How Parents Can Help Prevent Kids’ Summer Brain Drain
We’ve reached the summer mid-point—it’s not too late to start learning!
It’s mid-summer, and by now the school year is a distant memory for most, but that doesn’t mean that kids have earned a ticket aboard the summer brain drain express.
Even if you haven’t done so much as open a single book with your children from the last day of school until now, it’s okay. Breathe easy knowing that we caught you, and you’ve got time to get on track. It’s not too late to make a commitment to summer learning as long as you promise to start now. Every day—or as often as possible—affords an opportunity for parents to sneak in some fun summer learning for their kids. And come September, the payoff is huge.
Here are some fun, easy, (and mostly free) ways to get started:
- Make a plan: In order to really make summer learning a priority, you need a plan. For the most part, we all thrive on consistency, even in the summer. So the plan can be that your learning will happen first thing in the morning if your days are busy, or it can be right before bed if that’s easier. Perhaps mid-day or before dinner works best—a sort of ‘down-time’ for you and the kids.
Try to create a routine and stick with it for the next few weeks. Once summer learning is a part of your day, it will be a time that everyone eagerly anticipates. (I promise—just give it time!)
- Make it a family affair: The more people involved in summertime learning, the merrier. Three days a week, maybe it’s Mom who leads the summer learning festivities; the other days, maybe it’s Dad. If Grandma and Grandpa or aunts and uncles live nearby, get them in the mix. If family lives far away, then have them read with your kids via Skype or on a phone call. It’s a win-win for everyone.
The more people close to our kids who express interest in reading, learning, exploring, and questioning, the more invested our kiddos will become, and the more they’ll want to continue this ‘lifestyle of learning’ as time goes on.
- Keep it simple: It can be fifteen minutes of reading the newspaper; it can be a half an hour of doing puzzles together. Summer learning can be writing a postcard to a family member or composing a letter to a friend about a future playdate.
Summer learning can be reading the signs on the way to the beach or playing Tic-Tac-Toe while waiting at a swim meet. It can be focused discussion during a read-aloud, picking blueberries, or hiking a nearby trail. It can be playing with sight words or word families at breakfast. It’s what you can do, when you can do it—all that matters is that your kids are using their brains a little bit each day.
- Go to the library: Really. Especially if you haven’t been there for awhile, hit the library. It’s hard not to be inspired to do some extra reading when you hit the cool, comfortable couches, and libraries offer so much more than books these days. With a signed library card, you can borrow books, CD’s, movies, games, and a ton of other resources.
In order to give your kids a little more focus on your next trip to the local library, have each child write down three topics they’re interested in learning about. Then search for books on those topics once you arrive!
- Hit the internet: If you can’t make it to the library, with parental supervision, the internet can be as rich a resource—at your fingertips! Help your child find information about the topics she chose and then figure out a creative way of sharing her new knowledge.
If it’s too hot to leave the house, then help your child learn to edit photos or make a recording of himself reading a familiar book to practice fluency. These little steps do count, and the effort they require is minimal.
The summer is an ideal time for parents to sneak in a little bit of learning each day—whether it’s fifteen minutes to read together during busy swim and dive season or as involved as visiting a local museum, it doesn’t matter.
And there are tons of resources available to make summertime learning fun and exciting.
Want some more super-cool summertime learning ideas?
Head over to we teach - the online forum for parents to learn from each other, share ideas, and grow as educators for their children–and download a copy of the free we teach summertime learning eBook. Packed with tons of ideas from fabulous, talented teachers and parents, you’re bound to find other great ways of throwing in some summertime learning.
And please consider joining the Smart Summer Challenge!
MaryLea Harris of Pink and Green Mama and Candace Lindemann of Naturally Educational and I of teach mama, invite you to join us in our 6-week Smart Summer Challenge. We’ve prepared an awesome calendar of sample ideas, aimed at children K-3, with adaptations for preschoolers and upper elementary students, and we are challenging every parent to incorporate at least one learning activity into their child’s day over the summer vacation.
For more information, visit: http://teachmama.com/2011/06/smart-summer-challenge-make-summer-learning-f-u-n.html
Happy summertime learning!
Amy is the creator of teach mama, a site that paves the way for a modern lifestyle of learning, empowering parents to take a stronger role in supporting their children’s education through games and play. Amy is also the creator of we teach a forum for parents and teachers to connect, share ideas, and grow into better educators—no matter the classroom. A Reading Specialist, Literacy Consultant, freelance writer, and mom to a crazy-cool 7, 5, and 4-year-old, Amy’s work has been featured on dozens of online and print publications. She is a contributor for both Scholastic’s Parents Online and PBS Parents, a columnist for Rockville Patch, and an active member of the Yahoo! Mother Board. Amy is a member of The DC Moms, and when she’s not offering parents cool ideas and resources during speaking engagements, she’s working on her book, tweeting or hanging out on Facebook.