It may sound like an amusement park ride or a fun dance, but “the summer slide” is something a bit more serious. During summer break, many students unlearn a significant portion of what they learned during the previous school year. Studies estimate that anywhere from 24% to nearly 40% of their academic growth fades over the summer, with losses most pronounced in reading and math skills. But there’s hope—a way to combat the summer slide while still giving your kids the relaxing summer they deserve. Check out the following fun online activities to help keep their skills sharp. They may even forget they’re learning!
Best kids apps and sites for learning and fun
There are countless great resources online to keep kids engaged and moving forward over the summer months, especially in core subjects. Your child’s school, the public library, and parenting resources online should offer more than enough inspiration. Here are our top choices to keep those summer brains sharp:
Best online field trips
Use real or virtual journeys to explore learning topics such as art, science, social studies, and technology. Our top museum pick is the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which offers virtual tours of some of their coolest exhibits (think space and dinosaurs). Living wild animals are usually a big hit, so check out one of the many awesome zoo and wildlife online experiences out there. Our favorite, the San Diego Zoo site has videos, fun facts, conservation content for kids, and even games. By framing their virtual explorations with a few key questions and some follow-up discussion, you can turn a fun afternoon online into a real learning experience.
Best learning-for-fun multimedia resource
There aren’t many names more respected in the world of science and natural history than National Geographic. If your kids need a low-bar, relaxing activity that’s more like “just fun” and less like school, send them to the NatGeo Kids website. There, they can enjoy a huge library of engaging videos and stuff their brains full of cool facts about the wonders of our world and beyond. Subjects include animals, “weird but true” amazing facts, how things work, environmental science, and much more. And parents may find they’ll enjoy watching these videos as much as their kids!
Best summer reading program
Experts agree that one of the most important ways to keep kids from sliding backwards is as simple as picking up a book. But if reading feels more like a chore than a pleasure to your kids, an app or online program can make it a lot more fun and appealing. There are several outstanding reading programs that do just that. Our favorite is the Scholastic Home Base summer reading program, which runs online from May 9 to August 19. Kids can join for free and access full books online, play book-related games, write stories, interact with characters, and more. All of these great features are available at the website and the Home Base app.
Best resource to carry over into the school year
Khan Academy is a non-profit ad-free platform that offers free, high-quality learning for students at all levels and ages (también en español). Adaptive learning courses use diagnostic questions to determine your kids’ current skills, then gradually help them fill in gaps and build on them over time. Subjects include math, grammar, history, science, and more. This is a top-notch supplement to their learning not only this summer, but all year long.
Best low-fi learning activity
Want something simple that doesn’t require a special app or new website? One of the most basic online resources out there can be used for summertime enrichment—email! If you’ve got a kid who is already reading and writing, help set up a pen pal correspondence with a friend, family member, or schoolmate over email. This will offer great literacy practice, as well as proficiency in typing and computer skills. The pace should be frequent enough to keep up interest without being overwhelming. Make it fun by encouraging them to share photos, book or movie recommendations, and links to some of their favorite sites or funny YouTube videos. Depending on the age of your child, you may use your own email account or theirs. And you might offer different levels of supervision and support, like suggestions for what to write about and questions to ask.
Best resources for middle-schoolers
Kids in middle school need more challenge and engagement to keep them motivated. As their specific interests develop, spend a bit of time with them exploring the wealth of online resources out there that will appeal to them. There’s plenty of subjects to go around—everything from astronomy to zoology.
The big picture
As you all enjoy taking a step back from the rigorous routines of the school year, help your kids keep up with their learning and stave off dreaded “I’m bored” complaints with some well-chosen digital resources.
Don’t just leave it to chance your child will get all they need from their activities. Schedule time each day or each week to work on math, reading, or whatever subjects they enjoy or need more support with. Supervise their efforts and be sure to monitor online access, track their progress, and give them small rewards along the way.
Finally, balance out those enriching online activities with some good, old-fashioned offline fun! Yep, we said it. Log off on a regular basis and go outside, have a board game night, cook something together, or snuggle up with a book.