What is summer brain drain?
It’s when time off school leads to children losing knowledge and skills they spent the previous school year gaining.
While we all need respite and relaxation, it is important for kids to have meaningful learning opportunities during the 10-week summer break.
These opportunities do not need to be forced or technology-free. They can be simple, encourage community service, and include the whole family.
Back to Basics:
I’m all for keeping things simple. Here are a few easy (and cheap) things you can do to encourage kiddos to keep their minds sharp:
- READ! Thirty minutes every day keeps the brain drain away. Check your local library’s website for events, and participate in Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Program.
- Take a nature walk with a journal, and record or draw different plants and animals along the way. For younger kids, make it a scavenger hunt and look for flowers, bugs, spider webs, butterflies, leaves, etc. You’ll get bonus points if you sing Sid the Science Kid songs along the way.
- Have the kids plan dinner. Halving or doubling a recipe is a great way to practice math skills.
- Create art. Watercolor, sidewalk chalk, leaf rubbings, slime, and painted rocks are fun for all ages.
- Plant an herb or flower garden. This is a great activity to do after reading The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Count seeds, group them by color, chart growth, etc.
- Play board games, put together a puzzle or have your kids create their own board game.
- Go outside. Play games, play a sport, create an obstacle course, or build a fort. All of these encourage creativity, imagination, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.
- Volunteer. Teach kids to use their time and talents to benefit others.
- Create a passport and take a trip around the world. Choose a different country each week and learn about the customs, food, holidays, and sports there.
RVA is stacked with summer camps and museum activities. My kids love the American Civil War Museum at Tredegar. Something about that huge water wheel out front puts them in a trance. We also spend time at Lewis Ginter and Virginia State Parks. The Children’s Museum and Science Museum host regular sensory-friendly events for families with special needs. There is literally something for everyone in this town.
- Children’s Museum of Richmond: With three RVA locations, CMoR provides children with a chance to play, learn, and explore in a hands-on environment. Regular events include musical storytimes and free STEM workshops. They offer summer camps in cooperation with Bricks 4 Kidz, Mad Science, Play Well, and Engineering for Kids.
- Henricus Historical Park: Learn about 17th-century history, technology, economics, and politics. Henricus offers engaging summer programs about Powhatan Indians, colonial crime and punishment, and the James River.
- Science Museum of Virginia: Live science demos? Check. Coding events? Check. Summer camps on engineering and the human body? They’ve got it.
- SPARC: Have a budding performer? SPARC camps are all about performing arts for preschoolers through high school seniors. Students can participate in acting workshops, build skills and confidence, and work behind the scenes of productions.
- The Valentine: Your one-stop shop all about Richmond history, The Valentine offers 10 inexpensive programs this summer for children of all ages. These include on-site programs about Eastern Woodland Indians, Richmond spies and Civil War history, the Wickham House, as well as city walking tours.
- Virginia Historical Society: The “Diggin’ in the Dirt” summer camp has children creating butterfly gardens, a Victory Garden, and weather charting. Monthly story time includes a group reading of a history-themed book and craft.
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: VMFA’s Youth Studio offers programs and activities for children ages 3 months through 17 years old. Besides creating art, students engage with nature, movement, music, and museum exhibits.
- Visual Arts Center of Richmond: ArtVenture summer camps offer over 180 classes in all different medias. Students can experiment with clay, fashion and jewelry design, printmaking, and so much more.
As a teacher and mom, I LOVE summer.
My kids need an outlet for their boundless amounts of energy, but our routine can also be flexible. My kids will spend time at the pool, parks, plant a succulent garden, and read lots of books. They will also play on the iPad and just enjoy being kids.
You can avoid brain drain by taking advantage of summer’s teachable moments and encourage your kids to question, explore, and play. Their teachers will thank you.