5 Fun Ways to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

Creative ideas to keep your kids math and reading skills sharp over the summer break


Kids really look forward to summer break, and who blames them, but it's a shame how much academic progress they lose when they are out of the classroom for so long.

Studies show that students usually have to relearn four to six weeks of classwork at the beginning of every school year. According to the National Summer Learning Association, the loss is greatest in math and spelling. Your kids may not care, but minimizing this backward slide is definitely a priority for parents and educators.

It's nice to take a break from the school routine and reconnect with family during summer but that doesn't have to mean that all learning stops. Here are 5 ways to keep your kids' minds active over the summer break that are fun and they may not even realize they're still learning.

1. Play school. While your school-age children may groan about this activity at first, your kids, especially your toddlers and your kids entering kindergarten, will enjoy having some summer fun by pretending to go to school. If your child is really nervous about starting kindergarten then showing him or her what to expect can be fun and help ease their fears. A way to get your school-age kids to enjoy this activity is to have them be the teacher for their younger siblings. They’ll love being the know-it-alls! Here are some tips and activities to get your summer school going.

2. Be scientists and go on a nature scavenger hunt. Get the kids outside and study bugs or plants for science. Have your kids draw the bugs in a notebook or measure a special plant every week and record their findings. Click on the link to download and print a free scavenger hunt list and nature journal.

3. Open a lemonade stand. Help the kids to make an old-fashioned lemonade stand or have a neighborhood bake sale to learn how to count money and make change. While cooking the baked goods to sell, they’ll need to learn about fractions and reading a recipe. 

4. Start a book club. Most public libraries have a summer reading program where kids can earn prizes or t-shirts for reading a specific number of books over the summer. Sign your kids up or create your own summer reading program at home with prizes your kids can earn. If you have several kids in the neighborhood that are about the same age, encourage them to start a summer book club. Adding a deadline and a social aspect to reading is always encouraging. Here's a great article for tweens and teens to get a book club going.

5. Let the games begin. You don't think about it too often but games are a great way to exercise your brain. Math, strategy, memorization, reading, and even drawing are all elements found in some very fun games. Over the summer break, it would be fun to start a game club where every week friends bring over their favorite games so everyone can try them out. It adds variety and excitement without spending a lot of money. Here's 5 ways to make game time more fun and how to choose the most fun games for your family.

Want even more ideas? Here's another good article with 50 Creative Ways to Prevent Summer Brain Drain.

Do you worry about "summer brain drain"? What do you do to keep your kids from regressing?


Sue Kirchner is a family fun coach, kids party planner, and weekly contributor to Patch.com. Sue and her family fun ideas have been featured on TV, newspapers, magazines, blogs, as well as her own family fun site ChocolateCakeMoments.com.

kate green July 13, 2012 at 04:38 AM
I think playing those fun brain games online could be helpful too. Its a fun way to learn. Lately I've been letting the kids play math games at http://www.mathiqgames.com
Sue Kirchner July 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Hi Kate, That's a great idea. Thanks for sharing the site. Sue


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