50 Creative Ways to Prevent Summer Brain Drain

| July 1, 2011 | 12 Comments
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Flickr:NGader

Reading prevents the dreaded "summer slide" - even if it's at the beach.

The Fourth of July weekend is a great opportunity to take a break, but during the rest of the summer, it’s important to keep those brain muscles flexed with fun learning exercises. We’ve written about math games, ideas for reading exercises, and technology and science projects, and of course, MindShift’s own 50 fantastic educational apps, games, and toys.

Similarly, Accredited Online Colleges has created this comprehensive list of 50 creative ways to fight the summer slide, a collection of ideas from all across the Web (including MindShift). Goes to show that ordinary summer activities like opening up a lemonade stand or going to a baseball game can be turned into learning opportunities. They asked me to repost, and I do so with pleasure. Enjoy!

READING AND WRITING

    1. Keeping up with reading and writing skills over the summer is key to maintaining learning throughout the year — so pay special attention to these creative learning activities.
    2. Create a book club: Make reading social with a summer book club for kids
    3. Keep a journal: Encourage kids to stay sharp in their writing by keeping a journal, discussing summer activities and more.
    4. Find summer writing camps: Older kids can check out summer writing camps, often available through local newspapers.
    5. Read throughout the day: Offer reading opportunities morning, noon, and night, with the newspaper, websites, books, magazines, and more.
    6. Write a comic strip: Develop creativity, writing, and humor with a fun comic strip.
    7. Read books about summer activities: Before heading to the beach or a baseball game, pick out a book that discusses the activity.
    8. Email friends and family: Have kids write to friends and family over email to keep in touch while also keeping up with their writing practice.
    9. Encourage reading in bed, even if it pushes bedtimes: Allow your children to read in bed, even allowing them to stay up later as long as they are reading.
    10. Start a blog: Create a blog for your child to update over the summer, and share it with family and friends.
    11. Read everywhere: Read street signs, billboards, and anything else you can find while you’re on the go this summer.
    12. Designate a family reading time: Create a time when your whole family reads, individually or as a group.
    13. Buddy up: Pick out books for your kids to read together with their friends for fun and a shared experience.
    14. Pick up comic books: Build a renewed interest in reading with comic books this summer.
    15. Read aloud each day: Even if it’s poolside, listen to your child read aloud every day.
    16. Summer reading camp: Scholastic offers a Summer Challenge, a virtual reading camp that engages kids in competitive reading over the summer.

PLACES TO GO

Going out and getting active is a great way to have fun and learn this summer.

    1. Go to a baseball game: Discuss strategy and scores while taking in a baseball game.
    2. Visit museums: Museums often have summer programs for kids, so stop by and check out what they have to offer.
    3. Go out to eat: Do menu math at a restaurant, asking kids how much food they can afford with a certain amount of money.
    4. Go on tours: Whether it’s a chocolate factory or a glassblowing studio, take advantage of tours so kids can learn how everyday items are made.
    5. Camping: Camping offers an excellent opportunity for discussing nature and the world around you.
    6. State and national parks: Parks offer a multitude of learning opportunities, and fun family experiences as well.
    7. Visit the zoo: Take a family field trip to the zoo to see the animals and learn about animal life.

AT HOME

Try these ideas on summer days when you’re sticking around the house.

    1. Get crafty: Adopt a daily craft activity to do as a family every day.
    2. Build a treehouse: Combine outside fun with construction by building a backyard treehouse, remembering to discuss measurement (and safety) as you go.
    3. Create a lemonade stand: The classic lemonade stand offers many lessons in math and business.
    4. Play board games: Board games build thinking skills and are a fun way for kids to play and learn over the summer.
    5. Track daily temperatures: Fight the summer slide while tracking the summer heat wave by tracking the temperature each day with your kids.
    6. Calculate your family’s emissions: Use the EPA personal emissions calculator to discover your emissions as a family, and discuss how you can improve.
    7. Plant a garden: Teach kids about nutrition and growth with a summer garden.
    8. Count money when playing Monopoly: A family game time with Monopoly can turn into a math lesson when kids act as the banker.

WEBSITES

Use these websites to have fun learning this summer.

    1. Kids Off the Couch: Get a weekly newsletter with great ideas for getting kids out and learning for the summer and throughout the year.
    2. Storyline Online: Visit Storyline Online to watch videos of actors reading children’s books out loud.
    3. Smithsonian Kids Collecting: Kids can start a collection over the summer with the Smithsonian’s program.
    4. Thinkfinity: Thinkfinity has fun games and learning activities for year round learning.

