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This post was written by parent coach Kerrie LaRosa.

“We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration.” Peter Gray

Children’s brains don’t turn off during the summer because they are not in school. Children are constantly learning, by observing the adults around them, playing with their peers, reading the back of a cereal box, digging for worms in the yard or building forts. As adults we often think of learning as something structured, premeditated that results in a product. But, the reality is that children are constantly learning and it is our job as adults to provide the opportunity for the learning.

As the school year comes to a close, there is a lot of talk about the summer learning loss and questions about how to maintain a child’s academic gains over the summer. But, just because children are not in school over the summer, does not mean they can’t learn. But that learning does not necessarily have to involve tutors or hours completing math worksheets. Children learn through play and the more time they have for play (the right kind of play), the more likely they are to maintain those gains they made during the school year.

Author of Free to Learn, Peter Gray states, “Self-education through play and exploration requires enormous amounts of unscheduled time—time to do whatever one wants to do, without pressure, judgment, or intrusion from authority figures. That time is needed to make friends, play with ideas and materials, experience and overcome boredom, learn from one’s own mistakes, and develop passions.”

So, how can we support continued learning over the summer? Follow the tips I wrote about in the previous blog. Provide your child with ample opportunity for free play. Let your child make some messes (playing in puddles, dirt making living room forts). Offer (but don’t force) activities you can do together (science experiments, baking and cooking, gardening). Go for outings to the farmer’s market, library, playgrounds, or local museums. Get outside as much as possible!

If you aren’t convinced that learning only occurs in books, here are some examples what children can learn through everyday activities.

A child’s job is to learn through play, curiosity, exploration and experimentation. It is a parent’s job to provide ample opportunity for children to learn in this natural form.

Watch for my weekly Tuesday Tip this summer. I will be sharing specific activities that encourage learning on my blog Subscribe to get tips delivered right to your inbox.

Kerrie believes the key to effective parenting is through strengthening the parent-child connection and teaching parents how to tailor their parenting strategies to match the their child’s unique qualities and needs.

Follow her at @RosaParentCoach or ask her a question by email:

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