Editorial: Don't let kids sit idle this summer; here are tips for sharpening kids' minds

Jun. 13, 2013 @ 11:52 PM

Wondering how to keep your children occupied and productive during the summer school layoff? Unless kids keep their minds active, they could forget many of the things they spent nine months learning. Great athletes don’t sit home and chill when their seasons areviver. They keep working and practicing to stay fit and in shape.

University of Tennessee experts offer these tips on how children can stay sharp and exercise their brain muscles during the summer months.

“Learning over the summer does not have to be stressful or laborious,” said Matt Devereaux, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in UT’s Institute of Agriculture. Research cited by UT shows that the biggest impact on student academic achievement is made when families engage in learning activities that reflect the work children do in school, Devereaux said.

Here are some tips to help children have enjoyable educational summer experiences:

Open a book: Children who don’t read during the summer lose an average of three months of reading growth. But children who read gain about a month, said Dick Allington, a professor of literacy studies and one of the nation’s leading authorities on summer reading loss.

Join a summer reading club: Devereaux noted that local libraries and bookstores often have summer reading programs. Children can track the number of books read and amount of time spent reading to accumulate points and qualify for prizes.

Journal daily: Encourage children to write in a personal journal each day during the summer. Allow them to be creative and also give them journal prompts. Promote the correct use of grammar and monitor spelling mistakes by using the dictionary and thesaurus.

Write a pen pal: Whether your child has a friend who has moved or one right next door, suggest that they become pen pals. They will enjoy writing letters and sharing ideas and experiences during the summer.

Get a magazine subscription: Subscribe to an age-appropriate magazine centered around your children’s activities and interests. Do not pick the magazine for them. Instead, encourage them to be part of the search process.

Play learning games: Games can be simple ones that you make up and play with your child. You also can buy learning games online and in educational stores. Many games that are just for fun can be turned into learning games with a simple variation.

Take educational family trips: Camping, taking a nature hike and visiting a local zoo or museum are all educational family trips. Children can exercise their brain muscles by taking time to point out animals, plants and exhibits.