By Zach Buckley:
Summer slide–the phrase strikes fear in the hearts of parents. It’s even harder on teachers, who often find they have to start from scratch, orÂ far behind where they should beÂ because months of TV time and slackingoff has dulled their students’Â minds and memories. Fortunately,Â keeping kids active and engaged easily combatsÂ the problemÂ over the summer. It doesn’t need to be full-on summer school to have an effect; below are five simple ways to keep children busy and boostÂ brainpower.
Volunteer: Volunteering adds an experiential component toÂ conversationsÂ about taking care of the earth or the lessÂ fortunate. For teens, look intoÂ summer volunteer programs for high school students. There are home builds,Â special interest summer camps (think theater, art, or rock and roll),Â and hospitalÂ assistant positions–even programs abroad. Teens gain valuable work skills and experienceÂ and make new friends.
Read Smarter:Â Studies have shown that just readingÂ two books a month over the summer can make a huge difference in preventingÂ summerÂ slide. But they have to be the right books. Take a trip to the library together and get suggestions on the appropriate reading level for your child. The librarian may be able to suggest a fun series to finish before the fall.
Host a Game Night: Video games have their place in teaching hand-eye coordination and problem solving. But nothing keeps the mind sharp like board games. The competition and strategy prepare students for the upcoming year. Branch out from Monopoly and look into unique games like The Settlers of Catan. The award-winning board game teaches resource management, planning, and teamwork skills, and can be learned in just about fifteen minutes.
Journal:Â Don’t wait for that “What I Did This Summer” paper to write itself. Encourage kids to keep a daily journal of their activities. IfÂ usingÂ pen and paper doesn’t hold their interest, start a Pinterest, Tumbler, or blog for them. Online journaling can incorporate videos, pictures of trips taken (or dream trips), and fun layouts. As an added bonus, they can be easily shared with curious relatives wondering how the summer is going.
Get Out:Â Even the most dedicated parent would have trouble keeping kids entertained around the house for ten weeks or more. Instead of taking it all on yourself,Â look intoÂ weeklongÂ camps at local museums, public gardens, or libraries. Plan hiking trips and nature walks. Try to let your kids’ interests guide theÂ activities;Â otherwise you’ll have bored teensÂ thatÂ won’t get anything out of the experience.
Keeping kids sharp over the summer does them a huge favor. Even going outside and playing ball stimulates the mind, and keeps the summer weight gain associated with the slide at bay. For added benefits, choose activities that combine mind and body. Yoga and karate teach both focus and flexibility. Memorize dance moves, or put on a show for the neighbors or grandparents. The most important thing is to be creative and enjoy your time. Before you know it it’ll be time to shop for backpacks andÂ put your kidsÂ on theÂ schoolÂ bus.[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:
Zach Buckley is a freelance writer who is interested in exploring the intersection of culture, science and education.Â He lives in the MidwestÂ United StatesÂ and enjoys music, literature and good food.[/box]