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Checkout these learning skills picked by a Teacher, OT, PT, and Speech Therapist to prevent the summer slide for 5 year olds! You might be surprised!

Checkout these learning skills picked by a Teacher, OT, PT, and Speech Therapist to prevent the summer slide for 5 year olds! You might be surprised! #summerskills #summerskillsforkids #summerslideprevention #summerslidepreventionforparents

With summer quickly approaching, the last thing on my mind is which learning skills I need to do with my 5 year old. I am honestly looking forward to him playing outside, learning to swim, and going hiking!

But then I realized, as a School-based Occupational Therapist, that the things he NEEDS to be working on are not in a workbook!

I had a hunch, so I enlisted my friends who are Teachers, Speech Therapists, and a Physical Therapist to help me create a well rounded resource for parents.

It was really hard to narrow the list down, as it could easily be 25 learning skills to work on! But we really wanted to focus on foundational and developmental skills that can be built upon the first day of Kindergarten.

Summer Learning Skills for 5 Year Olds

I am a firm believer that Summer is a time to recharge your battery, have new experiences and to change your daily routine.

This list is not the type of list that you will check off each one as you go. Rather they are skills that can and should be worked on over time. Most of the skills listed below can easily be incorporated into your everyday activities with a tweak!

It is also important to remember that all kids develop at different paces. If these skills are too hard make them easier. On the other hand, if they are too easy, and your kiddo is asking for a bigger challenge, make them harder.

#1. Flexible Thinking

This skill is such an important Life Skill! You may also hear people refer to it as “share a plan”. The goal for this activity is for your kiddo to make a plan and then be able to change it when someone else has a suggestion.

Kindergarten teachers love for kiddos to have begun working on this skill before starting Kindergarten. If a kiddo has had opportunities to practice flexible thinking, they are able to expand their play and learning opportunities rather than learning to be ok with the change of plan.

This skill is probably the easiest to work on between an adult and a kid. However, it can also be worked on when two kids are playing together. The challenge with two kiddos playing is that you might find yourself between two different plans and two inflexible thinkers.

You can pretty much work on this skill doing anything just by changing the plan of the task. But here are some examples

  • Go on a walk and take turns deciding which direction to turn
  • Build something together with your kiddo leading the design and then add a design element that you want
  • If your kiddo sits at the same spot at the dinner table have a wacky dinner and change their seating
  • Color together sharing a limited number of crayons. Ask to use the crayon that your kiddo is using. Give them the words, “You can have it when I am done” if they already don’t have them.

#2. Read a Book by Looking at the Pictures

The ability to read a book by its pictures is a great learning skill! It allows kiddos the opportunity to study a picture and see what is really going on rather than focusing on the words and what they say.

My own kiddos enjoy being read to and have memorized their favorite books for the most part. But interesting enough, when I take the words away, they have a hard time telling me the story by looking at the picture.

Dad and 5 year old daughter reading a picture book without words.

If your kiddo has a hard time “reading” a picture ask them questions. And if they can not tell you the answer, you tell them and point to what you see that gives you the clue.

  • What happened?
  • How is the character feeling?
  • What do you think is going to happen?

If you need some great Pre-K picture books or books with minimal words checkout this list.

This type of book can be intimidating! It is so much easier to sit and read words than to look at a picture and tell a story by what you see. The best part about these books is that the story can change every time you read it!

#3. Imaginative Play Learning Skills

Imaginative play is a great explorative skill for kiddos to have. Kids who engage in imaginative play are able to explore different roles. They are also able to look at a concrete object and see the potential to use it differently.

Imaginative play can easily be done with dress up clothes or kid toys that replicate the real version. However, this is only one way to encourage it and there are so many other ways!

  • Tape boxes together to make a house
  • Spreading your arms apart and pretending you are a plane
  • Hold a stick and play it like a guitar, or a violin
  • Draw a kitchen oven on a large box
  • Squirt a hose like a fireman
  • Make stone stew by collecting outside treasures and putting them in a pot

# 4 Understanding Same vs. Different

Knowing the concepts, same and different, is something that we use all of the time without even really realizing it. Being able to say what qualities of two objects are the same and different increases kiddos visual awareness.

It also increases their visual attention to characteristics to items. This ability will help them in school for letter/number identification, shape recognition and eventually how to draw pictures.

Teaching, same and different, can get confusing really quick. Don’t over think it or get too technical!

****I always recommend keeping it simple and start with identifying characteristics that are the same. For example, if your kiddo is eating multi-colored Goldfish, have them put all the same colored fish in a pile.

#5. 1:1 Correspondence up to 10 Learning Skills

1:1 Correspondence is a great learning skill for math. It is pairing one number to one object. When learning this skill, kids will often count out loud using their fingers to follow along.

But their finger will either move too fast, too slow, or tap on an item more than once. This will cause a mismatch of items to the number counted.

