Prevent Summer Brain Drain

Children look forward to the free time and warm days that summertime brings, but the outdoor season can also bring brain drain, with students losing up to 60 percent of what they've learned during the school year.

According to a new report from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, brain drain during the first five years of school can hurt kids later on, in high school and college.

The report also said that all children lost some skills over the summer, especially in math.

In literacy, low-income children lose skills and knowledge during the summer months while middle-income children continue to learn or stay even.

Parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy offers strategies for keeping your children thinking and learning during the summer.

Do summer camps and programs at the library or community center really work for kids?

Those programs can be wonderful, and if they're available, go for it. Unfortunately, not all communities have summer programs for kids. In fact, the Nellie Mae study found that low-income children were more susceptible to the long-term effect of brain drain because those opportunities were often unavailable.

What reading tools do you suggest?

We all urge our kids to read, yet most of them grab a remote control before picking up a book. But, there are things out there that kids will be interested in. "Harry Potter" is a parent's best friend when it comes to reading. A poll done by the books' publisher found that 75 percent of kids now embraced reading after Harry entered their lives.

If you have film fans at home, one way to get them reading is with screenplays. They are often available at specialty bookshops, and many popular writer/directors publish their screenplays that you can find at some big-chain stores, and they are widely available online.

The folks at Flocabulary have weaved learning and hip-hop music together. CDs teaches words.The company also makes CDs of Shakespearean plays and history, too.

What's a good way to keep math skills sharp during the summer?

For younger kids, get them baking. Your kids can do all the measuring, weighing and so on. They won't even realize they're doing math. And if your child is studying a foreign language, use a foreign language cookbook to keep their minds clicking on two fronts at once.

We all know there are kids who like to play with and spend money. So, set up a lemonade stand or yard sale.

Most kids love this summer staple, which is best for the elementary school set, but older kids can organize a yard sale, hire assistants, and maybe extend it to the entire block. A toy cash register is the perfect device for youngsters to add up their dollars and cents.

Obviously, figure out the cost of ingredients and supplies, and what your time is worth. These are real-life math lessons, and they can make their own movie money at the same time.

How can I inspire an interest in science?

Use nature as a covert classroom. Organize an outdoor scavenger hunt for bugs or tadpoles or rocks or flowers. Use a book from the library, or a bug kit — from the elaborate megakit to the simple box with a magnified lid or a jar. Kids will learn more about the natural world.

Another great idea is stargazing. Sit outside at night on lawn chairs and gaze upward. An $8.99 planisphere to a $20 celestial seeker come with cards that you use to locate your favorite constellations in the night sky.

Teens are interested in the environment. Many environmentally friendly events going on in your area have a musical or sports theme.

At the recent global Live Earth concerts, promoters gave out books titled "Global Warming Survivors Guide" to the huge audiences. And performers all spoke about the cause.

Your teens will learn something while they enjoy themselves.

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