It’s informally called “summer brain drain.” The term refers to the common phenomenon of kids being on summer break from school, and consequently forgetting many of the skills and concepts they had learned during the previous school year. How then can parents help prevent “summer brain drain?” Here are ten tips to try:
- Keep reading. Comic books, graphic novels, and the sports section all count as reading. The Los Angeles Public Libraries host a summer reading program for kids of all ages. Information is available at your local library branch or online. Also, Barnes and Noble makes it easy for kids to earn a free book this summer. Kids record the title and author of any eight books they read. Once complete, kids bring in their special book log to Barnes and Noble, where they can then choose a free book. Details and a reading journal can be found online.
- Visit museums and historic sites. Southern California offers a wide assortment of museum choices for kids of all ages and interests. Even better, many of these museums offer free admission days on selected days each month. provides a list of museums and when they’re free. Many of California’s Missions are free as well.
- Play board games. Classic favorites such as Monopoly, Scrabble, and chess actually utilize a lot of math, spelling, and logic.
- Become scientists. Summer is the perfect time for some science investigations like making your own bubbles. Experiment with the water cycle; summer is ideal for playing with ice cubes, watching them melt, re-freezing the water, leaving ice outside and watching it slowly melt and evaporate. Witness the metamorphosis of caterpillars as they transform into butterflies. Check out Insect Lore for related products.
- Tour college campuses. It’s never too early to instill an excitement about university life. If you’re traveling this summer and/or visiting out-of-town relatives, try to include a stop at a college or university. If you’re interested in a formal tour, contact the college’s Office of Admissions.
- Plant a garden. Most children love to get dirty. Let them participate in the selection of seeds (hint – many children are more willing to try new vegetables if they had a hand in helping them grow). Keep a log and record your observations. How tall is your plant after a week? Record the weather each day. How much water is needed?
- Write. Create a family scrapbook detailing your summer’s adventures. Include souvenirs — ticket stubs, napkins, receipts. Writing doesn’t have to be paragraphs — captions work at explaining photographs or describing the movie you saw. Write to relatives, celebrities (sports figures, favorite authors, actors), or President Obama.
- Volunteer. Allow your child to see himself as part of the bigger picture and to recognize that one person can make a difference. Whether you participate in a large, organized event or do something on a smaller scale, volunteer. Pick up trash when you’re at the beach. Drop off old school art projects at a senior center. Draw cards and donate them to a hospital.
- Exposure. Worksheets are helpful, but many students are reluctant to complete them during their highly valued summer breaks. Try to expose students to the information they need to learn (in anticipation of their upcoming grade level) or for review purposes. For example, purchase place mats depicting the Presidents of the United States, letters of the alphabet, and multiplication facts. Hang a United States map on the refrigerator door, buy a globe for your child’s bedroom, or label the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) in your living room.
- Adapt familiar games. Write many different multiplication questions on an inflatable beach ball and you can play “multiplication volleyball.” (After the ball is served, the catcher must correctly answer the question found near their right thumb). Take a deck of playing cards, and use them to review math facts. (Players each take two cards from the deck and multiply/add/subtract the numbers. The player with the highest answer scores a point. You can also play with dice the same way.) And if you’re not inclined to design your own Bingo games, Lakeshore Learning sells bingo games utilizing different skills, including fractions, rhyming words, and science topics to name a few.