Fight summer brain drain

little girl posing traveler with world map, globe, books and a camera

All kids experience learning losses over the summer–unless we keep them learning.


Recently, Chicago Grammar School teamed up with us, the Museum of Science and Industry, Building Blocks Toy Store, Amanda Simkin of the hugely popular blog, The Queen of the Land of Twigs and Berries, Pearachute and Chicago Sky to host an educational summit to share ideas to make learning fun.


Here are 17 great ideas from our partners and parents to try these last few weeks before school starts again:




I created a “SMARTS” program for my 9-year-old son to do over the summer. S – Spanish, M – math, A – art, R – reading, T — travel (learning the streets of Chicago) and S – swimming. It doesn’t take much to keep his brain active when he does it every day. Shari B.




Read to kids every day, regardless of their age. “We are never too old for reading aloud. We always incorporated it (and often still do) with car trips. Almost the entire Harry Potter series was done in the car. On the way New Orleans we read “To Kill a Mockingbird”–so eerily appropriate driving through Mississippi.” Philip Jackson, Chicago Grammar School




Set and stick to a routine of journaling each day about summer fun. Megan E.




I use my teaching background and loosely plan our week with one major activity per day. Mondays are typically spent at home with lots of reading, Tuesdays are “Travel Tuesdays” where we go out and explore a new park/museum/etc., Wednesdays we visit our local library for open story time, Thursdays my boys go to summer camp, and we have “Family Fridays” when we get together with grandparents, aunts/uncles and cousins. It is a loose structure that has been working so far. Amanda Simkin, Queen of the Land of Twigs ‘N Berries




Examine ecosystems in your backyard or identify simple machines at the playground (for example, the inclined plane that makes up a slide.) Check out MSI’s Summer Brain Games for fun, hands-on science activities you can do at home. There’s still time to sign up online at Museum of Science and Industry




There are many ways of weaving math or literacy in everyday life. At the supermarket, for instance, I encourage my 8-year-old to figure out which is the best deal or what package cost less per weight, etc. Silvia R.




To practice math skills, I’ll give my child money to spend at the farmer’s market and put her in charge of dinner that night. It requires some budgeting and then some mental math to make sure that she’s sticking to the budget. I love to put her to work when we’re shopping at stores, too, and have her determine what the sale price is, what tax will be, etc. Shannan Y.




My 4-year-old received a little wallet for Christmas last year and has been learning about counting with money. My husband also has him help clear the dinner table and load the dishwasher to earn coins or cash. When he wants something, we remind him he has to earn it and we talk about dollar amounts and using addition and subtraction to understand how much is needed. Kelly A.




Collecting data is a great way to practice math. Count the number of fireflies in your yard each night and see how it changes over time. Make a rain gauge from a plastic bottle and a ruler and chart your results (but hopefully it won’t rain too much this summer!). Museum of Science and Industry




Check out some of my favorite activities and games–Math BrainBox set of cards from MindWare and I LOVE the interactive journal book we carry at Building Blocks Toy Store called Wreck this Journal. It’s chock full of reading, writing and FUN! Also check out Smarty Pants by Melissa& Doug and SuperGenius by Blue Orange Games (used in French standard school system!) Katherine McHenry, Building Blocks Toy Store




When the boys are bored, I guide them in writing and acting out skits. They can use their favorite sports or comic heroes. Karen S.




I do 30-minute writing drills. I pick a subject and they pick a subject. The stories must include subjects, like unicorns and pickles. They write for 30 minutes not worrying about punctuation or spelling. The stories are funny and sometimes very clever. Samantha E.




Create your own reading program. You and your child can pick a topic to explore, or keep it broad and wide ranging. List the books you’ve read and write down impressions in a journal. Set up a series of small goals with rewards. Chicago Grammar School




We have been trying a set time each day for our “formal” time (10-11ish in the morning). One girl on the computer for math program and the other in the workbook. They each know that our afternoon activity (park, pool, etc.) are based on them finishing their work time (and separate reading time). As with everything, I find that structure and kids knowing when something is going to happen helps as they are expecting it. Greg W.




My kids are 4 and 6. We have a summer-long game. We play eye-spy with the American Flag. Each time someone spots one, then we add a point. We record the points after each outing so that we don’t forget. Another outing is another way to bring back points and add to previous points. There’s a lot of addition involved. We also recently decided that rainbow flags should be 2 points and if it rains, everyone gets 2 points for each hour of rain. At the end of summer, each point = 1 skittle. Katherine M.




Scavenger hunts! I make lists for my kids to incorporate into our outings. For example, on a trip to a forest preserve I will include specific plants and animals that they need to find. We incorporate reading and writing, sometimes using maps in the process. Tara T.




We’ve been having a week “game night” with our family. Our new favorite is called “Suspend.” Jessica B.

- Advertisement -


- Advertisement -