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Smart Is the New Cool: Three Ways to Set Your Kids Up for Success

School is out for the summer and if you have kids, you’re probably spending the next few weeks planning a big family vacation, taking them on trips to see the grandparents, shuffling them to camp, and planning playdates with the neighbors. But just because the kids are taking a break from school doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the pause button on learning.

One of the biggest challenges kids face these days is what educators call “summer slide.” If they’re not actively engaged, the thinking goes, children risk losing the progress they made during the school year. And, according to the National Summer Learning Association, summer learning loss accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between children from low and middle-income households by the ninth grade.

Aside from helping your kids build on what they’ve learned during the school year, keeping them engaged during the summer also helps them get a head start on being ready for school to start up again in the fall. It’s like sports: Even if it’s the off-season, it doesn’t mean you should stop training. Every successful player knows that you want to show up to opening night strong, ready, and prepared to win.

We’ve found three ways for families to help their kids get ahead this summer, so they can be equipped with the knowledge, learning tools, and confidence they need for the first day of school—and beyond!

1. Talk to Your Kids (and Talk to Them Some More!)

The more you engage in meaningful conversation with your kids, the more alert, aware, and knowledgeable they’ll be. Even if you are watching TV, try turning on the news and asking them for their opinion on current events. If your kids aren’t very responsive, start by telling them about your day, to open up the lines of communication. Did you feel stressed out at work? Let your kids know how you handled it. Did your boss praise you for a job well done? Tell your kids how proud that made you feel. The more you talk about your feelings and accomplishments, the more they’ll want to tell you about theirs as well.

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2. Turn Everyday Activities and Scenarios into Teaching Opportunities

When you hear the term “teachable moments,” you may automatically think of a negative connotation such as getting grounded by your folks or having to stay after school for a detention, but there’s something to the idea of taking ordinary tasks and distilling some knowledge from them that can create positive benefits over time.

Whether you’re shopping for groceries, going on a road trip, or just sitting down for dinner, there are multiple ways to use these activities for learning. Here’s a suggestion: Next time you’re at the store, divide up the shopping list and give your kids a number of items they have to find without going over budget. On a road trip? Have them look up the destination on a map to determine the best route to take. And if you’re prepping for dinner, it’s a great time to teach kids about portioning food, measuring ingredients, and the importance of timing. There are simple lessons to be learned in everything!

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3. Sign Up for an Online Learning Platform to Help Your Kids Get Ahead

When it comes to summer break, children don’t usually want to spend an hour reading textbooks with a tutor, but ask your kids to log in to a cool online game and you’ll be surprised at how excited they get to tackle things like math and reading. We’ve found two online learning platforms that provide easy-to-use and easy-to-access curriculum that will help your kids stay sharp, even when they’re not in class. Use them over the summer to help prevent summer slide, and then keep your kids enrolled during the school year to help them stay ahead of the curve.

The more prepared they are, the more confident they’ll feel both in school and in their everyday lives. The best part? These sites are accessible through your computer, tablet, and even your phone, so you can have learning on the go. You may already subscribe to Netflix or Hulu for entertainment, so why not add a subscription that will entertain, engage, and educate your kids at the same time too?

ABCmouse Review

The first site we like is ABCmouse, a fun and interactive website that promotes learning and cognitive development through colorful books, puzzles, games, animated clips, songs, and art. There are more than 850 lessons across 10 levels that encompass all key subject areas—from literacy to math, science, social studies, art, and more—and it’s great for children ages 2–8.

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Courtesy ABCmouse[/caption]

Designed with the input and advice of some of the country’s leading education experts, ABCmouse’s curriculum focuses on six specific aspects associated with success in kindergarten and beyond:

1. It promotes engagement and learning through topics that appeal to kids, like animation, songs, games, and more.
2. It cultivates persistence by offering children activities that vary in length and difficulty so they can build stamina and feel satisfied when they accomplish an activity.
3. It encourages curiosity through an interface that invites exploration.
4. It fosters a positive self-concept that gives children opportunities to succeed while learning.
5. It supports the development of self-regulation through a child-friendly interface that gives kids control of their own learning experiences.
6. It nurtures self-confidence by giving a child Learning Activities he or she can complete, learn from, and succeed in.

Multiple independent studies have been done to prove the effectiveness of ABCmouse, including one that found that kids who use the program for as little as 45 minutes a week show dramatic improvements in reading and math as compared to those who don’t. A subscription starts at just $9.95 a month (that’s less expensive than Netflix!), and it gives your family unlimited access to the site’s 10,000+ Learning Activities. Right now, ABCmouse is offering the first month free.

Find out more about ABCmouse

Adventure Academy Review

For older kids, we recommend Adventure Academy—a learning platform presented as an interactive multiplayer online game. It’s a bright, stimulating, and fun experience that’s perfect for elementary- and middle-school-aged students who want to expand their skills in math, science, language arts, and more.

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Courtesy Adventure Academy[/caption]

Think of Adventure Academy as an interactive world of activities, where your kids can select the “missions” they go on, from reading comprehension, writing strategies, and vocabulary development, to mathematical operations, scientific inquiry, and more. Users get to create their own Avatars and track their progress against their friends in a safe, supportive online environment.

Available on computers, tablets, and smartphones, Adventure Academy features thousands of Learning Activities in an ever-expanding virtual world. It works because it explains concepts in a way that kids can easily digest and understand, while also being presented in a format that they can explore and enjoy. After all, who doesn’t want to log on to an exciting new game to play every day?

A one-year subscription gets you instant access for up to three children on one account. Plans start at just $9.99 a month, but you can save by purchasing an annual subscription. Like ABCmouse, Adventure Academy is offering new users one free month to try out the game.

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Courtesy Adventure Academy[/caption]

By harnessing the visual and aural power of art and music, ABCmouse and Adventure Academy take learning off the pages (and the screen!) and into fun, interactive, and experiential mediums. Whether you’re keeping your kids’ skills sharp during the summer or equipping them with what they need to get ahead during the school year, there’s nothing cooler than feeling smart, prepared, and capable of…just about anything!

Find Out More About Adventure Academy