With summer vacation just around the corner, many children are quietly (or not so quietly) anticipating their upcoming two months of carefree fun. Parents however, often worry that all this fun during the summer will lead to brain drain, the idea that learning loss and regression in skills can occur when children aren’t cognitively stimulated. While there is little research to suggest that brain drain is in fact valid, we do believe that there are a number of simple measures you can take as a parent to ensure your child maintains good cognitive functioning over the summer—to not only avoid any potential loss of learning, but also enhance it.
One of the best forms of learning for children is having real world experiences. Children of all ages learn through their interaction with the world, so the more opportunities you can create for them to have diverse experiences, the better. Plan ahead of time to ensure your child is receiving an appropriate amount of enriching activities that will improve their academic outcomes.
Limit Technology Use and Get Outside
While technology does have a place in our children’s lives, we encourage you to limit the amount of time your child spends watching television or playing video games during the summer. One of the most beneficial things for your child’s body and mind is to get outdoors, get moving, and play. Physical activity is not only linked to academic performance, but also mood. Summer is a great time to try new activities such as camping or hiking. Perhaps you can watch the night sky and learn about constellations or photograph insects and plant life. Get creative and take the opportunity to join your child for some fresh air and exploration. If it’s raining, play board games as a family! Going on a road trip? Why not do crossword puzzles or play imaginative car games for entertainment instead of playing on the iPad. While we are strong believers in the benefits of technology and know there are plenty of educational apps out there, we would encourage you and your family to take advantage of our short summer!
Give Math Some Context
Learning loss is more pronounced in subjects that require computational skills, such as math. One of the reasons kids lose math skills over the summer is the lack of practice opportunities at home. A good way to encourage your child to maintain their skills is to create practical situations in which math is required. For example, if your child is younger, help them run a lemonade stand for the day and encourage them to calculate cost and profit. Or if you have an older teenager, maybe you could help them start an investment account and learn about finance. Be creative and help them get excited about math by bringing it to life!
Sign up for Camp
There are many benefits of camp – not only do camps provide a lot of exercise, which is important for brain development, they encourage independence, confidence, risk taking, and promote social skills as well as leadership. If the idea of an overnight camp is not for you, consider signing your child up for day camp. There are also many camps that focus on special interests such as drama or art, as well as camps that tailor specifically to kids with ADHD, LD and Asperger. These specialized camps are a great way to nurture certain skills you may have noticed your child has taken an interest in throughout the year.
Reading is a critical skill for your child to develop, and summer is the perfect time for both younger kids and teenagers to appreciate reading outside of academics. Why not encourage them to read the book version of a popular film, and then watch the movie together to discuss differences between the two (i.e. Hunger Games or Harry Potter). Allow your child to choose books that interest them, and regardless of age, remember to also read to your child. If they are younger, read them a chapter of their favourite book before bed. If they are older, try reading sections of the newspaper to them over breakfast and then discussing them.
Make Family Vacations Educational
Plan ahead and plan around a trip to stimulate excitement and learning before, during and after the trip. It doesn’t have to be far or even historical. A trip to the zoo, museum, beach, and even camping—all of these excursions offer opportunities to learn about interesting things such as plants, seashells, weather patterns, animals, you name it!
Stimulating the creative mind through arts and crafts, painting, role play and other imaginative activities is extremely valuable. Summer is a great time for children to develop these skills, as they are often the most neglected skills during the school year where the focus is primarily on academic learning.
Spend Time Together
The final, and most important, tip we have for parents is to spend time with your kids. Have experiences together. It doesn’t matter what you do, but doing it together and talking about the experience is what matters.
And don’t worry—your children are not going to lose intelligence in only a few months. However, providing them with exciting experiential learning opportunities to develop their skills is an invaluable way to keep your child cognitively stimulated and enhance their learning over the summer.