Combating the Summer Slide with the Arts & Learning

by | May 9, 2024

Speaker in a room full of people talking about the power of arts integration at Angel Oak Elementary School

As the sun beckons and school doors close for the summer, children eagerly anticipate the freedom from classrooms, homework, and structured learning. However, amidst the excitement of summer vacation, there lurks a phenomenon known as the "summer slide" – a decline in academic skills and knowledge over the extended break. While it's natural for kids to relish the break, it's crucial for parents and educators to recognize the importance of maintaining a balance between leisure and continued learning during this time.

The summer slide is a well-documented phenomenon backed by research in education. Studies have shown that students can lose up to two months of grade-level equivalency in math skills and reading proficiency over the summer months. This decline in academic progress can have significant implications, leading to students struggling to catch up once they return to school in the fall. It's a concerning trend, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds who may lack access to educational resources during the break.

One of the main contributors to the summer slide is the lack of consistent practice and exposure to educational materials during the summer months. Without the daily structure provided by school, children may spend more time engaged in passive activities like watching TV or playing video games, which do less to stimulate their minds. As a result, the neural connections formed during the school year can weaken, leading to a decline in academic skills.

So, what can parents and caregivers do to combat the summer slide and ensure their children continue to learn and grow during the break? The key is to foster a culture of learning that is both enjoyable and engaging for children. While traditional academic exercises are important, integrating the arts into summer learning can provide a creative and enriching way for children to stay engaged. Here are some practical tips:

  1. Dance and Movement: Incorporate dance into your child's summer routine to keep them active and engaged. Whether it's learning a new dance style, creating choreography, or simply moving to the rhythm of their favorite songs, dance enhances physical fitness, coordination, and cognitive skills like memory and concentration. As you travel this summer, this activity from ArtsNOW Consultant Melissa Joy can help your child learn about map skills and explore topography with cardinal directions.
  2. Visual Arts Exploration: Set up a mini art studio at home where children can experiment with different art mediums such as painting, drawing, or sculpting. Encourage them to explore their creativity and express themselves through art. You can also visit local museums or art galleries for inspiration and exposure to different artistic styles. You could even just visit your kitchen pantry, with this fun activity from ArtsNOW Consultant Shannon Green.
  3. Musical Adventures: Introduce children to the world of music by encouraging them to learn a new instrument, explore different genres, or create their own compositions. Music not only enhances cognitive skills but also fosters emotional expression and creativity. Here’s an engaging activity with ArtsNOW Consultant Maribeth Yoder that you can do when making lunch or at storytime!
  4. Drama and Theater: Organize fun drama activities or put on a backyard theater production with family and friends. Acting out scenes from favorite books or creating original scripts helps children develop communication skills, empathy, and confidence. Check out ArtsNOW Consultant Susie Purcell’s activity “This is Not a Box” as a prompt to get the imagination going!
  5. Creative Writing and Storytelling: Encourage children to unleash their imagination through creative writing and storytelling. Provide them with prompts or writing challenges to inspire their creativity. This not only strengthens their language skills but also fosters self-expression and confidence.

By integrating the arts into summer learning, parents and caregivers can provide children with a holistic and enriching educational experience that goes beyond traditional academic exercises. You can find more family resources on our website at

Whether it's painting a masterpiece, composing a melody, or performing in a play, the arts offer endless opportunities for creativity, self-discovery, and personal growth. So, as summer approaches, let's embrace the power of the arts to inspire, engage, and empower our children to continue learning and thriving throughout the summer months and beyond.