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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

Stay smart: 3 ways to academically engage your kids this summer

Compiled by Nicole Shepard, Deseret News National Edition

Published: Thu, July 17 4:00 a.m. MDT

 Children who dont exercise their brains during the summer months may suffer from summer slide  returning to school knowing less than before they left. However, understanding how and why summer slide happens can ameliorate its impact.

Children who dont exercise their brains during the summer months may suffer from summer slide returning to school knowing less than before they left. However, understanding how and why summer slide happens can ameliorate its impact.

(Shutterstock)

More than 75 percent of children experience learning loss, called summer slide, during the summer months according to the National Summer Learning Association. Some children slip behind two to six months.

The association said that the slide can be avoided by parents who keep their kids academically involved during the summer. Here are three ways to prevent your child from experiencing summer slide.

1. Visit the library often

Libraries inevitably lead to more reading, and more reading “improves cognitive function and IQ levels,” Dr. Bryan Kolb, professor of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, said.

“When kids are read to, their brain cells are literally turned on,” Christine French Cully wrote for the Huffington Post. “And existing links among brain cells are strengthened and new cell links are formed. And let's not forget how reading aloud connects us—reader and listener—in a very intimate way. When we read to aloud to kids, we send them this message: You are important. This time is for you.”

Summertime out of school can easily cause children to slip behind in their reading skills. Visiting the library and helping your kids feel an excitement for new books can help keep them on grade level, if not advancing their reading ability.

Libraries offer more than just free books; they foster a sense of community. Libraries often host reading groups and community theater for children, giving them an educational and fun place to meet new people and interact with literature on a new plane.

Time in a library can teach children to feel comfortable in quiet spaces in an increasingly over-stimulating world. Kolb said, “Silence is as good for developing minds as music and interactive games.”

2. Sign up for a summer camp

Finding an educational summer camp can be a great way to keep kids’ minds active. Educational doesn’t have to mean space camp or math camp; it can be the run-of-the-mill woods, archery, crafts- and knot-tying experience.

“Does an overnight camp experience still make sense in this competitive, resume-building world? From this psychologist's point of view, the answer is a resounding yes,” Dr. Michael Thompson, author of “Homesick and Happy,” wrote. “I believe that children develop in profound ways when they leave their parents' house and join a camp community.”

The camp doesn’t need to be of the sleep-away variety — day camps can be just as good, especially for children younger than 10, but according to sociological and psychological research, the independence offered at camp can be immensely beneficial to tweens.

“Camp life is so drastically different from everyday life that it forces kids to use different parts of their brains, expanding cognitive function,” Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, neuroscience researcher and public speaker, said.

“Camp helps teach independence, develops interests, instills leadership skills and builds self-confidence,” Thompson said.

3. Visit museums and zoos

Museums are a great way to keep your kids involved in science, art and history while having fun.

There are many museums designed especially for children, planetariums, earth science and dinosaur museums, to name a few. All of them are designed to not only educate but pique interest in children.

“One of our main goals is to show children that science and math can be fun and exciting,” David Wells of the Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi, Utah, said. “What kids only hear about in school and movies can be an up close and personal experience here.”

These museums allow kids to explore scientific discoveries through firsthand experiences.

“Museums of this nature open the eyes of young children and help them consider futures they’d never think about otherwise,” Linda Frampton from the American Museum of Natural History said. “Sometimes they see people in careers they never thought possible and it makes them excited to think they could be a paleontologist, tornado expert or a archeologist too and that inspiration will lead to stronger interest in math and science.”

Trips to the zoo can be equally enlightening, helping children catch a glimpse of how big and diverse the world really is.

Many museums and zoos have discount days and special activities during the summer.

EMAIL: nshepard@deseretnews.com TWITTER: @NicoleEShepard

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