08/05/2015 02:05 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2016

5 Tips to Curb Your Child's Summer Learning Loss

The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) states: "To succeed in school and life children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months. All young people experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer."

1.Encourage Your Child To Read At Least 20 Minutes Per Day

As a retired teacher with over 20 years experience, I always expressed this message to parents: "Make sure your child reads this summer. Twenty minute a day would be great." For some kids, it's automatic and those parents have just the opposite problem: getting the child to close the book. For other families, it's a stressful situation to say the least.

That was my perspective as teacher. Now having raised three children, enjoying grandchildren and writing for children, I'm happy to say I've learned some things along the way. There are many ways you can stimulate your child's mind and you can have fun doing it.

2. Create Learning Games While in the Car or at a Restaurant

So I'd like to challenge parents and child caregivers to take advantage of the extra time of togetherness this summer. Rather than having kids play games on an IPhone, try engaging in some creative games.

While waiting for our food in a restaurant, my 4-year-old grandson and I created this game: "If a bear strolled into this restaurant, what would he order?" Glancing at the menu, I might say, "Macaroni and cheese?" Amidst giggles, my grandson would shake his head no. Then I would say, "Actually a bear might order blueberries and salmon." With more and more animals and more and more silliness, the time would fly by and my grandson had learned a lot. This was the inspiration for my picture book, If an Armadillo Went to a Restaurant. (Mighty Media Press, 2014) As he grew older, we continued the game with more animals, more elaborate diets and even more giggles.

3. Discuss Topics of Interest to Your Child -- Planets, Animals, Unique Foods

Another game we play in the car is called "A New Planet." In this one, we create planets and discuss where they are in the solar system: "On my planet, which is next to Saturn, animals rule the planet and people are their pets." With a Q & A to follow, such as, "Where do the people live? What do they eat? Do they go to school or do the animals go to school?" this game could last for a coast to coast drive!

While driving in the car, my 6-year-old grandchild and I passed a sign that said "Next exit: Bumblebee Pass." From there we created a summer of chapters in "Bumblebee Town." Anytime we were waiting some place or in the car, we picked up where we left off and made a new chapter with more bumblebee characters.

4. Have art supplies (crayons, markers, paper) available to encourage creativity.

If you happen to have an artistic child, don't be surprised if they head home, skip the computer and go right to the crayons to illustrate their new story.

5. Use Your Childhood as a Guide.

You may be thinking, "Easy for her. She's a teacher and she writes children's books." And you're right, it is easy for me. But once you think back to your own childhood and what your favorite things were you'll be on a roll. Adventures on a bike? Imaginary friends? Fairies? Monsters? The stories are endless.

The whole idea is to tap into your child's creativity during the delicious summer minutes you have together. And remember: Have fun! It goes by way too fast.

Follow Ellen on Twitter at: @elfisch12

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