Summertime is the perfect time to keep your child’s mind sharp, increase his or her confidence and delve into subjects and skills that capture your child’s interest. Plenty of local camps provide learning opportunities, from learning to code and building robots to creative writing and dramatic arts. However, there are many ways you can inspire your child’s love for learning right at home. According to the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, on average, students who don’t engage in summer learning lose the equivalent of two months’ worth of grade-level math and reading skills. You can prevent this summer brain drain with some simple and fun activities.

Get Cooking

The kitchen becomes a science laboratory and reinforces math skills of all levels. Measuring out the ingredients teaches cups and teaspoons and reinforces what students have learned about fractions. Want to give an extra boost? Find your favorite cookie recipe and mix things up by doubling the recipe. This will give your older child some practice in adding and multiplying fractions. How do you double ¾ cups of brown sugar? Following a recipe teaches sequencing.

Plan a Weekly Meal

Children around age 10 or 11 can start planning, preparing and serving a weekly meal. The planning, from researching recipes to writing a shopping list, will get them ready for the long-term projects they will encounter at school. As a bonus, activities like this spark creativity and boost confidence while delivering a healthy meal for the whole family. Meal planning involves math, organizational skills and, perhaps most importantly, life skills.

Score Big

This August, Brazil will host the Summer Olympics. Help your child make predictions and forecast winners. Get out the graph paper and compare winning times and scores to world and Olympic records. Try graphing the medal totals for all the countries. Draw and color the flags of the countries competing. Research a favorite athlete. Find the athlete’s home country on a map. Does he or she have any inspirational words of wisdom to share?

Catch Olympic Fever

Don’t let the Olympic athletes have all the fun—host your own summer games. Invite friends and neighbors. Hold a competition in pool noodle javelin, long jump and water balloon toss. Create an obstacle course with sprinklers, your playscape, cardboard boxes and exercise stations. Hang a hula-hoop or swim ring from a tree branch and practice throwing a ball through the hoop. Hold a jump rope contest for speed, endurance and creativity. Hold individual and relay races in the pool or in the yard. Kids can practice record keeping skills when they track each other’s results. They can make their own medals for the winners. The possibilities are endless!

Keep a Routine

Children thrive on routine. While the long lazy days of summer may be time to unwind after a long year of formal education, your child will benefit from keeping a schedule for at least part of the day. Perhaps in the morning, before screen time, you can set aside an hour for reading. After a break, take a crack at learning cursive, completing educational computer games (check your local school’s website; teachers often provide links to reputable educational sites) and then provide time to research a topic of their interest. Look for Summer Bridge workbooks that reinforce what your child has learned in the previous year and introduce new topics for the upcoming year.

Go Online

You’d be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn’t utilize online learning programs. Some of these are high quality, educational sites that the school district pays to use. Your child probably knows his or her login information and how to find the sites. (The links are usually located on your school’s website.) Your child can show you what he or she has done in school over the past year, review the activities completed and even work ahead. Most schools also have links to free, academically-based sites, as well. Why scour the web when your school has already gathered sites they deem worthy?

While you’re there, take a look at the web pages of the teachers your child may have next year. Build anticipation for the new school year by making guesses as to whose class he or she will be in. Do some sleuthing to find out the topics to be covered in the upcoming year and learn about grade level expectations.

What a great way to get a jump ahead!


Jennifer VanBuren is a Georgetown educator and mother of three.

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