Published on May 20, 2021

What Your Child Needs More of This Summer

older woman with young child

After a challenging year of virtual, hybrid and modified in-person learning, speech-language pathologists offer some low-stress suggestions to support your child’s language, literacy and learning skills at home this summer.

Many parents have been understandably concerned about their child’s academic progress this school year. This may be especially so for families with children receiving speech and language therapy. These services may have looked a little different this year, and they may to some degree next year as well. I want to encourage you to use the summer break as a much-needed reset. There are many ways you can support your child’s learning at home without having to purchase workbooks, learning apps and other programs.

So-called “down time” is time well spent when it comes to building communication and learning skills. This is true for children of all ages, especially those with speech, language and social communication disorders.

Activities Children Need More of This Summer

  • Reading. Use this time to nurture the joy of reading. Let kids be in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing what they read so it doesn’t feel like work. While independent reading is always valuable, children of all ages also benefit from nightly reading together with an adult. Many libraries that were closed due to COVID-19 are reopening or offering curbside book pickups and returns.
  • Outdoor play. Hands-on activities, no matter a child’s age, are the best way to learn new skills, build vocabularies and boost learning through the senses. Take a nature walk and discuss the sights, smells and sounds. Plant a garden – outside or in containers. Start by researching your options, then shop for materials, do your planting, and care for your garden daily. Plan a picnic – discuss your menu, where you’ll go and what you hope to see.
  • Quality time. Many families have spent more time together than ever this year, but the quantity of this time has not always been translated to quality. Focus on one or two daily opportunities for uninterrupted conversation and bonding. Consider a morning or evening walk together, a device-free meal each day or a nightly board game.

Activities Children May Need a Break From:

  • Screen time. For many children, it’s been a year of exponentially more screen time – as much of daily life moved online. Kids also have been exposed to a constant barrage of negative news about the pandemic and other issues on TV, with many experiencing online fatigue and stress. When school is out, consider revisiting boundaries around daily technology use. Talk to kids about the effects of too much screen time, how they feel after being online for a long time, and other activities they can do in place of screen use.
  • Formal work, workbooks and “educational” programs/apps. Families may feel pressure to work with children over the summer by ordering workbooks or subscribing to online programs. However, everyday real-world activities and interactions are generally most effective. Play is one of the main ways that children learn, with direct benefits on cognitive skills, math, language, literacy and much more.
  • Academic pressure and expectations. This school year, even the youngest of children had to deal with stress – from technological challenges to limited engagement with adults and peers. Although you as a parent are understandably invested in your child’s development and academic success, remember that this was a tough year for everyone. I encourage you to remain positive about your child’s progress.

So-called “down time” is time well spent when it comes to building communication and learning skills.