By Laura Lucy
We are smack-dab in the middle of a long, hot summer. The kids are whining about being bored, and parents are counting down until we can send our precious little angels back to school. As tempting as it is to plop the kids in front of the television until the first day of school, we need to keep their minds and bodies active to avoid the dreaded summer brain drain. Brain drain, also known as the summer slide, happens when children forget much of what they learned during the school year over the summer break.
According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) at Johns Hopkins University, most students lose two months of math skills over the summer. Low-income children can fall behind up to three months on reading skills. This means teachers spend the first month of school reteaching lessons, and students risk falling further and further behind each summer. Some children also gain weight over the summer without the discipline of daily school and physical education.
This information is alarming, but don’t let it ruin your summer. Combating brain drain is easier than you think. You don’t have to get a tutor or enroll your children in summer school. There are plenty of fun ways to keep their brains active until the teachers tag back in.
Lean on the Library
There is so much more to do at the library than check out books – though we do plenty of that too. We have fantastic libraries across the Emerald Coast with fun and educational activities happening almost every day throughout the summer. On a recent trip to Destin Library, my six-year-old daughter, Vivi, checked out books she can read on her own and chapter books for us to read together, played a coding game for kids, signed up to attend a Pete the Cat extravaganza, and stumbled upon a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) workshop for kids. She loved it and was even more excited when they told her she can come back next week and build a robot. I highly encourage you to check out the library closest to you.
Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming
With the Gulf, bays, bayous, lakes, pools and waterparks, we are literally surrounded by water. Learning to swim is not just fun for local kids, it’s necessary. The good news is swimming is healthy for the mind as well as the body. A study of children in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand by the Griffith Institute showed that children who started swim lessons earlier had better visual motor skills in addition to gains in language, math and writing. We kicked the summer off with a fast track class at Emerald Coast Scuba in early June. This was Vivi’s fourth summer with Coach Mary and her crew. She already swims like a fish (or mermaid if you ask her), but this summer she improved her freestyle form, learned to do the butterfly and is spending the rest of this summer practicing her dives in Mammi and Papa’s pool.
Mini Golf = Maxi Learning
You can find a way to make any fun outing an educational experience. Take miniature golf as an example. Younger children will naturally learn deductive reasoning as they play the course – if I hit my ball in this hole versus that hole, what happens? You can be a bit more explicit with older kids, talking about the angles and physics involved in the sport. This works for billiards too. Keep it light and fun so you’re not forcing the educational component. If they realize you are trying to teach them, they might tune out. Think of it like blending green vegetables into spaghetti sauce – what they don’t know could help them.
Technology Isn’t Evil
The kids likely want to spend every waking moment with a screen in their faces. Zoning out to endless YouTube videos isn’t the only way to utilize these devices. There are plenty of educational apps out there, both free and pay. ABCmouse is a fun learning app for pre-school and elementary school children. Even video games aren’t all bad. Playing games can teach kids how to be good winners and losers, problem-solving skills and creativity. Chances are they are better at the games than you are. Let them teach you how to play the game and explain how it works. This is a great brain-building exercise for them and a wonderful way to improve the parent-child bond.
Our favorite discovery this summer is the Art for Kids Hub channel on YouTube. This channel has more than 1,200 videos with easy step-by-step instructions on how to draw everything from animals and ice cream to Hatchimals and LOL Dolls. Trust me, your kids will sit peacefully for large chunks of time while following along with these videos. You will be shocked by how quickly they will create some pretty awesome drawings while using both sides of their brains.
The most important thing to remember is that schools give kids a summer break for a reason. They need time to rest, relax and recharge. Let them have that time without stress, without pushing them too hard. I hope these tips will help you find sneaky fun ways to incorporate learning into your summer fun. Vivi and I will see you at Big Kahuna’s. We’ll be the ones talking about velocity as we fly down the Tiki River Run.