Ways to keep kids’ minds sharp this summer

Summer vacation means a vacation for kids and parents after evening homework, required reading and rushed mornings. But the extended time away from the classroom has a downside.

Learning loss during the summer months is a common problem, but there are ways to help curb this summer decline. Here are some ideas for exercising those mental muscles while having fun.

Let your children do the cooking

Learning doesn’t always have to feel like learning. Cooking with your kids doesn’t just teach a valuable life skill; it also helps build reading and math skills. Ask your child to pick a special meal they’d like to make, then create a grocery list while sticking to a budget. While preparing meals, children will practice their skills in sequencing, measuring, fractions and conversions. They will also learn that you actually use math in real life. Find a fun list of recipes for kids here.

Have learning tools delivered to your doorstep

Monthly subscription boxes are a great way to inspire kids to learn. Some companies offer boxes filled with everything from chemistry experiments and themed reading materials to art projects and computer coding challenges. Most offer a monthly theme, and all the learning materials you need will appear right on your doorstep. Subscriptions are usually offered in installments of three, six, 9 or 12 months with discounts for longer commitments. It’s a great way to build anticipation for a new learning activity each month. Find a great list of subscription box companies, reviews and discount codes here.

Encourage your kids to keep a summer journal

Keeping a journal not only helps improve fine motor skills, reading and writing, but also helps children become more in tune with themselves and the world around them. With so much going on in the world, it can be a lot for young minds to process. Journaling helps children process their feelings by putting their thoughts into words, sketches, and scribbles. Start by allowing your child to choose their own journal, whether it’s a standard notebook, a themed journal, or a binder with a cover of their own design. Remind your kids that there are no set rules and this is their safe space to write whatever comes to mind…then watch the words start to flow. If your child is having a hard time getting started or is just looking to take their journal to a new level, they may find some fun daily prompts here. Who knows, you might have just sparked the start of the next great American novel!

Create simple science experiments at home

From making slime to launching rockets using Alka-Seltzer and vinegar, home science experiments are a great way to kill time while reminding kids that science can be fun! A quick Google search opens the door to a plethora of simple and inexpensive science experiments, most of which can be done using items found around the house. Science Bob is also a great website with simple science experiments, step-by-step instructions, and talking points to discuss with your kids. For visual learners, YouTube is full of instructional videos. Just type “science experiments for kids” in the search bar and let the learning begin.

Play a board game

One of the easiest ways to disguise learning as fun is to gather the family around the dining table for board game night. For young readers, simple word games like Bananagrams, Boggle, Headbandz, and Silly Sentences help develop language skills. Qwirkle, Q-bitz and Goblet entertain children while honing their strategy skills, memory and visual dexterity. Time-tested games like Monopoly and Yahtzee, plus new games like Tenzi and Rummikub hone math and sequencing skills. For teenagers, Risk and Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan) lend themselves to long-term play and require strategy and logic. And there’s nothing like a classic game of chess to hone those brain muscles (and get your teen to spend more than five minutes in a room with you).

Sign up for a summer reading program

Summer reading programs encourage kids to explore new reading adventures while having fun and earning rewards. The Hillsborough 2022 Summer Reading Challenge hosted by myON offers young readers the chance to win prizes based on their grade level.

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading program offers children in grades one through six the chance to read a free book. Simply download the summer reading diary or pick up a copy from the nearest store, read a total of eight books and save them in the diary. Once the journal is complete, return it to any Barnes & Noble store by August 31 to pick up a free book from the list on the back of the journal.

The Hillsborough County Public Library’s “Oceans of Possibilities” summer reading program invites readers of all ages to log their reading hours from June 1 through July 31. This year, the library will also host a “Share Your Story” summer photo challenge, as well as several events. Hours of reading and participation in virtual activities can be logged to unlock digital badges, story recommendations and the chance to win exciting prizes.

With a little imagination, summer can be both fun and educational, and you don’t have to spend hours creating a daily schedule to make it happen. Good learning!

By Karen Ring

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