Summer education for kids

A two month break could have a serious impact on your child's brain


Why should you organise learning activities over the holidays?
Every year there is always a summer drop-off. That means the children experience a drop in their learning skills. That’s why teachers do assessments at the very beginning of the year, rather than relying on the reports from the previous year. The first few weeks of the new term are then spent trying to bring the children back to the level they were at before the summer holidays.

What are the skills the children tend to lose?
Phonics is a big one. You tend to find that children forget the slightly more tricky sounds, as well as reading some of the key words. Maths can be a bit slow too. They won’t forget basic addition and subtraction, but number facts they might have learned the previous term are often forgotten.

Should you establish a learning routine at the start of the hols?
It depends. Some children miss the structure school provides, so establishing a routine straight away is probably a good idea. For older children (from Key Stage Two), it’s good to get them involved in a routine from the word go. Discuss it with them at the beginning of the holidays and let them know that although they are off school, there will be times when they are expected to do some learning activities.

That’s not always easy with little ones, though
True. This is why I advise parents of younger children to look for opportunities that will involve them in writing, rather than making it an obvious learning session. Activities like compiling a shopping list, counting vegetables in the supermarket, writing postcards to friends if you go on holiday and making birthday cards, are all great ways to encourage them to use their skills. Even things like baking a cake and reading the recipe together is learning.

Some parents enlist tutors over the summer. Is this something we should all consider?
In Dubai, a lot of parents aren’t around over the summer because they are both working. If you know you’re not going to be able to spend much time with your child, and there won’t be many opportunities for activities, then yes, enlisting the help of a tutor is probably a good idea. However, if you’re going to be able to dedicate time to your children, I wouldn’t consider it a necessity.

Should children dedicate a certain amount of time to learning per week?
For parents who know their child is struggling, establishing set times for practising numeracy and literacy skills is a sensible idea. But if your child is progressing well, the argument could be you’re going on holiday and you’re visiting some really exciting places, and all of that is a learning experience which you can make the most of by adding a few carefully chosen tasks. In general, children learn better through experiences anyway.

Learning on the net

Check out our suggested school resources links

Learning through fun

Liz says: ‘Museums are great – especially for boys, who respond better to factual activities. Get them to take photographs or make a booklet or poster about their visit when they get home. This will help them remember and absorb more from the trip. It provides great writing practice too.’

Keep a diary or a scrapbook
If you’re on holiday, a quiet period in the evenings where they can sit down and write about their day can be a lovely way of recording their memories. Adding pictures and sticking in photos, as well as drawing pictures, make the activity more exciting.

Make lists
Boys aren’t always so willing to sit down and write, but if you give them a practical task, they are more likely to get involved. Get your boys to write out lists of toys they’d like to find in the toyshop, then take them on a field trip. Just because you visit a toyshop, doesn’t mean you have to buy.

Visit the library
Children don’t have to be able to read the books they select. The activity should be more of a shared experience with a parent. Simply spending time reading together nurtures a love of literature.

Make the most of a journey
Put on a story CD or a mental maths programme (these are downloadable) to keep them occupied. Little ones love playing I Spy (good for observational and literary skills). Competitive kids can have fun adding up car numberplates and seeing who can get the right answer first.

Play educational games on the net
Although you wouldn’t want them doing it all day, there is nothing wrong with kids visiting sites that feature educational games. See our suggested links box.

Don’t forget physical development
Studies show a direct correlation between mental ability and physical fitness, so exercise and playing games outside (if you’re in a cool climate) is really important. A simple trip to the park combines exercise and learning. Collecting leaves, bugs and turning over stones to see what’s underneath them is an educational adventure in itself.

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