5 Ways To Stay Smart Over This Summer [Do This, Skip That]

Posted on June 19, 2012 in Specials

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, or far behind where they should be because months of TV time and slackingoff has dulled their students’ minds and memories. Fortunately, keeping kids active and engaged easily combats the problem 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 boost brainpower.

Volunteer: Volunteering adds an experiential component to conversations about taking care of the earth or the less fortunate. For teens, look into summer volunteer programs for high school students. There are home builds, special interest summer camps (think theater, art, or rock and roll), and hospital assistant positions–even programs abroad. Teens gain valuable work skills and experience and make new friends.

Read Smarter: Studies have shown that just reading two books a month over the summer can make a huge difference in preventing summer 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: Don’t wait for that “What I Did This Summer” paper to write itself. Encourage kids to keep a daily journal of their activities. If using 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: 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, look into weeklong camps at local museums, public gardens, or libraries. Plan hiking trips and nature walks. Try to let your kids’ interests guide the activities; otherwise you’ll have bored teens that 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 and put your kids on the school 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.  He lives in the Midwest United States and enjoys music, literature and good food.[/box]