Miriam S. Youngblood is a retired school teacher who taught in Greenville County for 36 years.

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