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Your first grader made big leaps in reading and math this year! He’s probably looking forward to a break from the school routine. But don’t let your child take a break from learning. Research shows that over the summer, kids lose a lot of the knowledge and skills they worked so hard to learn during the school year. It’s a phenomenon called “summer learning loss,” and over time, that loss adds up and can have a negative long-term impact on your child’s success in school.

Here are some fun ways you and your family can help your child keep learning this summer so that he starts second grade ready to learn new skills.

Learning activities for the summer before 2nd grade

  1. I see a sight word!

    These common words are all around you, and your child learned to recognize many of them this year. For practice, ask your child to call them out when she sees them on billboards, at the store, in magazines, and in newspapers. Here’s a list of first grade and second grade sight words. Post them on the refrigerator and challenge your child to hunt for them all summer long.

  2. Ask questions as you read

    By the end of first grade, kids have had two years of reading instruction. But your child may still be struggling with certain reading skills. Read books to your child aloud. As you’re reading and when you finish the book, ask your child questions about the story. For example: Where did the Man with the Yellow Hat meet Curious George? Let your child refer back to the story to find the answers to your questions, either in the text or in the images. Teachers call this “finding evidence” or “showing evidence.” As you talk about what the characters said, saw, or did, ask your child how she thinks the characters felt and why events happened the way they did. Talking about what your child reads builds many important reading skills.

  3. Help your child pursue a passion

    Encourage your child to ask the librarian for help choosing new books, especially nonfiction books. Whether your child is excited about dancing, sports, insects, or dog breeds, the librarian will be able to suggest a biography or a book of facts that will interest him. Your local library may also have summer activities, such as a summer reading program with prizes and story time. Make a point of visiting the library weekly, if you can.

  4. Make math a special treat

    You may not think of doing math problems as something to look forward to, but when they involve special time with a family member, they become a treat instead of a chore. Take the time to let your child count your change when you buy something. Ask her questions like “There are 12 slices of pizza and four of us. How many slices does each person get?” Sort laundry together and match socks, count pairs, and determine how many individual socks and pairs of socks there are. If you need ideas for real-life math problems, Bedtime Math is a free app for fun, grade-appropriate math problems you can talk through with your child. For more practice, try a few first grade math worksheets for review and a few second grade math worksheets to get ahead.

  5. Make a fun mess

    Make play dough with your child (there are easy recipes online). Have your child measure out the ingredients and point out the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, a half cup and a cup. When the play dough is ready, help your child cut it into basic shapes: squares, triangles, rectangles, and circles. Have your child identify the different shapes and ask questions about what makes them different: How many sides does a triangle have? How do you know that’s a square, not a rectangle? How is a circle different from the other shapes? Then let your child squish all the shapes together into a blob and make her own creations.

  6. How far can you kick the ball?

    First graders love a good challenge, especially when you’re watching. Can your child run all the way across the park without stopping? Kick the ball all the way to the fence? Exercise is as important for the brain as it is for the body. Doing something active every day will help your child’s brain grow the connections she’ll need to become a strong learner.

Want more summer learning ideas? See our recommendations for summer learning for kids of any age and specifically for the summers before 1st grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

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