Stop summer slide: Give kids indoor and outdoor fun while keeping them learning

OK. So kids have said a big goodbye to another school year and a huge hello to SUMMER. They want to fly their fun flag. They want a break, and they deserve one. Still, a later wake-up call and a little bit of chill time doesn’t mean putting learning on hold altogether. Summer slide, AKA summer brain drain, is a real phenomenon, and parents will want to slow the slide.

Flexing and strengthening kids’ mental muscles is about strategic play, as well as creative work. Chicago Parent magazine online recently posted “7 Summer Brain Drain Busters,” by Keely Flynn, a member of their blog network. Among her ideas are metro-Chicago science, history, literature, and creative writing camps and events for kids, as well as stage productions that offer learning opportunities.

On a smaller-town note, Cate Reed, education assistant for the Tri-Cities Historical Museum in Grand Haven, Michigan, also on the shores of Lake Michigan but with a year-round population of 10,000+, shared similar thoughts on fun-yet-educational forays. In a column for the Grand Haven Tribune, titled, “REED: Get Ready to Fight Brain Drain,” she writes,Keep an eye out for summer programming at local institutions, clubs and businesses. For example, programming at the YMCA focuses on healthy bodies and sharp minds,” and she adds museums and libraries offer excellent summer programming for kids.

Earlier this week Lisa LaGrou posted “Summer Brain Drain Tips” to the website of Oakland County Moms, an organization based in Southeast Michigan. It included a 2012 WDIV news clip on the same topic that LaGrou participated in with Dr. Frank McGeorge. She writes,” Ideally, elementary school-aged children would have been dedicating one hour each day during the summer for math, reading and writing activities,” but adds fun tips from Dr. McGeorge that include picking “board games to play with the family that require strategy or memorization skills” and using the Olympics to learn more about competing countries.

Back in April, before the school year wrapped up, Halley Levenstein, writing for Rhode Island Tutorial & Educational Services (RITES), noted in “What You Need to Know Now About Summer Brain Drain,” that “It can take upwards of two months at the start of a school year for the average student to regain all that is lost due to summer brain drain.” She added that “…experts agree that for students who experience difficulties with math and reading, any kind of regression takes them much longer to recover from. This is why most researchers and teachers recommend more formal programs for students over the summer, rather than just a library incentive program or a workbook.”

However, workbooks can be excellent tools over the summer to keep level-performing kids on track, and they can serve as super supplements to other programs, even for those who are struggling to keep up, preventing them from falling farther behind.

Find a selection of great workbooks for toddlers through sixth graders that focus on readiness, math, and language skills. For example, First Grade Super Scholar, featuring a zoo theme, is packed with activities at varying levels of difficulty, so no matter where a soon-to-be or just-was first grader is or left off, this workbook offers a number of ways to learn, reinforce and review. The Big Third & Fourth Grade Workbook helps older kids work on sentences and parts of speech, develop critical thinking and creativity with an analogy test, practice multiplication and division, complete spelling puzzles, word problems, and more! Fun facts sprinkled throughout help keep kids motivated. Plus, the last few pages and inside back cover offer parents creative ideas for Activities to Share that reinforce and extend the learning.

Or try the Activity Zone 4-Workbook Collection for ages 7 and up. Codes & Puzzles is packed with crossword puzzles, games, word searches, riddles, codes, and other fun activities. Try puzzles like “That's Logical,” “Fun with Flags,” and “Break the Code,” or sharpen sequencing skills in “Musical Numbers." In Word Searches, young explorers will discover dinosaurs, climb mountains, search oceans and seas—while solving fun and challenging word searches. They expand vocabulary and spelling, while learning new facts. Travel the Great States take kids on a state-by-state tour of the United States, exploring the country’s history and geography. In the Crosswords Puzzle Fun workbook, fill-in-the-blank and other questions based on short readings—most of them related to science—provide answers for completing the crosswords. Kids learn about each of the puzzle topics and develop reading comprehension skills.

With trips to library and museum, interest-specific events and day camps, and practical-yet-fun skills practice in workbooks, you can keep those big steps your child made between September and June from sliding away.