Summer is a time to relax and wind down after a long school year, right? Unfortunately, no.

Students regularly lose reading and math skills over the summer. Teachers can use as much as two months at the beginning of the year to re-teach those skills.

Studies have shown that by the end of sixth grade, students who experience summer learning loss can be as much as two years behind their peers. Children who don’t participate in meaningful summer experiences can fall behind. This is called the “summer slide.”

When it comes to summer learning loss, math takes one of the biggest hits. In reading, summer learning loss can account for almost two thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap. Much of the achievement gap between disadvantaged youth and their peers can be explained by summer learning loss in elementary school.

It does not have to cost money for parents to help their children avoid the summer slide. Parents can engage their children in learning through everyday activities.

It can be as simple as having your children help write a grocery list and then letting them read it to you as you shop. Help them figure which roll of paper towels is the best value.

Use a ruler to measure different items around the house – how tall is the doorway, how wide is his bed, what is the square footage of her bedroom?

Use coins to add and subtract from a dollar or to figure out how many pennies equal a nickel or a dime. Be creative; let your imagination go.

The local libraries offer free reading programs and many children’s reading activities. Encourage your child to write a story over the summer. Have him create a main character and make up weekly adventures.

Each week, have him add a page or draw a picture about the character. At the end of the summer, put them all together to make a book.

Read to your child each night or allow her to read to you. Create a neighborhood book club and have children share books and stories with one another.

Engage children in everyday activities to excite their imaginations. ABC’s and 123’s weave throughout our daily lives; help your children to make that connection by involving them in what you are doing and inviting them to experience life.

Jody L. Levitt is the executive director of The Children’s Center on Hilton Head Island.