Thursday, May 6, 2010

How To Keep Children's Minds Sharp During Summer

(StatePoint)  School may be out for summer, but that doesn't mean your children should take a vacation from using their brains.

Kids need to keep their minds sharp or risk what is known as summer learning loss -- the erosion of academic skills gained during the school year. According to several studies, children lose the equivalent of one to three months of reading and math classes if they stop using these skills over the summer.

"That old refrain about no more pencils and no more books shouldn't hold true if you want your children to stay mentally active and keep up with their peers," says Susan Bolotin, editor-in-chief of Workman Publishing, publisher of the "Brain Quest" educational card game series. 

"The best way to maintain academic skills is to make reading and math fun through enjoyable activities," she points out.

Here are some ways to avoid the dreaded summer slide:

* Let Kids Run Wild -- In the Library: Take your child to get a library card and make regular trips to check out books. Let kids pick anything they want, so long as it's age-appropriate. Experts say reading four or five books over a summer will maintain reading skills. Just make sure book selections are challenging enough. 

As a special treat, let your child choose a book or two from the bookstore to keep permanently. Any topic works, so long as the books get finished!

* Use Educational Games and Workbooks: Play together at home using educational reading and math games and workbooks that reinforce skills learned at school. Mix things up to keep kids interested.

You should also include younger pre-school children, so they don't feel left out. Try playing with re-usable card games, such as "Brain Quest Write & Erase" sets. Geared to give little ones a leg up on writing, reading and using numbers, these new educational games prepare kids for kindergarten by focusing on the alphabet, numbers, phonics, shapes and colors.

* Take Learning Adventures: Take excursions to museums, national parks, zoos or aquariums. Try a hike focusing on birds, plants or any special theme. Read about this theme in advance, so your child will connect real life to reading. Or take the family to a concert -- it doesn't matter the type of music, as long as everybody enjoys it.

* Make Car Trips Educational: Turn family car rides into learning time. Play games counting animals, cars or buildings, or matching shapes or colors that go by. And bring along educational toys or games, such as crossword puzzles or a "Brain Quest For The Car" trivia deck, which focuses on America and its people, geography, nature and history.

* Encourage Personal Interests: Have your child keep a journal or start a collection -- be it stamps, seashells, baseball cards or anything else. Collecting involves counting and reading, allowing children to connect the real world to educational skills.

For more educational games and activities, visit brainquest.com.

"The summer is great for getting kids to learn in relaxing settings, using approaches that seem more like playing than learning," says Bolotin.

By making summer learning fun, your kids can be ahead of the curve when its time for school.


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