Summer provides a nice break from school for children and their families, but over the next couple of months, kids will experience what’s known as summer slide—the tendency to forget reading, math and other skills that they learned during the school year.

It’s estimated that children can lose two and a half months or more of skills over the summer. The good news: parents can help prevent summer slide by identifying opportunities to engage their kids in learning.

“One of the most important things you can do to engage children’s brains so that they hold on to what they’ve learned in the previous school year is to keep them reading, “says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, a pediatrician and mom.

Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. To encourage reading:

  • Explore your local library’s free summer reading programs.
  • Encourage reading as part of your child’s nightly bedtime routine.
  • Have your child read out loud to you while you do chores, fix dinner or drive in the car.
  • Make it fun! Kids gain more from summer reading if they are truly enjoying it, so let them pick what they want to read.

Check out Scholastic’s free Summer Reading Program here.

“Finding ways to have your child use math is another way to help prevent summer slide,” says Dr. Bradshaw. “Have your kids help estimate how much you’re spending while you’re at the grocery store as you’re going through the aisles. Measuring ingredients while cooking or baking is also a wonderful way to incorporate math into everyday life.”

Learn more about the Quantile® Summer Math Challenge here. It’s a free six-week program full of daily activities that are designed to help prevent summer learning loss.

Explore other avenues for learning by contacting your local museums and parks and recreation departments to find out about their free or low-cost summer programs for kids.

In addition to helping your kids keep their minds sharp this summer, Dr. Bradshaw also recommends scheduling sports physicals and wellness exams now. “Don’t put off getting your child’s physical because when school starts it’s always a last-minute rush and sometimes the wait times cause parents to be frustrated. So, start thinking way ahead to get that once a year check-up for older kids done now.”