Looking for fun and creative ideas to prevent the summer slide and keep kids active, learning and engaged to prepare for school? We’ve got you covered!
Every year in our school based therapy practice, we create and send home summer packets for our students to help prevent the summer slide. We believe that practice makes perfect (or at least progress!) when it comes to school readiness! Check out these ideas for preventing the summer slide by practicing the foundation skills kids need most for school!
Fun ways to prevent the summer slide!
No one wants to think about school over the summer. And when children have long breaks where they don’t have regular opportunities to practice the skills they need in school every day (ahem…COVID), they often need extra time to get back into the swing of things when they return to school in the fall.
It may take weeks to get a child back to where they left off! Here at The Inspired Treehouse, we want kids to have what they need to start the school year confident and ready to learn. Here are 10 functional skills used every day in the school environment with some playful summer activities that will give the opportunity for practice and development of these skills. These summer activities for kids are so much fun, we promise the little ones won’t even realize that they’re actually doing work!
1 || Stair Climbing
Most children have many opportunities to navigate steps in their school environment on a daily basis: to get to art or music, to play on playground equipment, and even to get on the bus. This may sound simple enough, they practice stairs everyday at home, right?
But have you ever thought that, at school, there may be 20 other kiddos trying to navigate those stairs at the same time? This challenges balance, motor planning, strength, and body control. To make sure your child stays confident and comfortable on the stairs, work on stair climbing as often as possible and in as many ways as possible. Try these activities to help develop your child’s confidence and ability on the stairs:
2 || Handwriting and Coloring
These skills are challenged every single day in the classroom. The expectations for handwriting grow more challenging as our children grow older and as they transition to a new grade level. Learning to write requires continual development of fine motor and visual motor/perceptual skills.
Our children need to be able to grasp a pencil or crayon efficiently, sustain pressure while writing/coloring, demonstrate enough strength to hold their writing utensil for a length of time, and motor plan to create writing and drawings. On top of that, they need to be able to visually attend to their paper! Try these activities to practice handwriting and coloring skills:
3 || Transitions in Hallways
Children need to be able to line up, walk forward in a line, maintain body awareness throughout crowded hallways and rooms, and get to and from different areas of the building calmly and independently. This challenges motor planning, body awareness, and sensory processing skills.
Try these fun activities to practice these skills:
4 || Maintain Upright Posture in a Chair
How many times have you been in a classroom, or in your kitchen at homework time, and noticed a child slouching in a chair with his bottom sliding toward the edge? Or maybe he’s completely bent over with his head resting in one hand or, better yet, his head down on the table.
Is he tired? Maybe…but, it’s also possible that this child just doesn’t have the core strength or postural stability to maintain an upright sitting position in a chair for periods of time. Or maybe he needs more propriceptive input to tell him what exactly his body is doing. Help your child develop stability for good posture and give him proprioceptive input for better body awareness with activities like these:
5 || Participation in Gym
In the U.S., kids are observed and measured against all of the other kids in the nation in gym class. Are they performing gross motor skills to the level of their peers? Are they confident enough in their gross motor abilities to perform them in a group setting? Can they control their bodies to complete requested skills in their own space within a gym full of other children? Mastery of gross motor skills is dependent on age, but there are lots of fun activities that can help to develop some common developmental motor skills. Try some of these activities to work on skills that might be required in physical education classes in the elementary years:
6 || Lunchtime
For most kids, this is the best part of the day! It’s often one of the few times throughout the day that kids get to socialize with their friends and they get to fill their hungry bodies and minds at the same time!
Can your child carry a lunch tray with two hands? Can she open the food packages in her lunch bag by herself? Strong fine motor skills and the ability to use two hands together (bilateral integration) are imperative for independence at lunchtime! Take a peek at these activities that encourage bilateral coordination and hand strength!
7 || Scissor Skills
Arts, crafts, and worksheets are everywhere in school! Your child needs to develop strong scissor skills to be independent with their work and to be able to take pride in their finished masterpieces!
To use scissors accurately, kids need a strong grasp, the ability to isolate movements of the hand, and the ability to use two hands together. And don’t forget about visual motor integration too! Here are some recommended activities to practice using scissors:
8 || Independence With Dressing & Activities of Daily Living
Every day your child will need to follow an arrival and dismissal routine at school, get ready for outdoor recess, and manage their coats and backpacks independently. They will need to manage their own clothing for using the restroom independently. This takes fine motor precision and coordination as well as hand strength to manage all those fasteners by themselves. Try these activities to promote independence with clothing fasteners:
9 || Getting Up and Down from the Floor and From a Chair:
You might be surprised to hear how many times your child changes positions throughout his school day. He may go to the carpet for circle time, back to his desk, back up from his desk to line up, and to the cafeteria table where he has to motor plan how to get onto a tiny stool that is usually attached to the table!
Just in that last sentence, your child transitioned onto and off of the floor, into and out of a classroom chair and onto and off of a cafeteria stool! Six position changes! These transitions take A LOT of motor planning, endurance, and strength! Here are some activities to practice these skills:
10 || Playground/Recess/Social Skills
This is a big one! No child wants to be left behind as their friends bolt across the monkey bars or race up the stairs to be the first one down the slide. The playground is an AMAZING place to practice all kinds of developmental skills. Try some of these activities for specific playground practice OR, just get your kiddos to a playground and play this summer to prevent that summer slide in gross motor skills!
In addition to motor skills, kids also rely on strong social skills to be able to navigate the peer interactions that they encounter on the playground. This includes self-regulation, turn-taking, and more. Looking for a fun way to have kids engage with peers virtually over the summer? Check out our virtual play groups, available through Vitalxchange! (See link below.)
If you haven’t heard of this platform before, do yourself a favor and check it out! Vitalxchange is on the cutting edge of connecting parents, families, and caregivers who have questions and concerns about their children’s development with experienced professionals who can help. This platform is also a place for parents to find a community of others who are doing their best to support their children through developmental challenges. Therapists and other professionals can contact Vitalxchange to explore having their own storefront on the platform, where they can provide support and resources while being compensated for their time and expertise.
We hope these ideas help keep you inspired and excited to continue practicing skills with kids all summer long!