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Prevent the Summer Slide through Playful Learning

Playful ways to keep your child learning through the summer holidays

The long summer holidays have brought a break from the structured routines of school, giving children much-needed time to relax and recharge. It can become a time of growth, discovery and excitement, providing a unique opportunity to explore new interests, spend time with friends and family, develop essential life skills, and a time to nurture creativity.

However, during this time it is also wise to recognise the importance of keeping children engaged and learning in a fun and hands-on way. Summer learning loss, also known as the ‘Summer Slide’ can have a significant impact on a child’s academic progress.



The phrase ‘Summer Slide’ refers to the tendency for children to experience a bit of memory loss or skill regression during the lengthy summer break. When kids are away from their normal school routine, they might not practice the things they’ve learned as much. This can sometimes result in them feeling a bit rusty when they return to school.

Research studies have produced different results as to the extent of loss, but some say children can lose up to 40% of the gains they have made over the school year.

Parents often choose summer camps or structured activities outside of the home to keep their children engaged during this time, but there are plenty of activities your child can do at home that will keep them learning over the summer, and can often be incorporated into daily life.


Here are some ideas to help your child learn new skills, absorb new knowledge, and test and practise existing knowledge during the long summer holidays…



Suggest your child keep a diary or scrapbook during the summer holidays. They could include drawings, photographs, cuttings from leaflets or newspapers from places they visit. And to encourage creativity, they could keep an imaginary diary of the summer break. Maybe they went to the jungle on Monday, had a picnic with an alien on Tuesday, and so on. Encourage your child to write letters, send postcards, and send emails to family members or friends during the holidays. A fun way for them to stay in touch with people while also practising their writing skills.


Some children struggle to see how maths is relevant for day-to-day life. Use a trip to the supermarket to demonstrate everyday maths in action. Involve your child in weighing loose fruits and vegetables. Give them coupons or vouchers and ask them to work out how much money they will save if you use them. If there is a ‘deal’ on a certain product, ask your child to work out if the deal is a good one – “I can get three punnets of strawberries for £4.00. They are £1.50 each, is the deal worth it?”




Preparing food is another great way for children to use various skills they have learned at school in a hands-on way. They can be in charge of reading recipes, measuring out ingredients, setting the timer on the oven, or dividing out portions at mealtimes.


Explore the nature-filled classroom in your back garden or the local park. Being outdoors is an exciting and interesting location for a summer learning experience,and is also good for children’s physical and mental well-being. Ask your child to help you dig in a flower bed, and see how many worms/snails/woodlice etc. they can find. Get them to count how many they can see or write a story about the creatures you have found and how they work together in their ecosystem. Go on a scavenger hunt around the neighbourhood. Give your child a list of things to spot and tick off, such as flowers, butterflies, bees. Make the hunt more difficult by asking them to find something soft, something spiky, something round etc.



Visiting somewhere your child will be interested in exploring, such as a science museum, zoo or art gallery will provide a rich learning experience outside the classroom. Many places have free admission and during school holidays often offer hands-on activities which are a fantastic way for children to get more from their visit. Children learn best when they are engaged by what they are doing and by answering open-ended questions, so help them to make the most from their visit by asking questions such as, “What do you like about this painting?”, “Why do you think these dinosaurs have such long necks?”, “What do you think the Romans / Vikings / Victorians used this object for?”


Playing board games can not only be fun, but it also teaches children many social and emotional lessons; important for them to keep in mind when they are not having as much interaction with their peers over the summer. Some games teach them how to take turns and how to manage their emotions, while others require teamwork and give children the opportunity to use their problem solving skills and come up with strategies to win. It’s also a good opportunity to come together as a family, building and strengthening the bond between you, and fostering the face-to-face interaction that’s needed to connect with each other.




Keep your child’s creative juices flowing over the summer by encouraging them to do craft activities. These experiences help children in many different ways, from helping develop their hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity by using tools such as scissors and paint brushes, to working with materials that teach them about colours, shapes and textures, and how things work and fit together. Craft activities also allow children to express themselves and be in control – if they want to colour an elephant in bright pink – great! Show them that self-expression is positive and help them to understand that it’s ok to share and release how they are feeling.


Children love conducting their own experiments. Encourage them to become little scientists and set up a lab on the kitchen table. Not only will this keep children’s brains active over the long holiday, but it will also inspire curiosity, teach them about cause and effect, encourage them to think analytically, develop problem-solving skills, and encourage creativity. Start your child off with a simple experiment, such as filling a jar with water and adding different food colouring, then they can watch as the colours mix together. To get them thinking like a scientist, have your child make a hypothesis – explain what you’re going to do, and ask them to predict what will happen.




During the summer holidays, it’s important to find a balance when it comes to screen time for children. While limiting excessive screen time is recommended, completely cutting it off may not be practical or beneficial. Certain educational apps that offer interactive learning, challenging puzzles or encourage writing, for example, can actually be valuable in keeping children’s minds active and preventing the summer slide. By offering a mix of screen time with other offline activities will mean that children can enjoy the benefits of technology while still having a well-rounded and stimulating summer break.


The importance of continuous learning extends beyond academic achievements; it also nurtures curiosity, critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and a lifelong love for learning. By helping to keep your child engaged over the summer holidays, and embracing a variety of fun and educational experiences, you can make learning an enjoyable part of their summer and also help to ensure a seamless transition into the next academic year.