The Truth About Kids Needing to Learn During Summer


For me, summer means taking a break from it all and enjoying care free days at the beach. But what if this break means a regression in everything your child learned during the last school year? Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Rachel Goldenhar, a clinical psychologist in San Diego, CA, to find out why it’s important for kids to keep learning during summer, how they can fall back a grade or two if not and creative ideas for keeping learning fun!

Can kids really fall an entire grade or two behind if they stop learning during summer?

Studies have shown that students can lose up to 60% of reading and math skills over the summer. Reading over the summer is really important. Studies have shown that children who do not read over the summer lose their skills by fall. The brain is like any muscle, it will get weak if it is not used. Therefore, it is crucial for us to exercise our brains by thinking and learning every day, even over summer break.

Does this apply toward math and reading or mainly just reading?

Most students lose two months worth of math skills each summer.

What are some creative ways to teach kids while still making it fun?

It’s easy to make learning fun during the summer.

Some ideas:
-Practice math while cooking.
-Learn how to read a map while taking driving trips.
-Encourage your children to answer questions like “how long does it take for an ice cube to melt outside?”
-Using a stop watch, “How many seconds can you hoola hoop, shoot baskets?”
-Go on a family hike (look online for family hiking trails in your area).
-Set aside time each week for writing. I take my kids to the store and have them each pick out their own special spiral notebook. We set aside 10 minutes every day for them to write and draw. They can write about anything they want. They like to write about the fun activities they are experiencing over the summer. At the end of the summer it’s fun to look back and review all the things we did. Children can also create scrapbooks of their summer experiences.
-Have your child pick one of his/her favorite activities (i.e. baseball) and make a book. Cut out pictures, draw, and write all about that activity.
-Have children figure out what they can buy for $5 at the store.
-Have your child figure out the tip on the bill after eating at a restaurant.
-Practice fractions by making a fraction ice cream sundae. Can you make a sundae with _ vanilla icream, _ chocolate ice cream, _ nuts, etc?
-Keep Board Games and card games easily accessible. Many card games use math skills and board games use critical thinking skills.
-Get creative! Encourage your kids to make up games. They can practice their creative thinking skills.

What type of workbooks do you recommend and where can parents purchase them?

Parents can find developmentally appropriate workbooks in bookstores or on-line. Flash Kids Summer Study Workbooks and School Zone Study books are good choices.

Be sure to check out your local library regularly during the summer. Most libraries offer wonderful summer reading programs. Plus, kids can be exposed to books and magazines that they have never seen before.

Are there also websites you recommend? is a free website for children aged preschool through 2nd grade to learn to read using phonics. has lots of fun learning and reading games for young children. has free online reading games for preschoolers to older kids.

The website has a comprehensive list of educational games and apps. Parents can find information about the top rated educational games. Some of these games include the American Mensa Academy math and logic games or Sakura Quick Math which is a timed math flash card game.

Should parents be placing their kids in academic camps versus camps just for fun?

Learning can occur in just about any environment. Even if your child is not enrolled in a formal academic based camp, your child is still learning a ton of important information. All camps (whether it revolves around sports, art, music, or fun in the sun) encourage kids to learn new skills, expose them to new experiences, and learn how to socialize and get along with others. All of these skills “exercise” our brain. Therefore, it is less important what type of camp you enroll your child in (academic or non-academic), and more important that your child enjoys his camp experience rather than forcing him to partake in a camp he does not like.

Also, find out what your child is interested in, and look for opportunities for your child to learn about that topic. The ultimate goal is for the child to be having fun and learning at the same time. For example, in San Diego, there are many opportunities to attend fun summer camps that have learning as part of the program (i.e. several museums in Balboa Park, the Birch Aquarium, the Zoo, Sea World).

If parents want to enjoy the summer “break”, too, are there ways to get kids back up to speed in the final weeks of summer?

Summer learning should be fun, so the goal is to try every day to incorporate some reading, writing, or math concept throughout the summer. Parents should not feel pressured– everything counts. Some days may have more learning than others. For example, kids can read signs while riding in the car. Writing can be practiced by making a list of friends to invite over or writing a grocery list. Math can include counting loose coins floating around in your kitchen drawer or using a measuring tape to measure different objects around the house. Bottom line is that the goal is to find simple opportunities to incorporate learning all the time. This usually leads to curiosity and asking more questions which ultimately leads to more learning…in a fun, relaxed way.

One of the most important things families can do to get up to speed before school starts is to get back into the routine of the school year. In the final weeks of summer, work towards getting everyone to bed earlier so that your kids have had enough sleep and they can adjust to getting back into the school routine.

Anything else you’d like to share to help with summer learning?

Remember that parents are role models for their children. So, make summer learning an enjoyable opportunity for the whole family. Read together, hike together, cook together, encourage everyone to ask questions and find the answers together. If you don’t know the answer, look up the information on-line and make new discoveries together. Bottom line, if you remember this mantra this summer you will be off to a great start: read, write, and play!

2Y8C7732_webreadyAbout Dr. Rachel Goldenhar
Dr. Rachel Goldenhar is a clinical psychologist in San Diego, CA. She works in private practice with children, adolescents, and families. She is a mother of two, a seven year old son and a 5 year old daughter. Dr. Goldenhar regularly appears on the “Ask the Moms” segment for Fox 5 San Diego.

For more information on Dr. Goldenhar, visit:

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