Tips to keep kids’ brains engaged over summer

While your kids are soaking up the sun and enjoying lazy days and maybe even later bedtimes, are they forgetting some of the things they spent the other three seasons learning?

Summer slide is real. Studies show that on average, students’ achievement scores decline over summer break by one month’s worth or more of school-year learning.

“Kids can lose two to three months of critical thinking skills over the summer and math skills are hardest hit,” says Julie Crawford, owner of Mathnasium Buffalo Grove and Mount Prospect. 

“Students typically don’t get the repetition needed to really master and retain the skills being covered in class, so any break will degrade their learning progress.”

Yet summer can be used as a way to make learning more fun and hands-on.

“The key to preventing the summer slide is to keep kids engaged without realizing they are applying the same inquiry process teachers require during the school year,” says Wil Greenwald, owner of Code Play Learn. “Look for opportunities for them to think, explore, examine, analyze, inquire and ask questions.”

Here are some ideas from educational experts to keep those kiddos learning and exploring over summer break.

Play and play some more

Create Lego challenges where kids are asked to build a Lego creation to accomplish the challenge.  

Let the kids take apart an old or broken appliance and see how it worked. Many kids have no idea what is inside their tablets or smartphones. 

Create a scavenger hunt. The hunt can require the kids to apply math, map reading, measuring and more as they work their way through the clues.

Play games at home similar to Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. Give each kid a meal type, a set budget for ingredients and then let them get creative. Let them research food ideas, build their ingredients list, figure out how they will spend their money and then try to cook the meal.

Dedicate a night to board games like Monopoly that are strategy based and require communication, counting and money management to keep kids’ minds engaged.

Wil Greenwald – Owner, Code Play Learn

Make math real

Play games that include strategy and critical thinking skills, such as Kanoodle and Rush Hour, which can be played independently. Or try chess, Battleship, checkers and Connect Four to build strategic skills.  

While driving in the car or waiting for an activity to start, challenge your child to try to count to any number, by any number, backward and forward. 

Sneak math into cooking. Take a simple recipe and have your children double it or half it. For more advanced kids, have them convert the measurements to metric measures. 

Make sense of coins and money. Start a change collection jar and set a goal. Have younger kids start by counting two different coins to determine the total and have them decide if they have enough money to “buy” a certain item. For older kids, give them a $1, $5 or $10 bill and the price of an item in a store. Ask them to make change. Have them take it further by first calculating the tax, computing the total price and then make the change.  

Do a little reading and math everyday. Keep it fun and focused on concepts they were challenged by in the past year.  If you are going to have them practice and review some basic skills, find a new way to do it. 

Julie Crawford – Owner, Mathnasium Buffalo Grove and Mount Prospect

Spark reading through new finds

Most local libraries have summer reading programs or contests with incentives to motivate kids and keep reading part of your family’s daily routine.

Going on outdoor trips to nature centers, museums, farms and zoos is a great way to learn about new things. Take pictures, investigate new things and then do some research when back home about what they saw. This is a great way to learn new vocabulary and spark new interests.  

Give your child a chance to preview content they will learn in the coming year and encourage them to check out books on the subjects. Check with your school about curriculum and reading lists for the upcoming year to get a jump start. 

Hobbies can also spur a child’s learning. If baseball is a child’s passion, there are so many great ways to leverage the love of the game to connect to the world of books and reading. Then top off the learning with a trip to the ballpark to catch a game.

JoAnn Paldo – Reading and Learning Specialist, Chicago Reading Specialists

Get moving

The brain needs “exercise” consistently, let the kids pick out something they are interested in and then take a field trip related to that topic. So if they want to learn more about the stars, head to the Adler Planetarium or get a telescope to examine the night sky.

Set goals for a summer “bucket list” together to hit various topics of fun, learning, exploration and new experiences. Then schedule those things into your summer calendar. 

Set a good example and take the time to learn something or do something new yourself. Or try something new the entire family can learn together.

Tiffanie Sperling – Managing Director, enerGEEwhizz

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