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5 Tips For Helping Kids Avoid the Academic Winter Slide

academic winter slide tips kids

Want to prevent your child’s academic “backslide” during the winter months? Discover 5 simple ways to avoid the “winter slide” and make winter learning fun.

When winter holiday breaks come, children of all ages rejoice. Learning is put on hold, sleeping in late becomes the norm, and your kids love every minute of it. But winter brings with it the possibility of an academic ‘slide,’ similar to the “summer slide.”

While not as long as summer vacation, winter breaks can be just as detrimental to your child’s long-term educational development. If you’re not familiar with summer or winter slides, or the Covid slide, here’s a simple definition:

The winter slide is a loss of learning that happens to many kids when they take days or even weeks off from learning during breaks. This syndrome can have negative effects on a child’s long-term retention. The following statistic reveals the consequences.

Children who suffer an academic slide each year of their schooling will be two years behind their classmates by sixth grade.

If kids hope to qualify for merit-based college scholarships, avoiding an academic slide during the winter or summer months is crucial. Before searching for the best scholarship websites when planning your child’s higher education, they need to establish healthy study habits. Parents can help their kids stay ahead of backsliding by following a few simple tips.

1. Set up a daily schedule

Apply what billion-dollar corporations have done to build their businesses. Franchises like McDonald’s have long ago figured out that having a system in place is the best way to ensure success. That means planning your schedule. Establish a daily time and length.

The good news? Some parents and teachers suggest that just 20-30 minutes a day is enough to prevent academic backtracking.

2. Increase motivation in your kids

Want to make winter learning easier? Start at an early age. If your kids are entering kindergarten, start right now. Condition them to expect their learning activities as part of their daily lives, even during winter holiday breaks.

When this extra learning is something they do every day of every break, it becomes normal to them. It’s just like bathing or cleaning their room. If your kids are older (tween or teen) you can still motivate them for winter break learning with a simple reward system.

What if your kids are on restricted use with their phones or tablets? You can reward them with additional screen time after they complete their winter learning activities. Also, stress to your kids they only get more screen time after completing their winter learning without complaining.

As your children get older and they start thinking about higher education, encourage them to seek out a quality college scholarship guide. As they begin to understand how their academic performance is tied to getting scholarships, they’ll find additional motivation to keep reading over the winter breaks.

3. The ONLY winter break learning activity your kids need

Want to know the most useful activity for preventing your kids’ backsliding? Do everything you can to motivate your children to read. They don’t have to read for very long, either. If your kids read 20-30 minutes a day, that’s all they need. Reading is wonderful for kids’ developing brains.

The reason relates to muscles in the body. When your kids are running, jumping, and twisting in gym class, they’re working their muscles. Humans need to use their muscles to prevent atrophy, maintain proper weight, and other benefits.

People often forget that the human brain is a muscle as well. By reading books, you exercise your brain. The more you use your brain, the healthier you are. And reading keeps the brain ready for more learning.

4. Ways to make reading fun during winter breaks

While the simplicity of the first three tips is great for effective winter learning, there are also ways to make it fun for your kids.
Read to your kids – “Older” kids may claim they’re too grown to be read to, but don’t be fooled. Deep down they still enjoy it.

Form a book club for tweens and teens – Reach out to your neighborhood’s fellow parents and start your own club.

Start competitions – Partner up with neighborhood parents and start a good-natured contest. For prizes, use educational products like books from Amazon or a trip to a local museum.

5. Take advantage of your library

Want to make this already simple winter slide prevention program even easier? Take your kids to your local library. Most libraries across the United States have reading programs for children. While many libraries focus on winter reading programs, some still offer special incentives and programs for holiday or winter breaks. The themes are interesting for kids, too.

In 2019, the winter theme was ‘space,’ to tie into the NASA moon landing. A few years before that, ‘sports’ was the winter theme. Your library will probably have suggested reading lists broken down by age groups, contests, rewards, and more.

What if this year’s theme doesn’t appeal to your child? They may still want some of the rewards the library advertises. Or the contests might be fun. And there’s entertainment, too.

Some librarians hire professional entertainers like magicians and jugglers to visit their libraries. These artists perform an entire show crafted around that year’s theme. During the show, these performers highlight several books that fit the year’s theme to get kids excited about reading books.

Are your kids addicted to their screens? Having them enjoy a live performance (even on such a small scale) is another stimulating experience for them. The best part is that this amazing resource is free.

Academic Winter Slide Prevention: Your next steps

The key to making a winter learning program like this work is your involvement. Pay attention to your child’s school progress while school is in session. Are they struggling or keeping up with the lessons? By getting involved, you’ll be doing your best to ensure your child develops good academic habits.

If your child is falling behind, you can consider private tutors. There are plenty of online resources to find one that will understand your child’s personality. A good tutor will understand how to keep the additional study sessions fun and interesting.

The most important thing is to have fun. People of all ages learn and retain more when they enjoy themselves. Winter learning doesn’t have to be drudgery. It can be a great way to keep kids’ brains active over winter breaks.



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Chris Illuminati is a freelance writer and published author. Follow him on Twitter (@chrisilluminati), Instagram (@messagewithabottle) or email him at

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