No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks. While kids universally celebrate summer because it means a break from school, what they may not anticipate is just how much of what they learned this past year will be forgotten by fall. Your child’s brain is no different from the muscles in their body. If they don’t use it, atrophy sets in.
According to clinical psychologist Katrina Hermetet, program director of the School Success Clinic at Akron Children’s Hospital, summer brain drain is a real thing.
“Kids in general lose about 1 or more months of math and reading skills over the summer. The loss is even more significant for low-income children,” she says. “When kids return to school, teachers are spending 6 to 8 weeks getting them caught back up from what they lost over summer.”
The good news is parents have options for keeping their kids engaged and sharp during the summer months. The key is to keep it light and fun.
“For younger kids, zoos, museums and parks offer free or low-cost programming geared toward certain ages,” says Dr. Hermetet.
Programming is usually an hour or less which is perfect for short attention spans.
Dr. Hermetet says libraries are the ultimate free resource for keeping kids engaged because they often have interactive story times and arts and crafts activities.
“For older kids who have assigned summer reading lists, the library is a great for borrowing books and teaching kids about responsibility,” she says.
Just as important are keeping up those STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.
“Baking and cooking combine science, art and math so it’s one of the best things you can do with your kids,” says Dr. Hermetet. “You can talk about measurements and the chemical process that occurs when the food is actually cooking – like when a liquid turns into a solid.”
Some other suggestions for keeping your kids’ academic skills sharp include:
- Journal writing. Even if it’s just a few sentences about what they did that day.
- Letter writing. If your family has relatives who live out of town, writing or emailing letters to grandma will help keep your child’s vocabulary skills up.
- Reward kids for doing some “homework” like a math worksheet with some extra pool or screen time.
- Encourage kids to help with meal prep and grocery shopping. They can make a list of ingredients needed and help measure them out for recipes. This not only tests their math skills but their reading and comprehension at following directions.
- Virtual travel is a great way to keep their brains working. Look to see what historical attractions are hosting online tours, the world is at their fingertips thanks to technology!
- Vacations are the ultimate traveling classroom, whether you are visiting a national park or a national monument, there are lots of things to learn.
- Educational websites and apps like commonsensemedia.org and PBSKids.org or educational video games like Minecraft enhance creativity, problem-solving, self-direction and collaboration.
- For older kids, volunteering at a local charity can help develop leadership and social skills.
- If your child struggled the prior year in school, consider getting him/her a tutor to help them get up to speed before the start of the new year.
As fall approaches, help your child get back into the mindset of being a student. This means a consistent bedtime and wake time, getting in the habit of eating something in the morning and being organized with the supplies they will need for school.
Akron Children’s offers a School Success Clinic to help children, teens and young adults with academic needs. Our team addresses a variety of factors that may be causing problems in school, such as delays in speech or language, functional motor skills, learning disabilities or mental health disorders significantly affecting school performance.
Children who do not need an IEP (individual education plan) or 504 Plan may still benefit from other services. If your child already has an IEP and is still struggling, we can review current accommodations or suggest changes to make sure the IEP is effective.
A referral from your child’s doctor is required. To determine if your child is eligible for an evaluation and to verify insurance coverage, you or your child’s doctor should call 330-543-8050.