Is Play the Summer Solution to “Lost Learning”? | Deborah Farmer Kris | 4 Min Read

April 28, 2021

Last night, my first grader fixed his own dinner. 

“Mama, I invented a new recipe. It’s called PBBH: Peanut-butter-banana-honey sandwich! I want to make it all by myself.”

What happened next — as I watched from a few feet away — was a demonstration of how far his executive function skills have come in the last year.

  • He developed a plan and organized his materials (focused attention)
  • He held the steps in his mind: toast the bread, spread the peanut butter, spread the honey, add the sliced bananas (working memory)
  • He switched to a spoon for spreading when the knife was too difficult (flexible thinking)
  • He stayed calm and focused when the honey fell to the floor, one of the slices of bread ripped, and the dog came rushing in to “help” (impulse control & task persistence)

But of course, he didn’t think of this activity as a cognitive boot camp. It was independent, self-directed fun! 

There’s a lot of handwringing right now about “lost learning” this year because of changes to schooling. But before you buy a mountain of workbooks or sign your kid up for academic remediation on Zoom, think instead about…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (