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Sneak learning into summer fun



Stress-free ways to bust brain drain


Summer break frees us from the constant onslaught of homework, class projects and rigid schedules. It's nice to relax the routine a little, lounge around the pool and end the night gathered around the fire.

You may be familiar with longer days and s'mores, but are you familiar with the "summer slide?" No, it isn't found in any theme park. It's the dreaded brain drain of information that happens to kids during the months off from school. Just like athletes practice each week to keep their skills sharp, kids need to practice what they've learned during the school year.

Beat summer slide, join a summer reading program
According to the Scholastic Book Company, school aged kids should read at least six books over the course of the summer to avoid the summer slide. If your child isn't reading yet, don't worry. Reading out loud to your child at any age helps expose them to new vocabulary and builds their comprehension skills. During the summer my kids write in a journal about their summer adventures and we exchange letters with a pen pal.

This year we are signing up for a summer reading program at our local library. Milena Barrett of New Paltz takes advantage of the summer library programs with her two sons. "My boys also loved the summer reading programs at the library where they read and bring in their hours for prizes," says Barrett. If your library doesn't host a summer reading program there are programs available through Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut and Chuck E. Cheese.

READ MORE: Top 3 books to prevent summer brain drain


When the summer fun calls, kids tend to avoid anything that feels like school. But reading today doesn't necessarily have to include a physical book. Download audiobooks or pop a book on CD into the car player.

Trudy Michelin of Coeymans Hollow uses her family's time in the car to keep the lessons rolling.  "We always have something educational on CD in the car. It's especially great for those long summer road trips!" She also recommends foreign language courses to round out your child's learning experience.

Practice math in the kitchen
Reading and writing are fundamental for success for nearly every other subject in school including math and science. If reading and writing is all you can fit in for the summer, you're covered. But if your child struggles with or needs to focus on math and science just spend time cooking together.

It turns out cooking isn't just a good life skill to have; it also includes math and science. Even baking brownies requires reading, using math to measure and then observing as the batter changes from a viscous matter to a solid state. It's science happening in real time. Kids will use multiple skills and they won't even know it.

READ MORE: 21 simple ways to add math to your kid's summer


Get outside for hands-on play
Really young kids learn best through hands-on play. Learning through play can happen anywhere you go this summer. Nature trails are a great place for kids to learn about insects and types of leaves. If they're not careful they can get a lesson in first aid too. Spending time outside in general is the stealthiest way to get in extra learning time during the summer. Take a hike or camp outside to encourage a natural curiosity.

Rae Dawn Biegel of Saugerties boosts her kids' research skills during their summer camping trips. "We camp a lot in the summer. We frequent a lot of state parks. Many of them have a Junior Ranger program that keeps kids engaged during the trip. The programs incorporate multiple subjects. I also bring nature books along. If we come across a specimen, we research it and find out as much as we can."

Help your kids discover new things close to home with a nature scavenger hunt in the backyard. For a more substantial outdoor learning adventure, the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center in New Paltz offers a Kid's Corner created with exploring and learning in mind. Little ones unearth bones and feathers or play with games and puzzles before heading out to the Children's Forest (it has a stroller friendly paved path). Borrow a nature exploration kit to use while on the trail.

If getting outdoors isn't your style there is plenty to learn, see and do at The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum in Poughkeepsie. It's one of our favorite places
to visit for interactive sensory exhibits and science and math lessons. On the third Saturday of each month the museum hosts a family free admission night where families can enjoy three hours of interactive play together.

Tweens travel back in time
Take your tween or teen to some of the historical mansions in our area to learn what life was like before selfies and Snapchat. The Hudson Valley is steeped in a rich history from life as an early settler to the industrialist rise of the Golden Age. There will be plenty of opportunities to read and think critically during a tour at any one of these museums.

This summer my family is ready to tour the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park. I think my children are old enough to appreciate the historical value, plus they are reading enthusiasts and really excited to read signs
and plaques.  


Learning tools delivered right to your door
If you are looking for low key options to take on the road or simple activities that do not require a lot of time, sign up for a monthly subscription box. All the learning materials you need will show up right at your door. Select from a different theme each month for tech free play.

A couple of our favorites to subscribe to are Kiwi Crate and The Magic School Bus Science Club. And we can't wait to try out Girls Can! Crate this summer. Subscription boxes can be an extra monthly expense, but if you purchase only
a three-month subscription that is enough to get you through the summer.

Most parents don't encourage screen time during the summer months but subscribing to a learning website can be a fun way for kids to practice math skills. Plus, it's safe and educational time spent while on their tablets or laptops. Sites like Prodigy, AdaptedMind and IXL Math offer age appropriate math levels to practice and learn. My kids use these sites in the classroom, so it's a really great way to extend what they are already learning into the summer months.

Stress free summer learning
Keep learning stress free this summer. If kids feel less pressure to perform and to get things perfect they are more likely to participate. And don't sweat it if you can't fit in a ton of educational opportunities. Any amount of time spent learning isn't wasted. A simple board game night playing Scrabble or Boggle still counts as educational and it encourages spelling and builds vocabulary.  

Roxanne Ferber is a freelance writer and blogger living in Saugerties with her husband, 7-year-old twins and a crazy Lab pup named Roscoe.