Smart Ways to Spend the Summer Pt.1

Learning Activities for Families

Brought to you by the brain-training experts at LearningRx

The “summer slide” may sound like fun, but it’s definitely something you’ll want to keep your kids far away from this summer!  It’s a phenomenon teachers know all too well – the loss of knowledge and ability that typically occurs when formal education stops during the summer months.

  • The average student loses approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math computation skills over the summer months.
  • Research shows ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.
  • Teachers typically spend 4 to 6 weeks re-teaching or reviewing material that students have forgotten over summer break.

In many ways, the brain is like a muscle and the old adage “use it or lose it” certainly holds true. Mental training can improve the brain, just as physical exercise can improve the body. So, here are some tips to keep your kids from “losing it” over summer break.

Simply getting your child to read every day is a great way to slow the summer slide.  According to Scholastic Parents Online, research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six, make sure they’re the right level – not too hard and not too easy.

Many other simple, easy and fun activities can help you keep your kids off the summer slide, and possibly even make school easier for them when they return. These exercises keep the brain energized while building cognitive skills, the underlying mental abilities needed to learn. Some of these activities incorporate physical elements, some are perfect games to play in the car, and some are a great alternative to a video game when your child’s simply too hot, too tired, or too sunburned to play outside.

When playing games with kids, parents should focus on seven major learning skills: attention, working memory, processing speed, long-term memory, logic and reasoning, auditory processing, and visual processing.

Low-cost, store-bought brain games

Many store-bought games can help improve a wide variety of cognitive skills. You may already have some of these and not know how valuable they are when it comes to growing brain skills.

Simon – The original echo game, “Simon,” is great for auditory processing, memory and processing speed.

Mastermind for Kids – This new version of an old classic improves logic and reasoning.

Stratego, Chess and Checkers – For older kids, board games like Stratego, Chess and Checkers can grow mental tools like planning, memory, comprehension and focus.

Phonics Flashcards – For very young kids, phonics flashcards can be a great springboard to early reading skills, like sound analysis, sound blending and segmenting.

Bop-It Extreme – This is a fun tool for building many cognitive skills, including auditory processing, logic and reasoning, processing speed, planning, and selective attention.

Legos – They’re not exactly cheap, but chances are you already have some! Legos are excellent for deductive reasoning, planning, and problem solving.

Slapjack – This age-old card game helps with divided attention, processing speed, short-term memory and visual processing.

Tangoes – This competitive tangrams game has varying levels of difficulty. People can race against the clock or each other. Many versions are available in travel-compatible cases. Tangrams help with visualization, memory, attention, and logic and reasoning.

Where’s Waldo? – Or any of the knock-offs in book, poster, or 3-D form can generally be adapted to any age group. These exercises build divided attention, selective attention and visual processing skills.

Speed Cards – Take a regular deck of cards and time your child as they separate it into two piles (red and black) or four piles (spades, hearts, clubs, diamonds). Time them, and as they get faster, try to distract them, or give them math problems to solve as they’re working. This will improve processing speed, divided attention, selective attention and visual processing.

For information on many more games and the brain skills they build, visit and download the free Games For Skills chart.


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