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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guest Post: Bridging the Summer Gap



School is out, or will be very soon, and there’s a smile on every child’s face as they likely anticipate a summer of fun and freedom.  However, as a parent, do you find yourself wondering if there’s something you should be doing so that your child doesn’t fall behind?  Statistics show that children can loose an average of 2.6 months worth of knowledge over an average summer.  This is why bridge learning is important.  Bridging regular curriculum during the school year, with fun experiences over the summer months keeps your child on track academically and just might foster a new motivation to learn more!

There are many different opportunities parents can utilize to assure that their children continue to learn over the summer months, and I’m not talking about continued academic classes!  Let your children feel like they are still on that well-deserved summer vacation, and web the skills they practice in school (math, science, reading) into a “cool” summer project of their choosing.   Talk to them about what they are interested in and find their current passion. Suggest ideas for a fun project that will foster their passion and help them learn more about it.  This is the simplest and most effective way to assure that your child will stay challenged and stimulated when out of the classroom.

For example, if you’re at Pretend City and your child walks into the grocery store, do they say that they’d like to buy the store and run it themselves? That deserves some research and imaginative thinking about how to get the money to buy it and what to do to make it profitable. Or maybe they are passionate about cartooning. Could they imagine some unique characters and experiment with colors and interesting stories to create their own superhero comic book?  Listen to your child and work with them to build on their own interests.  Have they always wanted a vegetable garden or tree house in the backyard?  Does your child’s interest in space mean they’d have fun building a model rocket ship?  Help them pick a project they can tackle all summer long and be willing to lend some support.  They’ll have a blast reading books or going online to do research, and experimenting and engineering solutions.  And once the summer is over they’ll have a completed project that they have learned a great deal from and can take pride in.

The beauty of a child taking on their own project is that it is child-driven, which is completely self-motivating.  By its own nature, it’s going to be an interesting learning experience for your child as he or she wonders, experiments, designs, engineers and accomplishes. There’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of STEM learning right now.  Consider that when a child takes on their own project, they are actively engaging in the scientific process!  They’re observing, hypothesizing, risking, experimenting and adjusting their hypothesis along the way to find the answers and reach their end goal. It’s not necessarily learning a subject, but they’ll develop and use STEM-related learning throughout the process of completing their project, and that is much more valuable.  This is bridge learning at its best.  Important learning that can easily and naturally happen over the summer with your child.  Try it and watch your child blossom! You may just learn a thing or two in the process as well.

Linda Hunter, MA, MFT
Senior Education Director and Chief Operations Officer, Pretend City
Linda earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Development and Master's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy from the prestigious Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena. Linda joined Pretend City in 2002 prior to its opening and has over 40 years of experience working with children and families in both the fields of early childhood education and family therapy.

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