As the school doors close for the summer break, parents often face the challenge of ensuring that their children continue to engage in learning activities. The "summer slide" is a phenomenon where students, without the structure of school, may experience a loss of academic skills. Research has shown that students can lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency in math and reading skills during this time. As an educator and parent myself to an 8-year-old boy, I know how important it is to continue to build on the skills learned during the school year in fun and meaningful ways. With the right approach, the summer months can be an opportunity for fun and enriching educational experiences, especially with so many close options to choose from in St. Johns County!

Engaging Activities to Prevent the Slide:

  1. Reading Adventures: Encourage children to embark on reading adventures by creating a summer reading list tailored to their interests. Visit the local library together and explore a variety of genres, from fiction to non-fiction. Set aside dedicated time each day for silent reading or read-aloud sessions as a family.

  2. STEM Exploration: Foster a love for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through hands-on activities. Build a backyard garden to learn about plant life cycles, conduct simple science experiments using household items or explore coding with online resources designed for children.

  3. Creative Arts and Crafts: Tap into children's creativity with art projects that also promote learning. Encourage them to keep a summer journal where they can write and draw about their experiences. Engage in DIY crafts that incorporate math and geometry concepts, such as building structures with recycled materials.

  4. Culinary Learning: Transform the kitchen into a classroom by involving children in meal preparation and cooking. Explore mathematical concepts like measurement and fractions while following recipes. Encourage discussions about nutrition and the science behind cooking processes.

Anastasia State Park, part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, with a diverse variety of seabirds, shorebirds, and wading birds.

Best Practices for Parents:

  1. Set a Routine: Establish a daily routine that includes time for educational activities alongside play and relaxation. Consistency is key to maintaining engagement and preventing the summer slide.

  2. Lead by Example: Demonstrate your own enthusiasm for learning by participating in activities alongside your children. Show them that learning is a lifelong journey and can be enjoyable.

  3. Encourage Exploration: Provide opportunities for children to explore their interests and pursue projects that capture their curiosity. Offer guidance and resources but allow them the freedom to take ownership of their learning experiences.

  4. Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate your child's accomplishments, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement fosters a sense of pride and motivation to continue learning.

Interactive programs are available daily at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, where you can learn about history, fun facts, and the inner workings of a lighthouse.

Here's a list of free or easy summer activities for kids and parents in St. Johns County:

  1. Visit Local Parks: St. Johns County is home to numerous parks with playgrounds, walking trails and picnic areas. Spend a day exploring parks like Treaty Park, Davis Park or Alpine Groves Park. Many parks also offer scenic spots for birdwatching and wildlife observation.

  2. Beach Day: Enjoy a day of sun, sand and surf at one of St. Johns County's beautiful beaches, such as St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach. Pack a picnic, build sandcastles and splash in the waves for a fun-filled family outing.

  3. Historic Site Exploration: Immerse yourself in the rich history of St. Augustine by visiting historic sites like the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas and the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Many of these sites offer free or discounted admission for children.

  4. Nature Walks and Hikes: Explore the natural beauty of St. Johns County by going on nature walks or hikes. Anastasia State Park and Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM Reserve) provide opportunities for hiking, birding and wildlife spotting.

  5. Library Programs: Take advantage of free summer programs and activities offered by the St. Johns County Public Library. From story time sessions for young children to STEM workshops for teens, there's something for everyone to enjoy.

  6. Art and Culture: Discover the vibrant arts scene in St. Augustine by attending free community events and art exhibits. Check out the First Friday Art Walk in downtown St. Augustine or explore local galleries showcasing the work of talented artists.

These are just a few ideas to inspire your summer adventures in St. Johns County. Whether you're exploring the great outdoors, delving into history and culture or getting crafty with DIY projects, there's plenty of fun to be had for kids and parents alike!

With thoughtful planning and creative approaches, parents can prevent the summer slide and keep their children engaged in educational activities throughout the break. Living in St. Johns County offers us a variety of amazing options and programs, and I hope that you find some new favorite spots or activities along the way! By embracing learning as a year-round adventure, families can make the most of the summer months and lay the foundation for academic success.