Oh, the end of elementary school! After a year of social and academic growth, your child has become more independent, more able to focus, and better at problem-solving. And he probably has plenty of ideas about how to spend his free time this summer!

You’ll want to consider all of this when you think about how to keep your child learning over the summer. Research shows that kids who don’t have learning experiences during the summer break lose a lot of the knowledge and skills they learned during the school year. This can put them behind their peers when the new school year starts. Here are some fun ways to help your child keep learning this summer.

  1. Let’s go for a run!

    Encourage your fifth grader to stay fit this summer by joining her for a run or a bike ride — around the neighborhood, at a nearby track, or on a trail. Your child may be focused on her friends these days, but she still wants to spend time with you. So be a healthy role model, and you’ll be helping her academically, too. Kids who are physically fit perform better on cognitive tests than kids who are sedentary. MRI scans show that the hippocampus — a brain region that contributes to spatial reasoning and memory — is, on average, 12 percent larger in children who exercise regularly.

  2. Make screen time count

    If you struggle to get your child to stop playing video games, it may help to know that some games give kids practice in important skills that help them succeed at school. Experts say games like Fortnite involve teamwork, collaboration, strategic thinking, spatial understanding, and imagination. If your child prefers gaming to reading, guide him toward games that build learning skills and books with a gaming theme, such as Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Warcross by Marie Lu. Let his favorite video games inspire art projects, cooking, and exercise time (flossing competition, anyone?). And when he’s not playing, encourage your child to try Scratch, a free program for learning how to code your own games and interactive stories.

  3. Start a business

    Calling all young entrepreneurs! Starting a little business is a great way for kids to practice different skills, from accounting and problem-solving to communication and art. Maybe she wants to make and sell slime, or cupcakes, or lemonade. Or start a pet-sitting business and feed a neighbor’s cat. Or collect recyclables to earn money. Maybe she wants to make a series of videos explaining something she knows about and post them on Youtube or Instagram. The activity your child chooses is less important than setting a goal, planning how to achieve it, and following through over time.

  4. Word problems? No problem!

    Your fifth grader got a lot of practice with multi-step word problems this year. Keep those skills sharp by doing a word problem a day over the summer. Offer a small incentive if you need to, to get your child on board. Check out these worksheets for problems that will get your child through the summer, math skills intact.

  5. Family article club

    Talking about what she reads is a good way for your child to practice her reading, comprehension, analysis, writing, and presentation skills. At Newsela, kids can choose an article about math or science-related current events to read each week, in English or in Spanish, and tell the family about what she’s learned. Ask your child questions about what she read and what she thinks about what she read to encourage deeper discussion.

  6. Listen to a good book

    Audio books are a great way for kids to increase their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Some audio book websites including audible.com and allyoucanbooks.com have free trials, during which you can download enough books to last through the summer. Choose something a little more advanced than what your child could read on his own. Biographies and other nonfiction books on topics that interest your child are good choices. If you can, find out what books your child will be reading in sixth grade and download those, too. Having heard the story over the summer will give your child an edge when it’s time to read and analyze the text in class.

  7. Put more words in the word bank

    You can’t know too many words! Help your child get a head start of 6th grade vocabulary words by making flash cards and set a goal of learning a certain number of words each week this summer. A free vocabulary site like vocabulary.com can actually make vocab quizzes fun, too.

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Updated: December 5, 2019