Emily Levy, Ed.D., founder and director of EBL Coaching, provides tips and fun and educational activities to help prevent summer brain drain in your children and prepare for the new school year.
Summer is a time for rest and relaxation, which means it is also a long stretch of time without continuous academic instruction. While some children are able to maintain their end-of-school-year academic levels, many lose valuable skills over the summer.
Help your child prevent summer brain drain with these ideas:
One of the most important ways to prevent academic regression is to make sure your child continues reading. At the start of the summer, take a trip to your local library or bookstore and have your child choose a set of books to read. Try coming up with a theme, such as animals, insects, or summertime, and have him select books on that theme. For a summertime theme, for instance, he can select a series of books at his level (along with some more complex ones that you can read to him) on fishing, seashells, camp, vacations, etc.
While beaches and amusement parks offer well earned playtime and relaxation, build in some educational trips to stimulate your child academically. Plan day trips to museums, historical sites, and the like. Before you embark on your adventure, have your child perform a mini research project. Explore the website with her to see which exhibits will be showing the day you attend and study topics you might see (birds and reptiles, for instance, at a history museum). You can even take a virtual tour online to build up excitement. Have your child write down a list of items she may see and create a "treasure hunt." If she finds all of the items while exploring the museum, perhaps she can pick out a memorable item at the gift shop at the end of the visit.
Kids often use iPads and computers for mindless gaming and relaxation, but there are many apps and websites that are great for reinforcing learning over the summer. iWrite Words is a useful early childhood app for developing handwriting and fine motor skills. With the Book Creator app, elementary and middle school students can create shareable e-books with words and images. Learn Your Tables is a great website for practicing multiplication facts. Short Vowel Word Study is also a useful app for reinforcing basic word decoding, and Grammaropolis is an interactive website for practicing grammar.
Turn outdoor time into learning time! To reinforce math, writing, and critical thinking skills, try growing a vegetable garden with your child. Choose the vegetables you plan to grow, have your child draw a diagram of the garden layout, and make a list of the seeds you need to purchase. Once the vegetables are planted, have her monitor and chart heir growth. She can count the number of veggies produced and predict which ones might produce the greatest outcome. You can even have her write a report detailing the process and results.
Journaling is a great way to reinforce writing skills over the summer. Have your child keep a daily journal during the summer months, detailing any trips, events, or activities that took place—or even just thoughts or feelings from that day. You can even give him some writing prompts to help him get started, such as "Summer is my favorite time of year because..." "My favorite summer sport is..." or "This summer I am most excited about..."
Have fun with these activities to make sure your child jump-starts the new school year on a positive note.