Fighting Brain Drain Over the Summer

Don't let your child unlearn all the skills she mastered over the year. Keep her brain engaged over the summer with these activities.

Summer vacation provides students a break from the monotony of school life; however, if you aren't careful, your child can unlearn some of the academic skills he acquired as these summer months roll by. Studies have shown that, when not challenged mentally, students can lose up to three months of learning over the summer. If you don't want your child to fall into this learning-loss trap, here are 7 ways to put serious effort into building his brain during this break from formal schooling.

Learn Together as a Family - When you initially present the prospect of learning over the summer, you will likely be met with resistance from your eager-to-chill-out child. You may find more success in getting your child to willingly commit to some summer study if you make learning a family function. Instead of just asking your child to read a book or do some math while the rest of the family watches TV, have everyone get involved for an hour or so a day. Setting aside leisure activities and doing something educationally rich, such as reading books or even performing a skit, can double as family bonding time.

Set Reading Goals - Picking up a book over the summer is one of the most effective ways to keep the brain engaged. Allow your child to pick the books he would most like to read over the summer months and set goals for his reading. Tell him, for example, that as he finishes each book you will take him to the ice cream parlor for a sweet treat, or that after he reads three books you'll take him to a local amusement park.

Become an Author - The lazy days of summer provide ample time for self-expression. This summer, give your child a creative outlet by encouraging him to put pen to paper. Help your child plan out some short stories or, if he's a skilled writer, a novella. Encourage him to sit down every day and work on this written piece, praising his efforts to keep him motivated. By summer's end, he'll have a written work all his own to proudly share with friends and his new teacher.

Play Brain-Building Games - Board games are more than just family fun--they can also be highly educational. Instead of always just plopping down in front of the TV, play games with your children. Have them complete the brain-building tasks involved, such as being the banker in Monopoly, to make these games extra educational for your child.

Learn through Everyday Activities - Particularly in the summer, when your child isn't receiving lessons from a teacher, you should pay attention to potential learning opportunities that present themselves and take advantage of them. When you go to the store, allow your child to count the money or manage the shopping list. Simple activities like this can have a major impact, helping your child to keep his brain active throughout the summer months.

Take an Edu-vacation - Having the time to travel is one thing that makes summer so great. Often, vacation destinations offer added educational benefits that parents and children fail to take advantage of. Instead of simply allowing your child to move passively through his vacation, help him learn about the site you visit by asking him questions. You could even give him a written list of questions to answer or create a scavenger hunt. Through these types of activities, you can encourage him to read some signage and learn about the places you're exploring together.

Try out a Workbook - Though potentially not the most exciting tactic, workbooks prove an effective way to stay on top of academics over the summer. Many companies offer workbooks specifically intended to keep kids sharp as the summer months roll by and ensure that they're prepared to head back to school in the fall. Pick up one of these and work through it with your child over the summer, offering him rewards for completing workbook pages as an added incentive for his hard work.

Not only will engaging your child in one or more of these activities likely lead him to head back to the classroom mentally sharp, they'll also show your child that you value learning. By making it clear that education isn't something relegated to the classroom, you can improve the chances of your child becoming a lifelong learner who acquires knowledge independently even after he has left school behind him.

Previously: Summer in Sight: How to Choose a Day Camp for Your Child

Next: Infographic: Gamifying Education

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