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Keep children engaged during summer break

The following editorial is from the (Vancouver) Columbian.

Creating simultaneous feelings of trepidation and joy for parents everywhere, school is out – or soon will be. Yes, the time is nigh when the kids will be home for the lazy days of summer that have parents scrambling to keep the youngsters engaged or entertained or otherwise involved in something productive.

We could use this occasion to advocate for year-round school, which some experts recommend but others reject. There is both good and bad to be found in the notion of having several short breaks built into the school year rather than a 10-week vacation during the summer, and it would result in a lengthy examination.

That is a discussion for another time, so for now we shall simply try to help parents navigate a summer break in which the mantra too quickly becomes, “Mom, I’m bored.” Contrary to an old axiom, boredom is the devil’s plaything – as any parent who spends the summer at home with the kids can attest.

Because of that, experts emphasize two essential goals for students throughout the summer: engaging the mind and being physically active. Studies have shown that students, on average, lose about two months of learning during the summer when it comes to math, and a similar decline is demonstrated in reading ability. Notably, this summer learning loss is most profound among low-income students, but it varies by grade level.

Mitigating this decline does not mean that students should be handed daily homework assignments, but it does mean that their minds should be engaged by something other than video games. One of the best ways to do this is setting aside a daily time for reading. A trip to the library to pick out a book can be turned into a fun adventure, and time spent with that book – or the daily newspaper – can be a stopgap against summer learning loss.

So, too, can turning math into a daily activity rather than a chore. A trip to the grocery store or following a recipe to make chocolate chip cookies can become a gentle exercise in math skills without the kids even being aware of it.

Meanwhile, summer also should be a time for physical activity and keeping a close watch on diet. Studies have shown that children engage in more obesity-causing activities during the summer, such as watching TV, drinking sugary beverages, and eating fewer vegetables. Healthy activity and a healthy diet not only will establish beneficial habits but will keep kids from becoming irritable.

Outdoor activities such as working in the garden or riding a bike are essential. As Dr. Y. Claire Wang said about a study of summertime activity: “We were struck by how much room for improvement there is in terms of healthy behavior, as the majority of kids are not even close to the guideline recommended level of physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, or screen time.”

All of these help develop a productive summer for children of all ages and will help parents maintain their sanity. As for teachers? Well, they have earned the right to spend all summer sleeping if they so desire. Unless, of course, they have children of their own to keep engaged.


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