Follow Betsy on Twitter Like Betsy on Facebook

Keeping Your Kids’ Brains Active in the Summer

by on Jun.15, 2015, under Adolescents, Behavior, Child development, Communication, Elementary School Children, Environmental influences, Expectations, Learning, Parenting, School

When kids think about summer vacation, it’s all about no school, no homework, no have-to’s, and these days, lots of tech time,  When parents think about summer it’s often, “What can I do to keep their brains from atrophying?”   It is not surprising to learn how much business the educational supply houses do in the summer.

Therein lies the problem.  The traditional definition of academic learning is just too narrow for summer. The idea that in order to learn kids must be doing  endless pages of workbooks and boring, repetitive worksheets is just plain wrong. In fact, just the opposite occurs.  Such “drill and kill” causes a real distaste and resentment about learning as well as burn out.

Summer learning activities can be learning at its finest. They are interactive and fun. They are creative and entertaining. They are hands on and spark more great ideas. Do you think Mrs. Graham Bell forced little Alexander to do worksheets during the summer?

The reality is that there plenty of learning and practice already embedded in many of the regular activities in a child’s typical day:

For reading your child can:  Look for items on a shelf; read a message you’ve stuck on a bedroom door or bathroom mirror; look up a phone number for you; reading directions for making anything; reading anything online. (It is reading, after all).  Read interesting stories from the real newspaper or a magazine together; have a family reading time every day when you all take 20 minutes to sit together and read; Ask your child to read a recipe to you as you cook; read together a wonderful chapter book for which you don’t have time during the school year.

For writing and spelling your child can:

Write items on your grocery list; write phone messages for family members; write place cards for the dinner table; have your child write his own reminders or reminders for you; write his own comic strips; write descriptions of his Lego creations. Keep a white board in the kitchen and exchange daily messages, jokes, warnings, weather forecasts. It’s all writing.

And when it comes to math:

Pose crazy word problems in the car (Daddy can eat 10 potato chips in 15 minutes. How many will he eat in two hours?); have your child make up the word problems, too; ask your child to help you by adding up various costs; estimate the amount you will spend at activities and events; predict how much you’ll spend when you fill up your tank; realistically estimate the total cost at the grocery store before you check out; ask your child to divide and distribute amounts that you may owe; allow your child to pay for things and make sure the change is correct. (Money is usually interesting and motivating to kids.) The list is endless, as are the uses for math and math concepts.

Here are some additional activities that require and reinforce reading, writing, math, and science.


  • Assign different children different meals to research, shop for, and prepare weekly. Yes, it’s work for you, but it’s academic practice and fun for them.
  • Choose a recipe (reading)
  • Write a grocery list of things you and s/he will buy. (writing)
  • Check labels for nutritious ingredients (nutrition)
  • Do the shopping. Give your child a budget. Have him approximate the costs (reading, math)
  • Find the best deals, cost per ounce. (math)
  • Choose the produce needed (learning how to actually choose produce!)
  • Prepare the meal, reading the recipe. (reading, math, measuring, science)
  • Evaluate the meal (learn to tolerate failure or bask in success)


Write a Neighborhood or Family Newspaper

  • Collect the news (communication, listening, writing, note taking, spelling)
  • Write up the stories (writing, creative writing, spelling, keyboarding skills)
  • Print and distribute (initiative, follow through)


Lemonade Stand reinvented…not just lemonade!

  • Decide where the earned funds will go…hopefully a charity (empathy)
  • Research the charity on line (reading, empathy)
  • Help the child decide what s/he will sell: His drawings/paintings; jokes; poems; old toys; baked goods
  • Create the grocery list and prepare the items, if it is food (reading, writing, math,)
  • Create  or decide on items to be sold; create a price list and label items (math, creativity)
  • Design and set up the stand, deciding on a high traffic location (???thinking)
  • Decide the price (math, math transactions, making change, communication)
  • Man the stand (salesmanship, communication, patience, economics)
  • Determine net and gross, repaying parents for their expenses (math, economics, reality!)

Photo Journal

  • Decide what the child will document— a vacation, an outing or experience, the growth of a pet or garden, the Lego creations he has made, or the whole summer.
  • Learn to use a real camera; take well composed, quality photos
  • Create album
  • Write descriptions of photos. (writing, reading, spelling, basic documentation, math sequencing)

A Recital — Plan a recital (show) demonstrating a particular talent (a skill, a dramatic play, a poetry reading, a Lego show, a museum show of art…)

  • Practice the talent/skill
  • Decide the program for the event
  • Make a guest list (reading, writing)
  • Create invitations and distribute them (writing, creativity, communication)
  • Create and print the program to distribute (reading , writing)
  • Choose, shop for, and prepare refreshments (math, science, sequencing)


Here is a list of ideas for your singular child or family to enjoy together over the summer. All of these involve skills and practice in many areas:

  • Create your own Word Search, Dot-to-Dot, crossword puzzles, scavenger hunts and trade with family members on your game night.
  • Start a collection of any kind (rocks, shells, sports cards, etc..) Display and label. Check out
  • Have a family Spelling Bee or Name That Tune
  • Have a Family Olympics
  • Allow your child to redecorate his room. Be sure to install a bulletin board on which to display his own things of importance to him.

Yes, all these activities take time. Some are one time, and some are on-going and long term. The pay off, however, is forever.  And the learning is boundless.

:, , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.