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What Is the Summer Slide and How to Help Your Kids Avoid It

Kids smile and laugh in a circle.
Studio Romantic/Shutterstock.com

Summer is just around the corner, and if you have school-age children, you’re probably already thinking about ways to keep them busy while they’re on break. While family vacations, camps, and even long lazy days are all important parts of the summer break experience, it’s just as essential to make sure your kids don’t fall victim to the “summer slide.”

Unfortunately, no, that’s not a fun ride at your local water park. Rather, it’s something that could hinder your child’s growth and performance over the next school year. So what is the summer slide, and how can you help prevent it?

What Is the Summer Slide?

Girl playing in an inflatable pool.

The summer slide refers to the loss of knowledge school-age children experience during the extended period of time away from school. While it’s nothing new, it became more of a hot-button issue after research in 1996 showed that children typically use a significant amount of knowledge in math and reading over the summer. These subjects, in particular, often require consistent repetition for connections to be made. If kids aren’t practicing math or reading much over the summer, they might have to catch up when school starts to form those connections again.

Not only does that negatively impact test scores, but it also can have a snowball effect, causing kids and teens to fall behind in their learning and mental growth.

Younger children tend to be more at risk of the summer slide since they’re in a more crucial development stage. But, it can happen to any child or teen that doesn’t stimulate their mind with the right learning materials over the summer.

As a parent, the last thing you want is to see your child struggling academically.

Thankfully, in the midst of vacations and long summer days, there are things you can do to stop the summer slide in its tracks.

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Avoid the summer slide by keeping your kids active with learning!

Encourage Reading

Some kids are already avid readers while others need a bit of encouragement. Either way, do what you can to make sure your child reads as much as possible throughout the summer.

If they have a hard time finding the motivation to read on their own, consider turning it into a challenge or game. Scholastic has a great summer reading challenge that runs every year. It allows your children to interact with book characters, join virtual events, play games, and keep track of how much they read so they can enter sweepstakes to earn prizes.

Reading can be done anywhere–even when you’re on vacation! Encourage your kids to find what interests them, and it won’t be long before they’re toting a book with them everywhere. Consider using the “five-finger rule” to help your child find a book that is just right. According to Scholastic, the rule goes as follows:

  • 0-1 fingers: It’s too easy.
  • 2-3 fingers: It’s just right.
  • 4-5 fingers: It’s too hard (or best read aloud with a buddy).

Turn Vacations Into Field Trips


During the school year, field trips can feel like special treats, allowing kids to spend the day away from school. But, there’s no reason you can’t adopt the field trip mindset as you plan your summer vacation, too.

Field trips aren’t just for fun. Studies have shown that students who take school trips have better grades and higher graduation rates.

While you can’t completely replicate the class environment in the summer, you can turn your vacations into educational experiences by switching things up from the beach and theme parks.

Visit museums, historical landmarks, famous libraries, planetariums, and zoos. All of these places give you the opportunity to educate your child using real-world examples. They can be especially effective if your child is a tactile learner and tends to absorb the most information through hands-on interaction.

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Make it easy for your whole family to carry their belongings on your adventures.

Incorporate Learning Into Your Routine

Man baking with his child

If you’re planning on a “staycation” this summer, there are plenty of ways you can incorporate significant learning skills into your daily routine.

Is it a rainy day? Why not bake a cake or cookies with your “student”? Baking incorporates a lot of science and math, including measurements, weights, and fractions. Plus, your child will be rewarded with a tasty treat for their efforts.

Playing card games or board games can also incorporate learning into your day. Your child will need to learn how to strategize, and you can encourage more learning by asking questions about scores, what they need to win, etc. Some of the best options that are both fun and educational include:

Don’t stress too much about picking out overly-educational games. Focus on games that use strategy, math, or allow your kids to solve puzzles while having fun. They won’t even realize they’re putting their learning skills to use!

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Help your kids learn about weights and measurements while baking tasty treats!

Don’t Ditch Screen Time Completely

Kids plays on phones.

There’s plenty of debate about the effects of screen time on kids. While we can probably all agree that letting your child spend hours on an iPad isn’t good, there are some benefits to screen time, especially in the summer.

Screen time can improve socialization, boost critical thinking, and actually help your child prepare for the upcoming school year. Nowadays, there are countless apps, videos, and programs you can download on your smart device to engage your child and keep them in the mindset of a learning environment even when they aren’t in a classroom. Some of the best learning apps include:

  • Khan Academy
  • ABCMouse
  • Prodigy
  • Hopscotch

Of course, there is such a thing as too much screen time. Some of the signs that your child is spending too much time on a phone or tablet include eye strain, headaches, and disrupted sleep. They’ll also tend to be more sedentary, and physical activity is important in the summer, too!

The summer slide isn’t something to take lightly, especially if you have an elementary-age child. But, as you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to slow down the slide and help your kids prepare for the next school year.

Remember, it’s still summer. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with your children as you foster a positive learning environment for them. Doing so will help them have a memorable summer while ensuring their minds are prepared for school.

Stacey Koziel Stacey Koziel
Stacey Koziel is a news writer at LifeSavvy. She's worked as a freelance writer for over ten years, focusing on family and lifestyle content. She also has a background in marketing and social media, and is always eager to talk (and write!) about the latest TikTok trends. Read Full Bio »
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