Ever heard of “summer learning loss“? It’s what happens to children who get no mental stimulation over the summer, resulting in their falling behind their more summer enriched peers when school starts back in the fall. Its prevalence goes up the further down the socioeconomic ladder the child is. Our school-aged children start 3rd grade and kindergarten in a few weeks. They go to a public school, but it’s in the #2 most affluent zip code in Georgia (Damn, you, Sea Island, and your superior wealth!), and the percent with reduced or free lunch is 5%. So, we can be fairly certain that their classmates will NOT have spent all summer watching Nick Jr.
How did we challenge our little ones during the summer? On the days that were rainy or too hot to go outside, we like visiting Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Georgia Aquarium, and/or the Children’s Museum of Atlanta (we have annual memberships to all of them). On pretty days, Zoo Atlanta and Atlanta Botanical Garden are nice, as are local parks and playgrounds. And, of course, we like to travel. But what about times when we want to occupy them for a couple hours instead of an entire day? Like right before dinner when they’re waiting on me to get home from work? We stream Netflix‘s Kids programming.
The 8-year-old likes to take charge of the myriad remotes and cue up the TV, receiver, + roku box, choose the “babies” login, and pick a show. They 3 of them keep track of whose turn it is to choose their programming. The 5-year-old boy, who’s recently taken to telling everyone he wants to be a paleontologist, chooses a “Walking with Dinosaurs” episode or “National Geographic: Dinosaurs Unearthed.” The two girls’ preference de jour has been “Justin Time” or “Word Girl.”
After watching shows like these, the children choose library books about the topics explored on the shows, ask questions about what they’ve seen and read, and keep the dreaded summer intellectual atrophy at bay (hopefully). Plus, talking about science and grammar at dinner is more fun than telling bottom jokes. For everyone involved.
So, is it all educational, all the time, in our house? Well, last weekend, I introduced the 2 older children to Episodes IV, V, and VI of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, followed by at least 2 hours in the back yard seeing how The Force affected wiffle ball bat sword fight outcomes. So, no. But that doesn’t mean we can’t stay on track to get HOPE scholarships for all of them.