As you watch your children relaxing at the pool and playing games on their iPods, you may be thinking about all the learning loss occurring and kicking yourself for not buying those summer workbooks to keep up their skills. Don’t worry, there are lots of things you can do this summer to prevent brain drain without touching a dreaded workbook. After all, children complete hundreds of worksheets all year at school.
Here are 12 tips to keep the brain active, inspire creativity and prevent learning loss this summer:
1. Don’t dismiss online games so fast. Some of those games are skill-based and do keep the brain active. MrNussbaum.com has hundreds of engaging academic games and activities for all subjects and grades. Spellingcity.com and puzzlemaker.com feature a variety of ways to practice spelling and vocabulary, with crossword puzzles, word searches, etc. Many apps are available for math and spelling practice, as well.
2. Are your children watching too much TV? Direct them to interesting educational programs on stations such as Animal Planet, National Geographic and Discovery Channel.
3. When screen time is over, it’s reading time! Reading for pleasure keeps up—and even improves—existing reading skills. It also helps with vocabulary, spelling and writing, challenges the imagination, and teaches new concepts or ways of life. If you want your kids to read, make sure they pick out their own material, even if you hate it. The key is to read for pleasure, and any reading will help.
4. Are you going on some long car trips this summer? Bring recorded books. Our family enjoyed many car trips listening to books by Judy Blume and Andrew Clements. If you have teenagers, you can agree on some entertaining adult books by authors like John Grisham and Stephen King.
5. Consider a summer book club. My daughter has been in the same neighborhood book club, which is expertly led by a local teacher, with several friends from school for three years. They meet once a week in the summer and every other week during the school year to discuss books they have chosen to read. Snacks and fun are always included.
6. Practice writing in fun ways. Your children can design their own websites, write short stories, keep a vacation journal or review restaurants, movies and books online.
8. Do your children like to build? They can work on spatial skills and hand/eye coordination with Legos, model planes and trains, or robots. One year our family built a rocket together and shot it into the sky.
9. Enjoy nature? Have fun with a butterfly hatching kit and watch caterpillars become butterflies. This was an unforgettable and exciting experience for our family. Our children eagerly checked the critter status each day, and at the end, we let the butterflies free.
10. Take some hikes and explore nature along the way. To make the hikes more interesting, pick a stream hike or hike at Great Falls. Your children can keep a journal or take photos of interesting plants and animals that they come across.
11. Learn about history and art by exploring the many museums in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. As an added bonus, all of the Smithsonian museums are free!
12. If your children need extra help with reading, writing or math, or want to sharpen skills and get a head start for the next school year, a tutor can help. Summer is the ideal time to focus on math, writing or test prep at a leisurely pace. A creative tutor can make those sessions fun and stimulating as well.
It takes some planning, but if you want to prevent summer learning loss, you have to get kids excited about doing a variety of activities. When you offer them alternative stimulation and make them put aside those screens, they won’t miss them.
Now, take a breather and go for a nice swim while you can!
Cheryl Feuer Gedzelman is the president of Tutoring For Success, a company that provides expert home-based tutoring in the D.C. metro area. For more information and articles, see www.tutoringforsuccess.com.