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What are tips to help my child avoid summer “Brain Drain?”

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Students may look forward to three months of no school as summer approaches, but it can leave some parents concerned about whether their child runs the risk of backsliding in certain subjects and skills. Summer “brain drain” or “summer slide” has been studied for decades and asserts that children’s learning falls backwards during the months they are not in school. While it is real and happens, most education experts contend that it isn’t really a loss of knowledge, but rather a lapse, and most students catch back up successfully following break. However, there are several easy ways parents and caregivers help combat summer brain drain while at home. They include:

1. Read Together. The first advice most teachers give to fight summer brain drain is to read with your child. Even just 15 minutes of reading together or on their own per day exposes them to new vocabulary words and enhances reading comprehension. Visit the local library and find books of particular interest to your child or encourage their participation in a summer reading program through the library. Audiobooks are also beneficial and an easy way to bring reading into the car for family travel or errands around town. 

2. Make it Fun. Children can learn a ton from everyday life without having to be in the classroom. Parents and caregivers can turn fun summer plans into learning experiences for children at every turn. Think about the reading and measuring involved when cooking together following a recipe, or the biology lessons one can absorb through planting a summer garden. Even summer travel offers opportunities to keep learning as parents can incorporate museums, aquariums, and other cultural experiences into family getaways.

3. Keep it Short and Sweet. Students are most likely to lag in subjects like math and science come fall, so bringing some “homework” in the form of a workbook or even test prep is not a bad idea. The best way to ensure your child benefits from summer time learning with workbooks or tutoring programs is to keep it short and sweet. Summer breaks are incorporated into students’ schedules for a reason—it’s a time for them to build social and familial relationships outside of school, to try new sports and recreational activities, and maybe even travel—so keeping study time short (30 minutes or less) and offering a reward for completion is a good guideline to follow. 

4. Encourage Journaling. Another area where educators notice a lapse come fall is writing. Try gifting children with a summer journal at the end of the school year and encourage them to journal a couple of times a week over the summer months. Take it a step further by offering writing prompts for children who aren’t sure what to write and even providing small rewards for regular journal entry. Entries don’t need to be long—any extra practice holding a pencil and writing down words will pay off.  

5. Attend a Summer Program. While it may not be possible for every student, summer programs can be very beneficial for preventing summer brain drain and maintaining social skills among peers. Affordable programs can be found at many local recreation centers, the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Talk to your child’s school about any summer programs they recommend and talk to your child about which programs may be of particular interest. From nature-based programs to sports-related camps, summertime programs are a fun way to keep your child engaged and learning. 

Year-round learning for kids is possible and can be fun to do as a family. Teachers will always appreciate parents and caregivers who help children continue their learning over the summer, but parents shouldn’t stress their children over summer learning loss. Extra homework isn’t a good reason to miss out on special summertime activities, and teachers will often have a built-in plan to catch everyone back up at the start of a new school year. For those interested in more information on summertime learning resources, visit www.summerlearning.org or the National Education Association at www.nea.org.


By ABC Quality Team on July 26, 2022