The kids are out of school, and summer is heating up. They’ve definitely earned some well-deserved time off. Although it’s tempting to let them watch hours of television or play video games all day, it’s important to incorporate a little learning into their activities. Studies show that kids can lose up to a month of learning over summer vacation. With a little planning and creativity, you can help prevent the “summer slump.”

Thankfully, it doesn’t mean kids have to sit behind a desk with math worksheets and vocabulary lists. In the summer, learning can happen everywhere. Longer days and less-hurried time give kids a chance to explore, try new things, and discover new passions. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Continue Reading with Your Kids

This seems obvious, but it can’t go unmentioned. Children need to read every day—especially during the summer. Many local libraries and bookstores offer incentive programs if your child needs some additional encouragement. Set aside daily time and let them choose what they want to read.

2. Plant a Garden with Your Kids

Children love to watch things grow. Plus, gardening incorporates lessons in science, health and nutrition. Begin with a little research about your climate and what typically grows well in the summer. Then allow them to pick a couple of vegetables to plant. Be sure to have conversations about how much sunlight and water is required for each and create a schedule for tending them. Growing vegetables is also a powerful way to grow healthy eaters!

3. Teach Your Kids to Cook

Cooking teaches valuable life skills in addition to many lessons in math and science. Give your kids some age-appropriate independence in the kitchen. Find opportunities to change up recipes to incorporate some multiplication practice. Do a little baking as well. Make sure to talk about the role of different ingredients and how they work together to become something delicious.

4. Help Your Kids Set Up a Lemonade Stand

Nothing says summer like a neighborhood lemonade stand. It offers the perfect opportunity to gather some friends and get outside. From making the lemonade to collecting money and making change, there are so many lessons to learn. Plus, your kids will have so much fun with it they won’t even notice the educational component.

5. Encourage Your Kids to Start a Science Notebook

Have your child spend time outside and record their daily observations. Encourage them to notice things that peak their interest, and then draw pictures of what they see. For example, my son started a journal on all of the different animals (and reptiles) he encounters. So far, he has a frog, a rabbit, a lizard, and a crab from a recent trip to the beach. You can also encourage your student to write about them for some extra practice. 

I think it’s important to mention that kids need time to be kids, and summer vacation is really the best opportunity for that. Today’s children maintain very busy schedules—even in elementary school—and a break from routine is critical for both their health and their education. Arguably, the most powerful benefit of summer is boredom. Boredom is essential for creativity and encourages children to explore. Embrace the “I’m bored” and challenge them to create their own fun. Just wait to see all of the amazing ideas that they come up with. I hope everyone has a summer filled with new adventures and exciting opportunities to learn!