When most parents reminisce about summer, they think of bikes, ice cream trucks and community pools. Summer break was a time for fun, friends and family trips. But in today’s fast-moving and ever more competitive economy, parents cannot afford to let summer pass for their children in a blaze of adventure.

Teachers have always known that summer break can wreak havoc on a child’s learning. But there are now studies that confirm it. It’s estimated that a student can lose more than two months worth of learning over summer break. Then, when school re-opens, teachers spend as much as four weeks re-teaching material that youth are unable to recall.

Obviously it’s a challenge for educators and their pupils, alike.

Thankfully, there are many ways caregivers can help keep kids’ brains active during extended school breaks. Here are a few:

  1. Look for everyday opportunities to learn. Even a simple trip to the grocery store can provide a chance to practice skills, like math, critical thinking and reading. Challenge your child to track the running total of groceries that are added to the cart and then to estimate the impact of sales tax. Brain drain generally has the largest impact on math aptitude; so keeping up on arithmetic can have a big impact. Later, ask them to read labels and consider what they mean, why the company chose to include them and what can be inferred about the food included. For other examples of everyday activities, visit TodayInAZ.org to explore a library of ways you can keep children of all ages learning.
  2. Seek out community events/programs. Local libraries and community groups often run summer enrichment programs aimed at youth. Kids can even win prizes with some effort. For instance, to encourage a budding reader, sign up for Arizona’s summer reading program at AZSummerReading.org. 
  3. Activate your child’s interests. Whether your child is passionate about planes, music, dinosaurs, dance or food, there are countless ways to turn their hobbies into a chance to learn. Find books on the topic at your local library and then ask your child to read and write about the subject. You’d be surprised what you can also find online; the Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institution both have limitless resources, including many dedicated to kids. Consider how math plays a role in the focus area – as math plays a role in pretty much everything – and engage your budding musician/scientist/artist/business person to practice relevant arithmetic. Best yet, ask them to teach you – or a sibling – something they’ve learned about their interest. There’s no better way to solidify new knowledge than by teaching it to someone else.
  4. Learn a new skill. Childhood is all about exploration and broadening horizons. And since a child’s curiosity is boundless, it’s a great time to expose them to new things. Watch for local cultural events that might spark your child’s interests and use them as a time to discuss traditions, cultural differences, and even the history of this country. Perhaps your child would also be interested in learning coding, cooking or origami. A quick online search will reveal the mountains of free resources available on the web.
  5. Keep kids physically active. It can be hard during Arizona’s hot summer months, but regular physical activity is good for a child’s health and their brain. Not only will regular exercise help a child sleep better, research has shown that it aids concentration and cognition.

Summer doesn’t have to mean intense study, but it can also be a great time to explore and enrich. It’s also the time when caregivers can show students how their hard work now will impact their life after school.