Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Stop Summer Brain Drain

By Tanni Haas

Do your kids seem a little less ready for school after each summer break? If the answer is Yes, don’t worry. They’re far from alone. It’s a common experience known as the summer learning slide. Research shows that, over summer break, kids lose anywhere from 20–50 percent of what they have acquired during the school year—and it gets worse the older they get.

So, what can parents do to reduce the summer learning slide? Here are seven fun activities that have worked for my 15-year-old son, and I bet they’ll help your kids, too.

Read fiction and non-fiction. Since my son learned to read, we’ve had him read one book a week, alternating fiction with nonfiction. It is summer after all, so instead of assigning him books, we let him choose what to read. The point is to keep his reading and comprehension skills at his grade level.

Keep a vacation journal. We take at least one big family vacation trip every summer. Since my son was very young we’ve had him keep a daily journal about his experiences. It’s been a great way to keep his writing skills up-to-date and document his childhood.
Email family and friends. To strengthen my son’s writing skills, we also have him email family and friends, especially those individuals we don’t get to see that much during the year. Teenagers really prefer texting, but we insist that he uses email because, as every parent knows, texts are usually full of broken sentences, odd grammar, and spelling mistakes.

Play math-based board games. In the evening, whether we’re on a family vacation trip or at home, we play math games like Monopoly or spelling games like Scrabble. The key is to focus on the fun part—the competition—then the learning automatically happens.

Watch feature and documentary movies. Aside from playing a board game or two, we also watch movies in the evening. With all the streaming services available, it’s not that hard to find a documentary or feature film that also happens to be educational. Movies are some of the most entertaining ways to learn about other time periods, cultures, and current events.

Download educational apps. Although we try to make our son’s summer activities as social as possible, we also indulge his interest in anything technological, like letting him download all the educational apps he wants. He really likes quiz apps, which, like the board game Trivial Pursuit, are great for developing kids’ general knowledge.

Visit arts, history, and natural science museums. Museum visits are another great way to keep your kids up-to-date with the arts, history, and natural science. San Francisco has myriad museums, including the Exploratorium (a children’s science museum) and the California Academy of Sciences. But if making a trip into the city isn’t possible, going to nearby museums can also be enjoyable. Check out the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, the Charles M. Schulz Museum, the Pacific Coast Air Museum, and the Museum of Sonoma County, all in Santa Rosa, and the Petaluma Library Museum in Petaluma. 

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., is a college communications professor.