‘Don’t let your young child fall victim to the summer slide’
Jill Walkinton, head of individual needs at Burgess Hill Girls School, offers advice to parents of younger children on ensuring their child is kept up to the mark with reading, writing and manners over the summer holiday.
The school holidays may only just have begun, but the long, lazy days of summer could be used to help your child stay ahead.
We read a lot about the summer “dip” among children from disadvantaged homes, but those in the independent sector are just as vulnerable. Parents need to remember that children who drop behind lose confidence, which can take time to rebuild. September is a time when children are facing new challenges – new teachers and a new year group, or perhaps even a new school. Beginning the term on the ‘back foot’ does not make for a good start. At Burgess Hill Girls' School, we have sent a letter home to our parents urging them to use the holidays to keep their children up to the mark. From reading to writing and table manners – all can take a hit over the long summer break.
Ten top tips for avoiding the ‘summer dip’
1. Keep Reading Read regularly with your child or, if they are fully independent readers, set aside time for them to read to themselves. Visit the library, re-visit old favourites among books. Read taking turns - a page/paragraph each - or take roles as a character or the narrator. Read anything; it doesn’t have to be a story. Try non-fiction, comics, magazines, instructions for making something, such as recipes etc. Discuss what you have read with your child, making sure that all the vocabulary is understood.
2. Writing skills need practice Holding a pencil correctly, can your child write your shopping list/holiday list? What about keeping a holiday scrapbook? One sentence to say what the event was, a few more to describe the best bit of the day, add a picture or photograph. Job done.
3. Speaking and listening Discuss whatever crops up. Help your child to take turns in dialogue and, by giving them your full attention when listening, encourage them to do the same for you. Enhance their vocabulary by using adult words. Explore imaginary ‘what if…?’ scenarios together. These can be funny and enjoyable, especially if you take turns extending the story line. For example, 'what if an elephant came to live in our house?'
4. Keep counting Why not count holiday money? Play card games and board games – all support mental agility. And don’t forget that cooking is a perfect opportunity to practise weighing and measuring.
5.Encourage independence Don’t do everything for your child because it’s quicker or more convenient for you. Help them to learn to follow instructions. Start with one simple instruction, then add in a second one: please can you do …first, and then…If they can do this, build up to multi-step instructions
6. Get your child to organise themselves Children like routine even if it is different from the term time. Young children can practise dressing/undressing themselves. Can they do buttons themselves? Can they tie shoe laces? Can they help prepare/pack for any days out? Can they keep their room tidy with/without your support?
7. Give children responsibility As they get older, give children responsibility for being ready for activities/appointments. This transfers into school where there is a timetable to follow. Get young children to recite the days of the week/ months of the year as appropriate for their age and stage. Do they know how many days in the week/ months in the year/ weeks in a year/days in a year?
8. Try something new – new activities, new foods, new ways of doing things Flexibility of thinking is an excellent skill to transfer into school. Trying new things in the reassuring safety of the home with a familiar adult is a great starting point.
9.Praise Holiday times are great opportunities to build a child’s self-esteem by giving them specific, meaningful praise and by commenting on what they are good at; help your child to reflect on her successes and feel good in her own skin.
10. Please don’t forget table manners – thank you! Use the holidays to practice holding cutlery correctly and cutting up food independently. Good table manners are a good life skill to model and for your child to practice.
And… relax! Allow your child time just ‘to be’! To relax, to imagine, to play, to have spells of time where there are no planned activities and no electronic devices to hand.