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Here’s a list of simple ideas to help kids avoid the summer brain drain over the long school summer holidays.
What is summer brain drain?
Whilst the holidays are a great time for children to relax and have fun, they can also induce summer brain drain.
Also, known as summer learning loss, brain drain is the loss of the skills and knowledge caused by the long school summer holidays.
There is a lot of debate around how much of an impact the summer brain drain actually has.
But studies show that reduced brain activity can cause children to lose between two to three months of maths and reading skills.
This means that schools spend the first few weeks of the school year getting children back to where they were before the school summer holiday.
So although we want our children to enjoy their summer break, it’s well worth considering how to curb this educational slide.
Here’s a list of ten ways to keep your kids’ brains active over the long summer school holidays.
How to prevent summer brain drain
1. Make a scrap book
From small children to late KS2 tweens, scrapbooks are a great way to encourage creativity, writing and reading.
Whether you’re going abroad this summer or staying closer to home, you’re bound to embark on a few days out and these days are perfect opportunities for kids to pick up a few things to document their day.
Not only will this encourage them to reflect on their summer activities, but it will also continuously reinforce reading and writing skills.
All that is needed for this anti-brain drain activity is a scrapbook, some colouring pencils or pens and the items your child picks up over the summer holidays.
2. Pizza party
Most children love pizza so why not turn one of their favourite foods into an educational activity.
Perfect for one-on one time with your child or with their friends and parents, this activity involves considering the benefits of different foods.
Ask your child(ren) to consider the nutritional properties of the pizza base (carbohydrates for energy), cheese (fats for warmth), chicken (protein for growth and repair) and vegetable (vitamins and minerals).
For added educational ideas, you can also discuss kitchen safety, germs or even ask your child to get creative and turn their pizza’s into a work of art.
3. Hire a tutor
Brain drain affects Maths skills more than anything else, so it might be worth hiring an online maths tutor.
Perfect for keeping your children learning over the summer, an online tutor means your child can keep learning and practise their skills from the comfort of your home.
Not only will this mean they’ll be ready the time September comes around, hiring an online tutor will enable you to open up discussions about internet safety.
4. Take a trip to a local museum
Take your kids to a museum or gallery to keep them thinking and learning this summer.
Lots of galleries and museums run free or great value kids’ activities over the summer, so it’s win / win.
Our favourite in London is the Tate Modern, all the Tate galleries run events for kids during the school holidays.
Perfect for getting your little ones to think outside of the box, the installations and exhibitions often convey a variety of popular world topics through the medium of art.
Take your children along and discuss what they see, what they like and dislike and ask why.
Intellectual conversations and discussions are a great way to curb brain drain without kids even knowing they’re learning.
5. Get gardening
Take your child outside and explore their own back garden.
From flowers and trees to weeds, grasses and mosses, there is a lot to be seen in the back garden.
Discuss how plants grow, what they need to grow and then get them planting some of their own.
If you’re looking for fasting growing flowers which your child can monitor and watch over the summer holidays, consider poppy, petunia and sunflower seeds.
Here’s a Mums Make Lists post on growing seeds with kids.
And here’s a lovely kids’ gardening set, with a rake, shovel and fork made for small hands.
6. Build bridges
Ignite your child’s inner engineer!
Task them with a bridge-building task!
This works perfectly as a one-on-one activity or with a small group.
Simply give your child(ren) some leftover newspapers, pens Sellotape and task them with creating a bridge which can support a variety of different weights.
A bridge-building activity is not only great for team-building skills but for children to think about how bridges work and what supports are needed for different weights.
7. Mini-beast hunt
Head out into your local park or wooded area and go on a good old fashioned mini-beast hunt.
Get younger children counting legs and eyes and older children thinking about why certain insects live in certain conditions.
We love the Woodland Trust’s activity sheets for this.
8. Send postcards
If you’re heading away for a weekend or holiday, ask your children to send postcards to friends or relatives.
It’s a great way for them to think about how to concisely describe their holidays, postcards are quick, cheap and fun for children to write and post.
9. Reading and book reviews
One of the best ways to curb brain drain with regards to English is through reading.
Great for increasing your child’s vocabulary and improving their understanding of sentence structure, books can also spark a child’s creativity.
Whether you have smaller children, who will mostly need pictures, or older children who are able to read novels, there are a variety of activities which can enable them to think and reflect.
We love book reviews.
Summarising books can encourage children to think more deeply about what they’ve read and what the moral of the story is.
For smaller children, ask them to draw themselves with their favourite characters.
Read the Mums Make Lists post on how to keep kids reading over the summer.
10. Rounders in the park
Not all learning takes place with a book or calculator.
So make sure your children get outside this summer and learn a few new skills.
We love rounders because it enables children of all ages to play along.
We also encourage parents to play along too!
Gather up a group of pals and head down to your local green space for a game of rounders.
Take along a picnic and enjoy the sunshine, it is summer after all.
Not got a rounders set? You can grab one like this really cheaply.
I really hope these tips help you make sure your kids keep their brains engaged as they relax and have fun during the summer break.
They’ll thank you for it when they get back to school and find that the summer hasn’t completely drained their brains of all their academic skills!
This guest post is written by Ellen Morris from Tutorfair, a website that allows you to find and book private tutors for online and face-to-face tuition.
Tutorfair has also set up The Tutorfair Foundation, using a network of volunteers to provide free tuition for UK children who need tuition the most.
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Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists. She has written about all aspects of organising family life for ten years. Her main areas of expertise are family finance and budgeting, simplifying housekeeping and family admin and kids’ party planning. Read more.