There are several strategies to make this easier…. it just depends on what your kiddo is counting. But for all of them, have your kiddo place one object in each space going left to right.

  • Small snacks – draw 10 squares, in a line, on a piece of paper.
  • Small toys/items – Dixie Cups, pieces of paper, play kitchen plates, piece of painters tape
  • Larger toys/items – baskets, carpet squares, pieces of paper, painters tape

If using a visual guide is too hard, place all the items in one pile. Count each one when you pick up one item and place it in a different pile. Also, if 10 is too high, start with a lower number.

#6 Fine Motor Activities

Summer is a great and easy way for your kiddo to work on their fine motor skills. Working on these skills will build strength and endurance that your kiddo will need when they start Kindergarten.

Think of all the coloring, cutting, pasting, drawing, etc. that they will be doing!

One of my kids favorite fine motor activities is making homemade play dough and then playing with it. You can roll it, use cookie cutters, cut it with scissors, build with it, push toothpicks or popsicle sticks in it…. the list goes on and on.

Here is a list of more Fine Motor Activities that you can do with household items.

My favorite fine motor activity for summer is squirt bottle playing. My kids will keep themselves busy for a chunk of time squirting various things with water in our backyard. Not only does it keep them busy, but it also strengthens their hands.

Boy using a squirt bottle to erase chalk on a fence showing an outdoor activity for kids that strengthens hands!

Click here for a list of hand strengthening activities that you can do outside.

#7 Self Help Skills

Through my experience as a school-based Occupational Therapist and being a mom, I have found that independence with self help skills is so important for self esteem. Kids feel a sense of accomplishment and have the attitude that they CAN do this!

Think about it. Kiddos start their morning with self help skills such as going to the bathroom, getting dressed, eating, washing their hands, using a regular cup, and brushing their teeth. It is challenging to help teach your kiddo these skills while still trying to get out of the house.

Once in the classroom, your kiddo will have some different self help skills that they will need to master.

Will your kiddo bring a snack or lunch to school for the first time? I recommend practicing eating lunch or snack with the same containers during the summer. This way, your kiddo knows how to open and shut them before even getting to school.

Has your kiddo ever packed or unpacked a backpack before? Practice this skill at home when going to a friends house or returning borrowed library books. Or go on a nature walk, and place found treasures in their backpack.

For some kiddos, using a backpack is really challenging. I’d recommend practicing zipping, unzipping, taking items out, putting items in it, and putting it on your back.

#8 Skipping

Skipping is a motor planning skill that kiddos around 5 years old begin to master. It’s a great skill for coordination, leg strengthening, and balancing. We love skipping races in our backyard!

Skipping is not to be confused with galloping where one foot always stays in the front. If you are not sure what the difference between the two checkout this video.

It is generally easier to teach your kiddo how to skip using slow motion and exaggerating the motion. First they need to become comfortable with the actions step, hop, step, hop. Once your kiddo has the movements then you can add speed!

#9 Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a great activity that requires so many skills! Help your kiddo create the board using sidewalk chalk or tape! When I create the board, I don’t necessarily follow a certain pattern of single blocks to double blocks.

When a kiddo is just learning to jump on one foot, I like to make hopscotch boards like this. This setup does not require hopping on one foot consecutively which requires more balance. But as their balance improves, I add consecutive single hopping squares.

Hopscotch board alternating single jump boxes with double jump boxes as example of a learning skill for 5 yr old.

#10 Throw/Catch and Bounce/Catch a ball

Throwing, bouncing and catching a ball is a great playground skill. There are a lot of components that are put together in order for kiddos to be successful. If you are not sure how to teach your kiddo how to throw, then here is a great resource.

By the age of 5, kiddos should be working on throwing over hand and catching, as well as bouncing and catching a tennis ball. If your kiddo is really struggling with a tennis ball, use a slightly larger ball to start and then move back to a tennis ball.

When having a catch, you want to stand approximately 5 feet from each other. At this distance, your kiddo should catch the ball using only their hands. If they can, take a step back to make the distance a little further.

If your kiddo is trapping the ball between their hands and their chest, take a step closer until they can catch the ball with just their hands.

Don’t Set Out to Master All of these Learning Skills

The purpose of providing this list is not for you to start the first day of summer set to master all of these activities. Instead, it is to be used as a resource of skills that your kiddo can work on to help make the transition to Kindergarten easier.

As you go through these, if you are finding that a skill is too hard for your kiddo, then make it easier. As the skill becomes more developed, then change the demand to make it harder.

If you know your kiddo is weak in another skill area, by all means work on it!

But most of all, recognize that you only have 18 summers with your kiddos before they are adults. Make it count and have fun!

Don’t Misplace This List and Pin it to Your Child Development Board!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I am sure that you are not the only one with the same question! I read all comments and would love to hear from you!


Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.