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Splashing in the pool. The rush of riding roller coasters. Savoring every sticky bite of s’mores. Summertime memories, for a kid, are priceless.

But finding the area of a triangle? Not one they hang onto.

Without homework to hand in over the summer, children tend to forget some of what they learned. Just as any learned skill gets rusty without practice, this “summer slide” is completely normal. But it’s avoidable.

The secret to getting student brains school-ready? Starting these practices now — and keeping them up, especially during summer — so they’ll stay sharp on the skills they hone during the school year.

Young male student reading on a dock at sunrise.

Reading

“Set time aside each day for your children to read. This not only helps vocabulary and literacy skills, but it has also been shown to boost a child’s self-esteem, concentration and critical and analytical skills,” says Anne Marie Morse, DO, director of pediatric neurology at Geisinger.

Want to make it fun? Have a competition!
Who can read more pages (or more books) in a set amount of time? You or your child?

Math

With math, look for lessons in everyday activities. Show younger children that there’s always something to count: Swings at a playground. Scoops of ice cream in a sundae. How many lightning bugs they can catch.

When you go out to dinner, have an older child tally up a guess of what the total might be (before tax). Then, have them help you calculate the tip to get their gray matter working on practical math skills.

Science

“Science is another area where you can easily work in learning throughout the day. If you’re out on a family walk, you can teach your child about the trees, plants or any animals you might come across,” says Dr. Morse.

You can cover pollination and the ecosystem — all while getting your steps in for the day.

Writing

Encourage your child to write in a journal at the end of each day. Misspelled words don’t matter. What does: Keeping their mind active while they practice a valuable skill for school.

Want to make it fun? Settle in for a story!

Ever read your child bedtime stories? Ask them to write their own and read it to you. They’ll naturally practice and refine grammar and sentence structure, all while letting their creativity run wild.

Tailor to your child’s needs

“No matter what you encourage your child to practice, it’s a good idea to focus on areas where your child typically struggles,” says Dr. Morse.

Maybe your kid loves reading but spurns science. If so, make time for both learning about cell structure and reading Hatchet. Better yet, combine the subjects. Graphic novel about Stephen Hawking, perhaps?

Know the importance of sleep

Finally, sleep is a must when it comes to learning. It’s when all those new facts become more permanent in the brain. And a bonus: Good-quality shuteye is linked to improved mood and attention.

During the summer, it’s easy to let schedules shift. Bring the alarm clock out a few weeks before school starts to get back into a school-ready bedtime routine.

So, whatever your summer looked like this year, have your child work these skills into their day outside of the classroom to strengthen their time inside it.


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Brain facts icon-The child brain.
In your first 10 years of life, trillions of synapses form pathways connecting all your neurons.
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