Here is how to keep the kids sharp all summer


School holiday learning loss is a real thing. Here’s how you can keep your kids’ grey matter active over the long break.


The final bell has rung, school’s out for summer and the kids are already on the couch, staring glassy-eyed at the iPad.

While taking a break is definitely beneficial for little brains, rinse and repeat this routine for the next eight weeks and your child is at serious risk of losing some of those hard-earned numeracy and literary skills.

Idle brains


“Summer learning loss is a very real phenomenon,” concedes Jennifer Hogan, general manager at edutainment centre Little World. “Children go from 30-plus hours in a formal academic environment a week to zero overnight.

“While the actual degree of loss varies, on average that’s actually losing one month’s value of school,” she adds. “Early numeracy skills are heavily dependent on continuous practice [and] children – especially younger ones – are rarely exposed to real-life situations where they have to do their own maths or employ problem-solving skills.

“From a language and literacy perspective, during the summer children are not in a setting where they have continuous practice in formal grammar or composition. Often those who go to their home country will solely use their first language, becoming out of practice in the second language they learn at school.”

It’s not just conjecture, adds Simon Hetherington, director of Kip McGrath Education Centre in Al Raha Mall.

“There is a summer learning dip for students of all ages,” he notes. “In reading levels, 40 percent of students go backwards [between] the end of year 6 and beginning of year 7 when tested in British schools. Numeracy and literacy are core subjects and are arguably the most useful in real life post-education.”

Balancing act


So how do you find the sweet spot between relaxation and learning?

“Children often go on long breaks with their families where the focus is fun and relaxation,” Jennifer affirms. “While this is much-needed quality time, keeping children engaged in light learning activities can often be overlooked.

“Children are natural-born scientists with a thirst for knowledge,” she continues. “Using this natural curiosity makes learning meaningful and significant to them. When children have context in learning, that knowledge is not easily forgotten.”

Simon agrees: “While the core academic subjects are vital, every child has their own
passions and strengths, which may be in music, sport, art – anything. To excel, you need to have a multitude of skills [and] the confidence learned from drama or teamwork learned in sport will be equally as important.”

Rules of engagement


The kids aren’t going to do all this alone – whether you’re here or abroad, parents are the driving force behind keeping their brains curious.

“At the end of the day, familial involvement is the key to success,” Jennifer emphasises.
“Talk to your child’s teacher about how you can target specific gaps. Application of skills is so important and these are easily embedded into your holiday routine.

“Applying their mathematical skills to understanding and converting new currencies and time zones is a surefire way to keep those numeracy skills in tiptop shape,” she suggests.

“Little ones can be engaged through photography, and capturing patterns and shapes in nature through readily available apps. Don’t forget that those tiny little prewriting finger muscles need to be kept active too, [with activities like] drawing in sand with small tools.”

For families staying in the capital, Simon suggests trying a fun camp: “Summer camps offer a quality experience for children. They maintain a bit of structure during an unstructured period and keep the mind active.”

Engage Brains 

  • Grab a book: “Reading at home is an inexpensive way to capture the imagination and improve core literacy skills,” advises Simon.
  • Listen up: “If your family is travelling, audio books can be a wonderful resource to maintain comprehension skills while building new vocabulary,” Jennifer says.
  • Get out more: Every outing can be a learning experience, so Simon suggests heading to cultural hotspots. We love Louvre Abu Dhabi’s children’s museum and Manarat Al Saadiyat – or why not try the Khalifa Park library?
  • Unleash creativity: If you can’t get out, get creative, says Jennifer. Assemble a group of children and let them try their hands at guided experiments, home crafts or throw some paint on paper. For ideas, visit:

Need to know 

WORDS Camille Hogg