It’s no secret that kids experience learning losses over summer vacation–unless we keep educating them. The good thing about summer is that not all learning needs to take place in a stuffy classroom. Parents can keep their kiddos minds sharp by creating or taking advantage of fun summer learning opportunities at home or ones offered throughout our great community. Here are a few ideas to avoid the Summer Brain Drain in Des Moines.
Encourage your kids to read every day.
If there’s one magic bullet experts have for slowing down Summer Brain Drain it’s read, read, read (and then read some more).
- Set aside a specific reading time for your kids each day. You can read to them, with them, have them read to you (or their siblings; or their pets) or of course they can read to themselves.
- Des Moines area libraries host Summer Reading Programs, where kids keep a journal of how many minutes they’re reading and then receive rewards when they reach their goals. Local businesses also offer Summer Reading Challenges.
- Mix it up and Take Story Time Outside This Summer in Des Moines or local book stores also host story time (see a few we like here).
- Make reading an “Edventure”. We’ve put together a little inspiration in our article Tying Favorite Books to Fun Family Outings in Des Moines. You can also motivate your young reader by reading the book before you see the movie, like Captain Underpants.
- Create your own summer reading challenge like this fun Reading Bingo Game.
Inspire kids to write.
Just like reading, writing is an important skill kids practice every day in school. When school is out for the summer don’t let the writing stop.
- Set aside a specific time for kids to write each day. Kids love having a nice journal with their favorite character or color on it. Let them pick out a new one at the beginning of summer and then have them write a few lines in it each day.
- Find or create some daily writing prompts for your kids. You can use one each day or come up with a theme for the week, and then have them write more in depth, once a week.
- While on summer vacation, have your kids write about their trip to the beach, the museum they visited, or the best roller coaster they’ve ever been on. (This will also make a great memento.) We have some Road Trip Journal Ideas here.
- Encourage kids to create their own newspaper, magazine, comic strip etc. They can write about their favorite summer activities or topics like sports or fashion.
- Have your kids enter a summer writing contest.
Motivate kids to practice their math skills.
Summer is a great time for kids to have a little fun with mathematical concepts and explore how they use math daily.
- Ask your child’s teacher for a summer math packet. Most teachers are happy to provide some worksheets that will continue to reinforce what the kids learned throughout the school year.
- Continue with their school math program. Many schools now have math apps and other electronic programs that they use to supplement classroom work. Most programs allow kids to keep using them throughout the summer.
- Weave math into everyday life. When you’re out shopping encourage kids to figure out which is the best deal or what package costs less per weight, etc.
- Collecting data is a great way to practice math. Count the number of fireflies in your yard each night and see how it changes over time. Make a rain gauge from a plastic bottle and a ruler and chart your results.
- Let kids use their skills reading the clock. Put them in charge of the schedule and keeping everyone on time.
Stimulate your kids with science.
Summer is a wonderful time to explore science outdoors with children. Make nature your kids’ classroom this summer. And don’t forget to just go outside and play. A healthy body is a must for a healthy mind.
- Local Conservation departments and Parks and Recreation departments offer up several educational activities throughout the summer. Visit our calendar to find out when the next class will be offered.
- Collect rocks, shells, leaves, bugs etc. to compare them. Line them up from biggest to smallest or sort by color and marking.
- Look at the stars. 2017 Best Spots 4 Stargazing in Des Moines lists spots where experts gather to discuss stars, planets and beyond and are willing to share their knowledge with you. Kids can even peek in a high-powered telescope for some up-close viewing of those mysterious dots in the sky.
- Visit the Science Center of Iowa, Living History Farms, Blank Park Zoo, etc. Stepping into another time, place or even a whole new galaxy is a snap for Des Moines kids, thanks to local museums and attractions.
- Cook together. Cooking helps your child learn about science (baking), accuracy (measuring) and, if my experience in the kitchen is anything to go by, resilience;)
Let kids get creative.
Research shows that engaging in the arts helps kids develop and enhance all kinds of skills, including several of the topics discussed above. And, summer is a great time to take advantage of the numerous events and activities taking place throughout the Metro, many of which are inexpensive or FREE to attend.
- Attend a live music concert as a family. Some of the most enduring childhood memories center around enjoying music together. Especially live and in person. And, there’s no need to shell out big bucks the first time you bring kids to a concert.
- Take kids to a live theatrical performance this summer in Des Moines. Local theatres present shows during the summer aimed at kids and families. They’re also far from expensive, thanks to annual events designed to have cross-appeal without breaking the bank.
- Go to the Des Moines Arts Festival of ArtsFest Midwest. An arts festival is a great opportunity to expose kids to several different art mediums.
- Enroll kids in an arts based camp. Let your child nurture their inner artiste, musician, actor or dancer this summer at a day camp in the Des Moines-area.
- Have kids write a script and then get friends and neighbors together to shoot a movie.
Ask your kids questions about everything they do, see or experience this summer. Then make a point of seeking out the answers. Do this at the library, at the museum, outside, online and everywhere else you go with your kids. The where and the what don’t matter as much as the just doing it – all summer long.
How do you help your kids avoid the summer brain drain? We’d love to hear your ideas!