Keep your child’s mind active this summer

Plans for summer are coming together. Bobby is in tennis. Susie is in cheerleading. The local pool pass has a prime spot on the fridge. You have a strategy for keeping your energetic children busy for the summer.

The only thing you didn’t make a specific plan for was keeping your children’s minds active. Of course, you don’t want your kids to sit for hours of flashcards and worksheets, but you do want to do something so they can remember what they learned over the school year.

You need a middle ground. Here are some ideas that fit into everyday life.

Keep them reading

Magazines. As parents, we know reading is an important skill and often ask our children to read every day even over the summer. Remember, not all reading comes from a book. Magazines offer pages of high-interest reading and your child will love getting something in the mail.

Family Read-A-Loud. This summer is the perfect time to start a family chapter book. As children get older, parents start to shy away from reading to their children in favor of being read to by their children. But even children who can read more complex books benefit from being read to. Choosing the perfect book for your family is the key. Try a series. If your family enjoys it, you have the next book already picked out. Taking a car trip? Try a book on CD. My personal favorite is Jim Dale’s award-winning reading of the Harry Potter series.

Numbers count

Word problems. Word problems are a great way to practice a variety of math skills, from fractions to time and money. Try adding a word problem into daily conversation. When doing a verbal problem, use numbers that would be easy for your child because he will be doing it without paper. Think about times of the day where numbers are involved. For example, when driving, as you pass from a 35 mph speed zone to a 45 mph zone, ask your child the difference in the speed limit. Another example: The movie starts at 1 p.m. and will last an hour and a half. When will we get out? For younger children, ask easier questions like if Nanny and Papa come how many movie tickets do we have to buy? Find a level that is challenging but not frustrating. As your child gets better, make it more difficult by adding unneeded information or asking more complex questions. For example, we need 24 buns for the Fourth of July party. They are sold eight in a package for $1.25. How much will the buns cost?

Math facts. Some information we learn we need to be able to access quickly. Math facts fall into this category. To keep the facts fresh in your child’s mind it is important to go over them every few days. However, this doesn’t mean flashcards are your only option. Here are a couple of games that can work for addition, subtraction, or multiplication.

• Get out a deck of cards, minus the face cards. Deal them all out equally face down, similar to the game War. Each person flips their top card. The person who is able to name a fact (+, -, or X) using the numbers on the cards the quickest keeps the cards.

• Spread out a set of dominos face up. Call out an answer. Each person tries to be the first to find the domino with the right number of dots and yell out the fact. For example, the caller yells 9. Then the player finds and shouts 7 + 2, 3 X 3, or 9 – 0.

Fuel writing and learning

Journal. So often the summer slips by in a haze of fire crackers and bike rides to the ice cream shop. Before you know it, the summer is gone and your child hasn’t picked up a pencil since school got out. Keeping a summer journal not only helps review skills but becomes a perfect way to remember an exciting summer. Entries don’t have to be long. A few well-written sentences a couple times a week will do. Help your child find a fun notebook or let him type it on the computer. He might also enjoy a place to draw a picture or add a photo to make the entry truly memorable.

Educational games. Children love playing games and are willing to work hard to get to the end. This summer invest in an educational game. There are games to work on just about any skill from making change to finding the verb in a sentence.

“There are so many great games that reinforce skills,” says Margaret Wilson, the owner of Brainstorms in Lindenhurst. “Children don’t always realize they are sitting for hours working on the skill.”

To find your closest educational store look in the phone book under “school supplies” or visit

Shannon Drizd, a first- and second-grade teacher at Meadowview Elementary in Grayslake, says “the benefits of working with your child during the summer maintain skills and build confidence to start the next school year strong.”

So over the summer, take a few minutes a couple times a week for a quick review. Not only will you be keeping your child’s mind active, but you will be creating family fun.

Books for family read-aloud

There are literally hundreds of different series available. Your local librarian would be an excellent reference. Here are a few options.

 Adventure books

• Choose Your Adventure series by R.A. Montgomery

• Magic Tree House series Mary Pope Osborne

 Fantasy books

• Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

• Dragon Slayer’s Academy series by Kate McMullan

 Mystery books

• Jigsaw Jones series by James Preller

• Cam Jansen series by David A. Adler

• A-Z Mystery series by Ron Ray

 Pet fiction

• Animal Ark series by Ben M. Baglio

• Puppy Patrol series by Jenny Dale

 Humorous fiction

• Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton

• Fred series by Marie-Danielle Croteau

 Historical fiction• Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder• The Adventures of Chip& Marty in Mr. Sandman's Class series by Amy Lynn Fisher Historical non-fiction• You Wouldn't Want To Be series by David Autram• The Adventures of Chip& Marty in Mr. Sandman's Class series by Amy Lynn Fisher

Amber Beutel is a teacher, private tutor and mother of two children living in Grayslake.

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