Dodging the Summer Slide Back »

Written by Andrea Knox, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development & Resiliency Field Specialist.

Ah, summer! The season often brings to mind carefree days, outdoor fun, and community celebrations. Another common, but not so welcome happening taking place during the summer is summer learning loss. Summer learning loss refers to the occurrence of students forgetting some of what they learned during the previous academic year.

Studies show students return after summer vacation an average of one month behind academically from the level they were at when school was released in the spring. Summer learning loss affects nearly all students. Intelligence does not influence youth’s loss of learned material. However, the loss is compounded for students who are struggling academically. Lower-income students are also found to experience a greater slide academically during the summer months compared to their peers.

Still, there is great news for all students and families when it comes to combating the summer slide! With a little creativity and taking advantage of quality resources, students can retain and even enhance their learning level during the summer months. Here are some tips to help your family dodge the summer slide.

Elementary and Middle School

  • Turn chores into hands-on learning experiences: Help children apply math skills to daily life. Have your child help you follow a recipe—it will help them learn fractions and calculations. Halving or doubling recipes will help even more. Incorporate measurements into chores such as gardening by measuring water quantities. Show them how to compare grocery prices or calculate gas mileage for example.
  • Read for fun: Encourage your child to read for fun. Sign-up for a reading program at the local library. Ask for a suggested summer reading list from your child’s teacher. Encourage children to find a shady spot and read outdoors. Read together with your child and show them the value you place on reading and education.
  • Encourage writing: Have your child write journal entries through the summer. Use creative writing prompts to make the activity exciting. An online search of writing prompts for youth will provide many ideas.
  • Research your area: Take your child to area attractions you may have never visited. Sometimes the greatest treasures are in our own backyard. Then, research what you saw online or at the library.
  • Join 4-H: Contact your County Extension Office to learn about the array of enriching educational workshops and programming available. You never know what new interest your child may discover by participating in the variety of opportunities available through 4-H! Visit the iGrow Our Experts page for a complete listing of County Extension Offices and 4-H Staff.
  • Attend camp: Whether it’s a day camp or an overnight camp involving your child in a quality summer camping program can provide them with a great experience along with an array of skills such as respecting others, outdoor recreation skills, and increased responsibility.
  • Take advantage of quality Afterschool/Out of School Time programs: Many programs continue in the summer months with a wonderful schedule of activities. Check out the South Dakota Afterschool Partnership website for a list of programs available in your area.
  • Limit screen time: Limit television, video game and internet time. Focus screen time on educational programs or games.


  • Find a summer job: Working at a summer job is a valuable learning experience which helps hone skills such as reading, writing, communication and organization. Parks and recreation departments, schools, local businesses, city governments, and area farmers commonly have summer jobs available.
  • Choose fun activities: Work with your teen to find learning opportunities that relate to their interests. If the teen likes children and sports, for example, he or she could become a camp counselor or even a coach—fun jobs and volunteer opportunities build skills.
  • Talk to a teacher: Help your teen get summer learning suggestions from their teachers. Summer can offer an opportunity to be proactive about brushing up skills. Maybe there is a fun online resource the teacher can suggest that the student can engage in over the summer.
  • Be a leader in 4-H: Volunteer to help with a workshop or share a skill or interest with younger youth. It will be an experience teens will not regret. From aerospace to painting, younger members will relish the chance to have a teen help teach them and the teen will learn along the way too. Contact your county 4-H Program Advisor to volunteer.
  • Attend camps and career exploration opportunities: Find quality camps of interest to teens. Whether they serve as a counselor to younger youth or attend with their peers attending camp can help teens step out of their comfort zone and develop a variety of skills. Many camps also offer hands-on career exploration. The teen years are a great time to learn which careers are calling them!

For All Youth

  • Keep summer routines consistent to keep healthy. Consistent bedtimes and mealtimes help youth both learn and grow.
  • Keep good nutrition habits during the summer with fun summer snack and meal ideas. Good nutrition gives brains the nutrients needed to stay sharp.
  • Keep physically active. With an array of summer activities be sure to stay active. Physical activity is also linked to learning ability.

Summer is a great way to reinforce learning in a way that is different from school. By making an effort at home and taking advantage of quality opportunities in the community your family can dodge the summer learning slide and build new skills!

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