There’s nothing sweeter to a kid than the anticipation of summer break. Almost as soon as the leaves start dropping off the trees in the fall, children start counting down the time to those two to three months of complete freedom.

And after working hard all year long, it’s time to play hard! At the same time, summer programs such as summer science camps present great opportunities for parents to make sure their kids are holding on to the lessons they’ve learned during the school year.

The dangers of summer slide

During that long time off, kids actually go through something that educators call summer learning loss, or the summer slide. On average, kids lose about two months’ worth of the math skills they had gained over the school year, and during the summer, up to two months’ worth of reading skills drop off.

Over time, the summer learning loss becomes cumulative. By the fifth grade, big academic gaps begin to emerge between students who have the opportunities to retain their knowledge during the summer and those who don’t, according to the National Summer Learning Association. Even worse, these students who suffer summer after summer from learning loss are less likely to go on to college or even graduate from high school.

Luckily, the research shows that kids can retain their knowledge or even gain ground during the summer, and with the right tools, parents can be powerful allies in helping their child defeat summer learning loss.

STEM-focused summer enrichment

One way that parents can help fight summer learning loss is through a learning program or education-based summer camp that focuses on the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math).

STEM learning programs outside a school setting help students succeed in the classroom, according to a 2015 report from the National Research Council: “[T]here is growing evidence that opportunities to learn STEM outside of school directly affect what is possible inside classrooms, just as what happens in classrooms affects out-of-school learning.”

One reason may be that these programs, with their hands-on, engaging format, help kids gain a deeper understanding of STEM subjects. They also make kids more interested in the subject.

So when they return to the classroom, the experiences they had in the summer help them ladder up in their understanding of the topic. Which is important, because the workplace of tomorrow will need plenty of STEM-trained men and women in the pipeline. Between now and 2027, the number of STEM jobs will grow 13 percent, versus 9 percent for non-STEM jobs, according to the Education Commission of the States.

How parents can help their child fight summer learning loss

There are many programs to choose from that will keep your child engaged and learning throughout the summer. But we’re not suggesting enrolling your child in summer school.

Effective STEM programs that are held outside the school should be intellectually, socially and emotionally engaging, according to the National Research Council report. And these summer STEM programs should have a link to the interests and experiences of the kids.

In other words, summer learning should be based on an experience that doesn’t feel like school, and on lessons that are fun for kids. In fact, that’s exactly what the summer camps we offer through Bricks 4 Kidz are designed to do.

Bricks 4 Kidz Summer Camps: Our summer camp programs get kids up to their elbows in their beloved LEGO Bricks and let them explore movie-making, architecture, engineering and more. Let your child choose one of our popular themes. There’s Mining and Crafting, which lets your kids build their own Minecraft-inspired world of mobs and creatures. Galaxy Far Away is also a kid-favorite, with models inspired by the NASA space program and ships from Star Wars.

Bricks 4 Kidz Coding and Video Game Design: Check out our new series of classes designed to bring together your child’s love for video games and hands-on learning about technology. Kids get a behind-the-joystick look at what makes a video game “work.” Even better, they design their own characters and games through computer programming. They’ll be learning a valuable 21st-century skill without even knowing it.

It’s never too early to start planning for summer. Check your community offerings for summer camps as well as possible special early sign-up rates and enroll your child today!