Friday, May 14, 2010

Keeping Kids' Minds Sharp Throughout the Summer

As any parent knows, kids often look forward to summer as much as they look forward to Christmas morning. Children commonly greet time off from school with open arms, while educators and parents tend to feel more bittersweet at the arrival of summer vacation.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, research going back a century has indicated that children score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they do at the beginning of summer. A 1996 study indicated most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.

Though teachers appreciate the break from classes and parents understand their kids need time to play, educators and parents alike are concerned by how to keep kids' minds engaged over the summer while still allowing them the opportunity to be kids on summer vacation.

The following tips can help kids stay sharp and enjoy themselves this summer.

* Read to children and encourage them to read as well. Summer reading lists used to be mandatory at many schools across the country. While that practice has largely fallen by the wayside, parents can read to their children and encourage children to read on their own as well.

Another way to encourage kids to read involves doing so indirectly by setting an example. Many adults love to take a book outside during the summer months, whether's it's relaxing on the front porch or reading at the beach. Let kids see you reading during your own free time, and they're more likely to mimic that behavior.

* Subscribe to magazines and newspapers. Many of your own favorite periodicals likely have kids' versions ideal for summer reading. Kids will look forward to receiving their monthly subscription in the mail and enjoy spending time poring over articles tailored to them and their favorite hobbies.

Newspapers can also make for a great and daily source of reading material for kids. Boys might grab for the sports section while girls go for the style and entertainment section. This can be a great way for kids to stay sharp and learn language and usage skills as well.

* Take the classroom outdoors. Kids might not like sitting in a classroom all day, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't like to learn. Summer provides a great opportunity for parents to take the classroom outdoors by visiting local parks, aquariums, zoos, and museums. At the local park, allow kids time to soak in the park's history and identify plants and trees throughout the area. The same type of lessons can be taught at the aquarium or zoo, where kids can learn about marine biology and the animal kingdom in ways that don't remind them of a musty classroom.

* Encourage your child's inner meteorologist. Summer is a season that can be a lesson all on its own. Though heat and humidity are most commonly associated with summer weather, the season also serves up a storm or two or even a drought. Parents can use these changes in climate as a chance to teach kids about the planet, explaining what's happening during a lightning storm or how and why droughts occur. Kids who aren't scared of lightning will no doubt enjoy some storm watching over the summer, when lightning and thunder combine to make some beautiful sights.

For more information on summer learning opportunities, visit the National Summer Learning Association Web site at

CAPTION: A trip to the zoo can be the perfect combination of fun and learning for kids during summer vacation.

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