Twenty Ideas to Prevent Summer Brain Drain
Here in the Southeast, summer break is right around the corner. It’s time to start thinking about how we can keep kids’ minds and bodies active and growing this summer!
Whether your children are school-aged or not yet in school, it’s all to easy to let the lazy days of summer get a little too lazy, if you know what I mean!
|Images modified under Creative Commons License 2.0. Top image: “Reading is Fun” by John Morgan. https://www.flickr.com/photos/aidanmorgan/3537327425. Bottom image: “I <3 2 Read” by Kate Ter Haar, https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/8435321969|
Ideas to keep your kids active and learning this summer:
Try out a few of these ideas to prevent summer brain drain (and then share your ideas in the comments.)
1. Are you taking a trip this summer? Head to the library or bookstore to find a book that’s related to where you’ll be visiting. This is a great opportunity to introduce new non-fiction or historical fiction. There may be other options too. Our family is headed to Boston this summer, and I’ve bought a copy of the classic Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey for my three year old. I can’t wait to take him to the Boston Public Garden where the story is set (and where there are adorable statues of the Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings.)
2. Extend the learning from books by adding a related craft or activity. Pinterest is a gold mine for these kinds of activities, and not all of them are difficult! I’m especially fond of Growing Book by Book as well as What Do We Do All Day? You can also take a look at my own Pinterest board for crafts that pair well with children’s books.
3. It’s easy to forget about math over the summer (which is probably why math skills are hardest hit by summer learning loss.) Work math skills into your everyday routine (the grocery store and kitchen are great places to practice all kinds of math.) Read storybooks or non-fiction that incorporate math.
|Sneak some math into your storytimes with books like The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale by Brenda Williams and Sophie Fatus.|
4. Remember that active bodies and active minds go together. Because we live in the heat + humidity capital of the country, I actually find it difficult to be as active as we should in the summer. Yoga and indoor dance parties are great option for us, as well as our community’s water parks. Check out Let’s Move Outside for lots of resources and ideas.
5. Give your bookshelf a boost even if you’re on a budget. Encourage your child to do a book swap with her friends. Enjoy some storytime fun and get free books at the same time by hosting a Barefoot Books party (or ask me about doing a simple Facebook party.) See Growing Book by Book’s suggestions for other ways to get books for free.
6. Engage in some dramatic play. Make this easy DIY puppet theater from a diaper box and unleash your kids. Read books with cumulative story lines, such as The Gigantic Turmip or these suggestions from Homegrown Friends and act them out with your children.
7. Sign up for your library’s summer reading program. Most libraries will be using the theme Every Hero Has a Story. Your library’s program will likely have fun incentives that kids can earn by reading and doing related activities, as well as special programming around the summer theme.
8. Ask your child’s teacher if your child can write her a letter this summer. My mother is a retired teacher and she used to love to trade letters with her students during the break. Another fun letter idea is writing to your child’s favorite author (your librarian can help you find an email or postal address).
9. Get into the garden! There are so many benefits to gardening, from outdoor play to discussions about science and nature to healthier eating. Believe me, you do not have to have a green thumb to do this. My three year old had so much fun planting seeds with my husband and I last weekend, and as long as a few things sprout I know he’s going to be fascinated. (After you’ve planted some things, I recommend reading Yucky Worms by Vivian French and Jessica Ahlberg.)
10. Make time for read aloud, even if your child is reading on his own. A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about age 14. Reading more complex books to kids who are readers themselves increases their vocabulary and attention span, as well as reinforcing a love of books.
11. For children who can read, have them turn off sound on the TV and turn on the close captioning from time to time. Reading expert Jim Trelease points to Finland’s widespread use of close captioning as part of the reason that nation has some of the highest reading scores in the world.
|Kids Kitchen is a set of 40 laminated recipe cards for delicious, healthy vegetarian recipes.|
12. Get your kids in the kitchen. Having them make something healthy themselves increases the chances that they’ll eat it. While you’re there you can practice counting, fractions, and other math skills.
13. Start a family book club. Remember to keep your discussions light and fun, not like the book reports your kids have to give at school.
14. Do some science experiments that have a wow factor. What Do We Do All Day has eight experiments that you can even turn into a DIY science camp if you’d like.
15. If your child’s interest in reading on her own is flagging a bit as summer goes on, create a cozy new reading nook for her. Check out my Pinterest board of reading nooks that range from the elaborate to the very rustic (cardboard castle anyone?)
16. Take part in Barefoot Books’ summer reading challenge. I can’t spill the beans about it just yet, but if you want to know the details when it launches, be sure to sign up for my email newsletter.
17. Find new ways to explore all your library has to offer. See my last blog post for ideas, or just ask your children’s librarian what hidden gems you are probably missing.
18. Expand your child’s list of authors to choose from by looking for award winners. We all know about the classic Caldecott and Newbery lists, but Reading Rockets also has a number of other awards and best of lists on their site.
|An interior illustration from Allison Jay’s wordless book Out of the Blue.|
19. Pick out a wordless book and let your child tell you (or himself) the story. I love the crackle varnish illustrations in Barefoot’s Out of the Blue (plus it’s beach setting makes it perfect for summer.) My preschooler is also a fan of the wordless books Mr. Wuffles and A Ball for Daisy.
20. Combine math and art. Give Rainbow Geometry Painting a try or build a Straw Geodesic Dome.
What will you be doing this summer to keep your kids healthy, active, and mentally sharp?