The school year is coming to an end. As fearful as some kids are to start the school year, there are just as many kids who are sad to say "goodbye" to their teacher and classmates. What can parents do to help their children transition to summer? I posed that question to Eden Prairie Early Childhood Family Education's Andrea Daugherty for some expert advice.
Here are four great suggestions from Andrea:
Help the child think through what they have appreciated about their teacher/teaching staff and what their favorite memories have been. Help them write some of these things down, whether in a card to give to the teacher or in a memory book. They could illustrate pictures to go along with the stories they want to remember.
Stay in the Routine
Parents often notice that their kids are well-behaved at school, but seem to regress at home. Some of the reasons for this phenomenon are structure and clearly-communicated expectations that remain consistent throughout the day. When a child enters a classroom, he or she knows that their job is to check in (perhaps by signing their name at their desk), wash their hands, and complete a task before joining the group. This routine is predictable, which means the child knows what to expect, as well as what is expected of them. I would encourage parents to think strategically about which household routines might benefit their children. It can also be helpful to create a visual schedule or calendar so that the child knows what is coming up.
For example, this summer, maybe every day will start with a family breakfast followed by a movement time (stretching, running outside, jumping, anything that gets those big muscles moving). Lunch could be followed by 15 minutes of quiet reading time. Maintain consistent bedtimes too. Any rhythm that repeats itself day-to-day will help anchor the child’s day and give them a structure in which they can be successful.
Think weekly as well -- Mondays could be library day, while Thursdays might include a visit to a favorite park.
Summer can be a lonely time for children who go from a bustling classroom full of peers to being at home alone all day. Find ways to connect with the child’s friends, making sure to include friends from their school. Meet up at a playground or community space, or invite friends over for a picnic lunch. Participating in day camps is another great way to keep up social connections.
Fight the Summer Slide
Help children practice those newfound academic skills throughout the summer. Set aside plenty of time to practice reading, writing, and mathematics concepts.
- No flashcards; make it fun! Math skills can be practiced by counting how many steps it takes to run across the playground or by using measuring cups while making a summer treat in the kitchen.
- Participate in your library’s summer reading program.
- Model reading for the child, and make time to read together as a family. Write cards and grocery lists together.
Kids in the achievement gap are most vulnerable to losing academic skills over the summer, which makes it even more crucial to practice those developing skills during time away from school. Parents could ask their child’s teacher for a list of skills to work on over the summer.
Andrea Daugherty, M.Ed. is a Licensed Parent Educator with Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), Eden Prairie MN Schools.