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Ways to Keep Kids’ Minds Sharp This Summer

Summer break means a vacation for kids and parents from nightly homework, required reading and rushed mornings. But extended time away from the classroom does have a downside.

Learning loss over the summer months is a common problem, but there are ways to help curb that summer slide. Here are just a few ideas to exercise those mental muscles while having fun.

Let your kids do the cooking

Learning doesn’t always have to feel like learning. Cooking with your children not only teaches a valuable life skill; it also helps reinforce reading and math skills. Have your child choose a special meal they would like to prepare, and then create a grocery list while sticking to a budget. During meal prep, children will practice skills in sequencing, measuring, fractions and conversions. They’ll also learn that you do actually use math in real life. Find a fun list of recipes for kids here.

Have learning tools delivered to your door

Monthly subscription boxes are a great way to get kids excited about learning. There are companies that offer boxes filled with everything from chemistry experiments to themed reading materials to art projects and computer coding challenges. Most offer a monthly theme, and all of the learning materials you need will show up right at your door. Subscriptions are generally offered in three, six, 9 or 12-month increments with discounts for longer commitments. This is a great way to build anticipation for a new learning activity each month. Find a great list of subscription box companies, reviews and discount codes here.

Encourage your children to keep a summer journal

Journaling not only helps improve fine motor, reading and writing skills, it also helps children become more in tune with themselves and the world around them. With so much going on in the world, it can be a lot for young minds to process. Journaling helps children process their feelings by putting their thoughts into words, sketches and doodles. Start by allowing your child to choose their own journal – whether that is a standard notebook, a themed journal or a binder with a cover of their own creation. Remind your children that there are no set rules and that this is their safe space to write whatever comes to mind…and then watch the words start to flow. If your child is struggling to get started, or simply looking to take their journaling to a new level, they can find fun daily prompts here. Who knows, you might just have sparked the beginning of the next Great American Novel!

Create simple science experiments at home

From making slime to launching Alka-Seltzer and vinegar powered rockets, home-based science experiments are a great way to kill some time while reminding children that science actually can be fun! A quick Google search opens the door to a plethora of easy and inexpensive science experiments, most of which can be performed using objects found around the house. Science Bob is also a great website with simple science experiments, detailed instructions and talking points to discuss with your children. For visual learners, YouTube is chock-full of instructional videos. Simply type “science experiments for kids” into the search bar and let the learning begin.

Play a board game

One of the easiest ways to disguise learning as fun is to gather the family around the dining table for board game night. For young readers, simple word games like Bananagrams, Boggle, Headbandz and Silly Sentences help build language skills. Qwirkle, Q-bitz and Goblet keep kids entertained while honing strategy skills, memory and visual dexterity. Time-tested games like Monopoly and Yahtzee, as well as new games like Tenzi and Rummikub hone math and sequencing skills. For teens, Risk and Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan) lend themselves to long-term play and require strategy and logic. And there is nothing like a classic game of chess to build those brain muscles (and get your teen to spend more than five minutes in a room with you).

Sign up for a summer reading program

Summer reading programs encourage children to explore new reading adventures while having fun and earning rewards. The 2022 Hillsborough Summer Reading Challenge hosted by myON offers young readers the opportunity to earn prizes based on grade range.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading program offers kids in first through sixth grade the opportunity to read their way to a free book. Simply download the summer reading journal or pick up a copy at the nearest store, read a total of eight books and log them on the journal. Once the journal is complete, return it to any Barnes & Noble location by Aug. 31 to pick a free book from the list on the back of the journal.

Hillsborough County Public Library’s “Oceans of Possibilities” summer reading program invites readers of all ages to log reading hours from June 1 through July 31. This year the library will also be hosting a “Share Your Story” summer photo challenge, along with several virtual events. Reading hours and participation in virtual activities can be logged to unlock digital badges, story recommendations and the chance to win exciting prizes.

With a little imagination, summer can be both fun and educational, and you don’t need to spend hours creating a daily curriculum to make that happen. Happy learning!

By Karen Ring

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