How ESL Children Can Improve Their English Over Summer Vacation

How ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation

How ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation. Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst.

Summer vacation is here. Children will be out of school for a couple of months. And you are worried that your child, who is learning English as a second language, may lose some of her English over summer vacation because she won’t be seeing American classmates everyday. But what if she can improve her English during these two months, just in different ways? Here are some ideas on how ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation.

This blog was originally published on June 21, 2019.  It’s been updated on June 3, 2024.

The playground is a great place to practice English

Since summer vacation is intended for students to rest and play, your children probably do not want to be studying, like they have been for the past 10 months.  However, you can use this time to hep them integrate English practice. 

Learning does not have to come from books or the classroom. In fact, often learning takes place outside the class by applying what we study. So which activities can encourage English practice? 

The playground.  It is such a perfect environment. Children are playing, they are feeling relaxed.  They are having fun.  Not thinking about school or learning. That is the perfect atmosphere to integrate learning.  Nothing is expected of them other than having fun and enjoying themselves.

Actually, when children are playing, they are speaking natural English. What better way to absorb a language than when they are playing with native English speakers? Not only will they improve their English accent, intonation, and vocabulary, they might have made friends with future classmates from the playground by the time they get back to school. Since you go to the same playground and park, it’s likely you live in the same neighborhood, and are in the same school district.

Reading their favorite books can improve your children’s English

So, play is one way your ESL children can improve their English even when they are out of school. Another way is to read their favorite books. Don’t worry about grammar books, unless your children enjoy it. Encourage your children to read anything they are interested in, even if it’s comic books. They will absorb the patterns and word order of natural English.

When I was learning English, over one summer vacation, I read over 20 novels. I wasn’t trying to learn English, I simply enjoyed reading those books. When school started again, I noticed my writing improved without effort. Some skills must have transferred from reading those books. My sentence construction took less effort. I was more descriptive in my writing. And I did not have to stop to think about grammar. They just flow naturally.

Do you see a common theme here? Natural English. Playing with other children who also speak English.  Reading books they enjoy.  These activities help to integrate English into everyday life. 

And don’t worry about arranging play dates only with native-English speakers. Just by using English with their playmates is sufficient.  They will develop ease and confidence in using the language effortlessly.

Watching movies in English that your children enjoy

One other activity can also help your children to improve English over summer vacation. Watching their favorite movies or television shows. Don’t worry about them wasting time. As long as they enjoy it, they wouldn’t even know they are actually picking up more English while watching TV. 

A former student of mine learned Cantonese by watching martial arts movies. She had wanted to communicate with more Chinese by learning Cantonese.  Although she may not speak that dialect fluently, she was able to understand it much better after all those movies.  And I was able to understand some of her Cantonese.

So, there you have it. Play, read, watch movies.  All fun activities.  Actually, any activities that your child enjoys that involve hearing or speaking English. Even writing, if she enjoys it. Don’t force anything. Summer vacation is supposed to be fun. And what better way to integrate learning than by doing something we enjoy?

These are just a few examples of how ESL children can improve their English over summer vacation.  If you think of others, I would love to add them to this list.  Please send an email to 

If you find this article helpful, here is one on How ESL learners can teach their children to read.

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals who relocated to the U.S. in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.  To schedule a session with her, please email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *