Beating summer brain drain
Family Health

12 Fun Ways to Beat Summer Brain Drain

School's out for summer, and your children couldn't be happier. They've waited all year for the chance to relax and have some fun, but that much-needed break from the classroom doesn't have to be a break from learning.

Summer brain drain — also known as summer learning loss or summer slide — is a long-recognized phenomenon. Without enough mental stimulation during the break, most children lose two months worth of math skills, and children from low-income families typically lose another two to three months in reading skills.

How can you help your kids avoid summer brain drain without draining all the fun out of their summer break?

1. Start a Family Book Club

Make summer reading more fun by making it a family affair. Each person gets to select one or two books for the list. Everyone reads them, and you discuss as a group. You can also include friends, neighbors, and extended family members. If you have children who read at significantly different levels from each other, consider having regular, one-on-one book discussions with each of them about books at their grade level.

2. Go to the Library

Most public libraries offer summer reading programs, and they usually have challenges and prizes to encourage participation. A librarian can also help you find age-appropriate books your children will enjoy.

3. Have a Weekly Family Game Night

Opt for games of skill over games of luck. For example, Monopoly allows young children to practice their math skills, while Scrabble and Scattergories hone verbal skills. Want to get them moving too? Number the circles on your Twister mat, and call out math problems instead of colors. For example, you might say, "Right foot on two times three," and your child would have to step on the circle labeled "six."

4. Go on a Nature Walk

Take a hike through the woods or visit a local park. Look for different kinds of plants, trees, bugs, birds, and rocks. Take pictures of anything you can't identify and look it up when you get home.

5. Get a Jump-Start on Next Year's Science Fair

Who doesn't love a good ant farm, soda bottle rocket, or paper-mache volcano? Find out what kind of science experiments interest your child and do some of them together.

6. Take Summer "Field Trips"

There are learning opportunities all around you. You can visit a local zoo, museum, farm, factory, water treatment plant, or historical site. Whether your children are learning about science, history, or just how stuff works, their minds will be working and growing.

7. Send Them to Camp

Look for a camp that incorporates educational content along with swimming and arts and crafts. If cost is a concern, many school districts, childcare facilities, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, community centers, and religious institutions offer inexpensive or free summer programs.

8. Cook Together

Talk about the components of a healthy meal. Let your kids do the measuring, and discuss various units of measurement. Explain why different foods are cooked in different ways and at different temperatures. They'll learn some basic life skills, with a side of math of science.

9. Use Screen Time Wisely

You don't want your kids to spend all summer staring at screens, but technology can make learning more engaging. There are many educational websites, mobile apps, and software programs for children. The National Education Association has a list of free learning tools based on age range to help beat summer brain drain.

10. Travel

Instead of just going to the beach, consider a destination where your children can learn about a new place and culture. Alternately, you can take imaginary vacations to explore the world. Have your children pick a different country each week to read about. Then, watch movies and cook meals from those countries.

11. Have Them Keep Summer Journals

Having your kids write about what's happening in their lives is a great way to keep their composition skills sharp over the summer, while also creating childhood mementos they'll enjoy reading later in life. If your children aren't capable of writing on their own, have them dictate their thoughts to a parent or sibling, and then let them draw pictures to accompany their thoughts.

12. Ask the Experts

Talk to your children's teachers about what they'll be covering next school year, and what you can do over the summer to help your kids prepare. No one knows more about how to avoid summer brain drain than a teacher.

Posted in Family Health

Taylor Mallory Holland is a seasoned freelance writer specializing in healthcare and technology. Taylor has more than a decade's experience writing for media outlets and organizations, including a top medical school and several leading healthcare systems. She is passionate about helping consumers navigate the healthcare system. She also enjoys interviewing physicians, breaking down complex medical jargon, and sharing health and wellness tips that help people make informed healthcare decisions.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.