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Monday, January 30, 2023

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Summer’s here, but don’t let your child go down the “Summer Slide!”

Often over the summer, children can lose some the gains they had made over the previous year because they aren’t consistently practicing the skills they may have been working on daily in child care or preschool. Then, when they start school in the fall, they take some time to regain that lost progress. This is called the “Summer Slide.”

The Summer Slide can be especially tough on preschoolers who are going into kindergarten. Moving from child care or preschool to kindergarten is a big leap for your child. Expectations and needed skills are only increasing as they take their first steps into elementary school.

During one of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County’s recent Teacher Talks, we sat down with a few Hillsborough County preschool, VPK and kindergarten teachers to talk about their classrooms, environments, and what parents can do to help their children be ready to enter kindergarten. We’ll share a few highlights from their conversation so you can try these tips and tricks to fight the “Summer Slide” at home; however, the Teacher Talk was recorded and you can listen to the full conversation HERE!

One of the most common themes was: encourage your child’s independence. In kindergarten, students are expected to be more independent. There are fewer adult helping hands in these classrooms than they may be used to at their preschool center. If the teacher has to help many students with basic hygiene and personal belongings, it cuts into instructional time. This means children need to be able to do some things themselves, such as:

  • Button their own pants after going to the bathroom — and remember to wash hands!
  • Zip up their jacket when they go outside
  • Be able to carry their own back pack and supplies
  • Tie their shoes

What can you do at home to support some of these skills?

Our panel recommended letting your child pick out the next day’s outfit by themselves and remind them to pick things they know they can put on or take off. Practice different buttons, zippers and shoelaces together. Not all children have quite mastered the art (and fine motor muscle control) of tying shoes yet. If they haven’t, it’s okay! But maybe wait to send them to school in shoes with shoelaces.

Once in kindergarten, teachers don’t have a lot of time to review the alphabet. While they do spend a few weeks at the beginning of the year to refresh, it’s better to help your child by keeping up with these early literacy skills over the summer. At home, you can practice letters — capitalized and uncapitalized — by writing them in all kinds of mediums! A white board or paper and markers are the regular stand-by, but make it fun: maybe in the sand at the beach, or make letters with pasta noodles while you’re making dinner! Don’t forget to make time to read every day, and point out letters and words as you read together.

Child care, preschool and school classrooms have a theme in common: they often revolve around schedules. Often in child care classrooms, you’ll even seen a whole day’s schedule posted somewhere children can see it, and the teacher will often review the daily calendar so their students know what they will be doing and what will come next in the day. It helps children process and prepare.

Routines can slide away during the summer when your life may not have as much structure. While it’s okay to relax the routine from your typical “school year” routine, it can really help your child to maintain a consistent schedule throughout the summer, such as a time to get up and get dressed, activities to do, and meal times. Reviewing the next day’s schedule with your child — especially if there will be changes — also help them understand what to do and what will be expected.

These are just a few areas that you — your child’s first and most important teacher! — can work on with your child over the summer to fight the Summer Slide.

Have a good summer!

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