Children and summer learning: 5 building blocks for their brains

“No more pencils and no more books” is a chant heard on playgrounds across the country when the final bell releases students for the summer months. And while Alice Cooper’s lyrics go on to showcase how excited the children are about their freedom from homework, they also highlight one of the biggest problems the American educational system faces each year: summer brain drain.

Sure, nobody wants to be in the classroom year-around, but there are plenty of ways to keep your children’s learning going strong – without the pencils and books! With the following suggestions, your children will have so much fun staying mentally engaged, they’ll be looking forward to the next learning activity all summer long.

Nature programs – Nature and science go hand-in-hand, and many counties, cities and other types of municipalities have established educational centers or learning centers where residents of all ages can learn more about the plants, animals and natural elements that live in the region. During the summer months, they’ll offer classes on fun and engaging subjects like bird banding, water ecology, surviving in the wilderness and star identification.

Theater productions – The stage contains so many avenues of learning potential, it will take more than just this summer to experience them all. Start with the set construction, which provides a great opportunity to learn building and designing skills. Lighting and sound have their own electrical specialties. For the performance itself, line memorization, understanding the character and choreography all require intense training to keep the brain sharp all summer long. There are theater programs designed for children of all ages.

STEM camps – There are many camps that offer science, technology, engineering and math-based learning in a fun way for students. Take, for instance, the Bricks 4 Kidz camps, which focus on design and building skills using LEGO(R) Bricks. Camps are guided by experienced teachers around exciting themes like amusement parks, space and robotics, or even animated movie-making. All subjects feature hands-on building and designing using children’s favorite toy, LEGO Bricks.

Music programs – Music education goes beyond just learning notes and scales, it’s been proven in many different studies to improve students’ learning abilities in other subjects as well. Additionally, music education is extremely diverse, making it available for any child with any talents. For example, your child might sound more like Kermit the Frog than Michael Buble, but when you give him a trumpet he can make music come alive.

Create a book club – Educators say it’s important for students to keep reading during the summer months. It doesn’t have to be text books or even pleasure books. Comics are great for keeping the brain stimulated. Get your kids and their friends together once a week for book club to discuss something everyone in the group read. Rotate where the club meets to include community parks, the local ice cream shop and the community pool. Many libraries will host a summer reading program, and you can contact your local librarian for resources or ideas for keeping kids interested.

When looking for a summer educational program, make certain it has the following:

• Emphasis on cognitive development and building self-esteem in a fun environment.

• The use of relatable tools that children can learn with, such as LEGO Bricks.

• Time for working with groups as well as individually.

•  Engaging lesson plans that promote creativity.

Summer is in full swing, so get your children signed up for ongoing educational programs so they’ll be ready to jump right back into school when it starts up again this fall.

Tracy Fisher

Tracy Fisher is Growing Up in the Valley's head designer. She has been a part of the publication since March 2012. She is the proud mother of Charlotte, 6. She also eats too much chocolate.
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