Tips to Avoid Summer Brain Drain

06/02/2017 12:16 pm ET Updated Jun 02, 2017

While your kids are counting down the days until summer vacation, you may start getting concerned about “summer brain drain,” AKA students losing knowledge they gained during the school year. Research shows that many kids show learning losses when they return to school in the fall, and that these summer setbacks are cumulative, resulting in increasing levels of learning loss over time.*

Summer brain drain is a valid concern, so I turned to Dr. Clement Chau, director of the learning team for VTech and LeapFrog, for some tips to help parents avoid setbacks through fun summer learning opportunities.

We know how important it is to keep kids engaged during the summer and not just during the school year. Outside of the classroom, where can parents turn?

A library is a great place to start. Many libraries offer summer reading challenges to encourage reading. Enlist the help of librarians to help your kids find books they’ll enjoy, and use the “five-finger” test to be sure your child has books at the right reading level: Read one page of a book; if there are more than five unknown words, have your child choose another book.

On average, kids who read more than 20 minutes a day scored above the 90th percentile on standardized reading tests.** And research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.**

How can parents get kids excited about learning during the summer?

Has your child been collecting rocks while walking to school? Does he or she like to point out different shapes of clouds in the sky? Help your kids research these topics and learn more about the subjects they enjoy. If they’re passionate about a topic, they’ll be more likely to seek out more information. Engaging toys such as the LeapFrog LeapStart, an interactive learning system that gets kids excited about everything from counting to problem solving, can help them explore new subjects.

How can parents engage in learning experiences with their children?

Reading together is a great bonding and learning experience for parents and children. Forty-eight percent of kids ages 6 to 8 report that they want adults to read out loud to them, even though they are able to read on their own.** Use this time with your child to discuss the topics in the book and ask questions that help build thinking skills. Try prompts such as: Tell me about your favorite character. What was your favorite part of the book and why? Would you recommend this book to a friend?

Are there any other ways parents can incorporate learning into their summer activities?

There are teachable moments in nearly all our daily activities—parents just need to look for them. Making dinner? Let your child measure the ingredients. Clipping coupons? Show your child how much money will be saved in your grocery budget. Going to a baseball game? Show your child how to calculate a batting average or a pitcher’s ERA. Going on a road trip? Look up some fun facts about the different states you’ll see on license plates. Kids can even take photos and videos to document their travels, using an easy-to-use, kid-friendly camera like the VTech Kidizoom Action Cam.

By focusing on these activities, parents can help ensure their children are staying academically active and avoid summer setbacks.

* RAND (2011)

** Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report (2015)

Laurie Schacht, also known as The Toy Insider Mom, has covered the toy industry for more than 20 years. The Toy Insider is a year-round resource for parents, grandparents and other gift-givers looking for the best toys for their kids. The Toy Insider also produces an annual holiday gift guide featured in Family Circle magazine. Visit thetoyinsider.com for the latest toy news, reviews, giveaways, and more.

Follow Laurie Schacht on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ToyInsiderMom

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