ACTIVITIES

These are just a handful of the fun learning activities you can try this summer.

  1. Make grocery store visits educational: Think about the grocery store as a great place to practice math skills, and bring that same idea home to the kitchen, too.
  2. Build a robot: Find cool and kid-friendly robot projects to take on over the summer.
  3. Create a picture journal: Keep your child engaged and thinking about the activities you’re doing this summer by using a camera and notebook to create a picture journal.
  4. Create a puppet theater: Make puppets with outgrown gloves from the winter, and create a story for kids to act out.
  5. Citizen scientist: Turn kids into citizen scientists this summer, putting them to work as scientific researchers in projects over the summer.
  6. Build your own game: Check out projects that allow you to build a game over the summer.
  7. Play car games: Play ABC games during long car trips.
  8. Map out your trip: Involve your children in vacation planning by helping them create a map for your trip.
  9. Programming: Using programs like Scratch and Kodu, even young children can get started on programming over the summer.
  10. Finish schoolbooks: Often, school books like math journals aren’t completed by the end of the year-put them to good use and finish them over the summer.
  11. Do art projects: Practice drawing, take pictures, or sculpt together, and discuss the meaning of art while you’re doing it.
  12. Visit the YMCA: Find a great YMCA summer program for your kids to enjoy.
  13. Public library incentive programs: Public libraries often have interactive programs for students over the summer, typically with incentives like pizza or tickets to sporting events.
  14. Summer camp: From web design summer camps to ones that promote healthy eating and exercise, summer camps can keep kids active mentally and physically.
  15. Summer school: Many school districts have programs targeted to students who need to learn over the summer, so find out if there’s one in your area.
  16. Day camp: Camp doesn’t have to be a 6-week sleepover affair to be effective-check out day camps for summer learning activities, too.
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  • Csiegfried16

    Pretty strange that visiting the public library is 48th on the list…..

  • Birdg

    Public library!  Most libraries offer free programs for children.

  • mom of two girls

    Love this list!  Thanks so much for some great ideas.  I’ve already bookmarked this.

  • Aramis

    Instead of playing casual games, students should also play games that teach specific skills.  Like math skills on http://mathIQkids.com Most of the games are free after registration = great value)

  • Aramis

    Correction))))  Instead of playing casual games, students should also play games that teach specific skills.  Like math skills on http://mathIQgames.com Most of the games are free after registration = great value)

  • LCApple

    The Boys & Girls Clubs of America can be found all over the country and at military sites around the world, they offer many great programs and are a wonderful way for kids to keep positively occupied during the summer, explore opportunities and have lots of fun. Ours for example does a mad science program, math-a-lons, scrabble tournaments, reading club, a phenominal outdoors program, gardening and sooo much more. Check them out!

  • Anonymous

    Love the list, but what about gardening?

  • Wildwordmedia

    Here’s a crazy idea – Why not get your kids outside in nature — let them build a tree house or a shelter, play in a pond or creek, experiment with propulsion and catapults and balance.

    And have fun!

    The key to the future of our children isn’t just shoving math facts down their throats – it’s also fostering creativity — provide them time and space to come up with creative ideas. Our children’s live are already too structured. Summer is the one time they may have some unstructured time when they need to fall back on their own resources and come up with creative ideas to entertain themselves with whatever they have at hand. That’s a skill that leads to ingenuity, emotional resilience and initiative when they become adults. 

  • Blb25

    #15 – Read aloud. Make sure the parent is reading aloud TO the children too!

  • http://www.coursehorse.com/ Katie Kapler

    Love this! I think the key to preventing “summer brain drain” is to find fun ways to keep kids engaged. The activity doesn’t always have to be strictly academic. Plenty of recreational activities like art, music, and dance can be just as educational as traditionally academic ones. For any New Yorkers who might be interested, I recently co-founded CourseHorse.com, an online catalog that helps users find, compare, and enroll in local classes in New York City. For parents looking for activities for their children, we’ve got lots of kids classes: http://cohor.se/ky0dOa.

    Hope our site helps!

  • http://www.theassetedge.net Ann Saylor

    Great article!!  If you’re looking for other creative ways to engage your family in activities to prevent ‘brain drain’, check out this series that I co-authored for this summer:  http://www.parentfurther.com/parenting/summer-learning/summer-splash-challenge.  I hope you enjoy it!!

  • Tracy

    Our family loves StoryCub. They have video picture books that are read by real people. The kids love watching in the car. I like that fact that these are real books. We use the StoryCub app, but I think they also have a podcast. Anyway, you can check them out at storycub.org