Arizona is heating up, and you know what that means… summer vacation! While this summer may bring pool parties, barbeques and sunshine, don’t let your child’s learning take a detour.

summer brain drain tipsSummer is traditionally a time for fun. Every child looks forward to the last day of school and the impending ice cream trucks, family road trips and pool parties. Although by now, most parents are longing for back to school and the structure and routine it brings.

Did you know it can take teachers as long as 4 to 6 weeks at the start of a new school year to help students brush up on skills they had previously mastered before summer break? In fact, some studies report students will lose more than two months’ worth of learning during the summer months. The good news is parents can help their kids avoid the “summer brain drain” by turning activities and vacations they already have planned into fun learning opportunities.

Arizona’s kids can have a fun summer break and still keep their minds engaged with creative learning activities. Here are our top 10 suggestions for activities you can do throughout summer break.

    • Make your own oobleck. Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck can be found in most libraries. The story follows the adventures of a young boy named Bartholomew, who must rescue his kingdom from a sticky substance called “oobleck”. After reading the book, jump into a science project by making your own ooblek. Watch how the oobleck reacts to different levels of force and pressure!
    • Build a Recycle Robot. Kids can create robots out of recycled household items to help them practice their math skills. Robots can be very basic or very complex based on the age of the child. Kids can build their robots and then identify the number of angles, planes, cylinders, cubes, squares, rectangles, etc. Simply dig through your recycle bin at home for old bottles, cans, paper towel rolls, cardboard and more, and then be creative!
    • Research Summer Solstice. Did you know that June 21 was the longest day of the year? Have you ever wondered why the daylight lasts longer in the summer? Well stop wondering – ask your child to research it and report back to you!
    • Start a family book club. Reading together can help build literacy skills as well as provide an opportunity to spend time together. Most libraries across Arizona are participating in Summer Reading programs and encouraging their youngest visitors (and their caregivers) to log reading time for a chance to earn points and fun prizes.
    • Play games! Even simple card games help build critical thinking and logic skills.
    • Turn errands into learning activities. Even things as simple as a visit to the grocery store can inspire learning. Brain drain has the largest impact on math skills, so parents should take every opportunity to help their kids practice. Make a weekly grocery shopping list and have your child calculate how much the total bill will be and how much you can save by using coupons and store specials. Can they calculate sales tax? Can they estimate how much they can buy within a certain budget? For younger children, can they count the number of items in the grocery cart?
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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. We want your suggestions for keeping kids engaged in learning during summer break. Share your favorite activities in the comments below.