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Making the Most of Summer Vacation for Kids and Parents

Memory Tips

Making the Most of Summer Vacation for Kids and Parents

Photo by Anna Samoylova

Summer vacation: every kid’s dream, and every parent’s logistical challenge. We want our children to enjoy the spoils of summer and savor some quality vacation time together. However, research shows that extended time off from school can lead to a decline in both mental health and cognitive ability. Fortunately, there are ways to keep kids learning during the break without resorting to math drills and vocabulary tests.

Get Organized with a Plan

Kids love their holiday breaks, but this often means they’ll be home most of the time. For parents working from home, this can present challenges. To ensure your kids enjoy their summer without impacting your productivity, experts recommend having a plan. Start by creating a flexible schedule for everyone. This provides necessary structure. Set clear boundaries about your work time, making it known you can’t be interrupted. If possible, avoid scheduling many meetings when you don’t have additional support at home.

Stock up on easy-to-prepare foods so your kids can handle their own breakfasts and lunches, or prepare meals in advance. Show them what’s available and let them know they’re responsible for their own lunches and snacks. That’s one less thing for you to worry about.

Set up workstations for your kids and let them help fill these spaces with creative tools for their projects. Include basics like pencils, paper, and crayons, but also let the kids brainstorm project ideas and get supplies for those.

Co-Create Projects and Plans

Start by talking to your child. If they struggled at school last year, discuss what was difficult for them. What can you do over the summer to reduce these challenges for the next school year? Use open-ended questions and positive language to encourage communication.

Kids are smart and aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and passions. Ask them about these and listen. Work together to find projects that build on their strengths and address areas for growth. Hobbies can be a great way to develop these skills. Research shows that kids with “identity projects” (hobbies they pursue passionately) are more likely to succeed at school. Encourage your kids to try new things, such as day classes, and nurture existing hobbies.

Encouraging reading is one of the easiest ways to keep your child’s brain active. This improves literacy, spelling, and vocabulary, benefiting them in English class. Any book will do — don’t limit them to “educational” ones. Take them to a bookstore or library and let them choose. For reluctant readers, look up book lists designed for kids who dislike reading. Set a reading goal together and establish family reading times. Remember, your role as a positive role model is crucial.

Think Outside the Classroom

Whether you’re working from home or on vacation, get the kids outside. It could be your yard, a local park, or a family hike. The cognitive benefits of outdoor play are well documented; free interaction with their environment keeps kids’ minds active and forming new connections. Encourage unstructured outdoor play throughout the break, and their brains will be more ready for learning when school resumes.

If your child struggles with science, spark their interest through fun experiments. Creative kids will love making chalk paint, energetic kids will be fascinated by the Mentos and Coke trick, and anyone can enjoy making instant slushies with water and salt. Pair these experiments with a learning journal for writing and drawing about their activities. Share their findings with the family at night to integrate science, art, writing, and communication skills into one fun activity!

Embrace the Fun

Lastly, let them have fun! Summer break is a time for kids to relax from the hard work of the school year. While it’s natural to want to ensure their time is productive, remember that productivity isn’t the point. As long as they’re engaging their brains through play, exploration, reading, hobbies, and other enjoyable activities, they’ll return to school refreshed and ready to learn.