Thoughtful Parenting: Engaging kids, preventing learning loss this summer | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Engaging kids, preventing learning loss this summer

Weslie Detwiler/For Steamboat Today

For many families, summertime involves a delicate balance between allowing kids free time to rest while still engaging a more structured sense of creativity and play.

Summer naturally presents the opportunity for kids to recuperate and relax. Sleeping in, playing video games and hanging out with friends are all normal ways for kids to take advantage of the lazy days of summer, and these things can be good when done in moderation.

However, according to Kelsey Donohue with the Corporation for National and Community Service, "students can experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months."

Harris Cooper, a professor at Duke University and former Columbia, Missouri, school board member, has done research that supports this statement. In an article titled, "More Than a Hunch: Kids Lose Learning Skills Over the Summer Months," Cooper explains why he spoke out against cutting back funding for summer programming.

"We need to dispense with romanticized notions associated with the traditional summer break, look at what's really going on and consider the consequences," he says.

Cooper's research shows that, "At best, students showed little or no academic growth over summer. At worst, students lost one to three months of learning."

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For disadvantaged students with fewer financial resources, the statistics of learning loss are even greater.

As daunting as this may sound, families don't need to believe that their only option to prevent learning loss this summer is to crack open the old algebra book while sitting around the campfire. Giving kids the opportunities to stay physically active, keep a sharp mind and get creative can be much more enjoyable than just solving math problems, as thrilling as that may sound.

Fortunately, the city of Steamboat Springs is filled with options for kids to stay engaged during the summer months, and when parents are willing to get a little creative, kids are bound to end the summer even more enriched than when it first began.

Tips for staying engaged in Steamboat:

• Encourage your child to read all summer. Visit the library together and create a reading list, then find a way to celebrate each time a book is finished!

• Math enhancement skills are often disguised in lively, interactive computer games. Commonsensemedia.org is an excellent site to explore in order to find appropriate, entertaining and educational games for all age levels.

• Explore the arts. Steamboat offers many venues of visual, literary, theatrical and musical arts. From Strings Music Pavilion performances, to art festivals, to free movies and concerts on the mountain, finding ways to engage your child in the arts is simple. Visit steamboat-chamber.com under Arts & Entertainment for a number of creative events.

• Plan home projects with your child. Build a birdhouse, plant a garden or make something silly like edible play dough, and you and your child can learn and have fun together.

• Take advantage of summer camps and youth development organizations. Boys and Girls Club, Yampatika, the city's Adventure Bound Summer Camps, BookTrails and more, all offer fun, constructive ways for kids to learn and play this summer.

Visit the National Summer Learning Association's website at summerlearning.org for more resources and information.

Weslie Detwiler is an intern with the Episcopal Service Corps. She is acting as club specialist at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs, a youth development organization that provides a safe, positive and fun place for kids.