Yes, this can help your kid stay sharp over the summer. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post) Yes, this can help your kid stay sharp over the summer. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has a list of ways to beat summer brain drain. What are you doing this summer to make sure your kid doesn’t forget the elements, algebra or the alphabet?


  • Chill Out!  How can we keep a drink cold on a hot summer day? Challenge kids to experiment with various insulating materials such as foam peanuts, cotton balls, fabric, and cardboard. What sizes and shapes work best? How can you make the design heavier or lighter? larger or smaller? using recycled materials? using materials from nature? Follow this by looking for other summertime problems that could use a similar solution.
  • Water Works:  Turn an afternoon of playing in the lawn sprinkler, at the beach, or in the swimming pool into an engineering challenge. Design a way to move water from one location to another, along a certain path, or to turn a water wheel. Use pool toys, beach buckets, hoses, and other handy items for wet, cool fun.
  • Design an Animal House: Invite your child to think about summer habitats for animals and pets and to then create a design for an animal home. Issue the challenge of showing how the design solves a particular problem such as providing an area for exercise, sleep, or feeding. Designs can be drawings or models. Let imaginations run wild!
  • Tool Time: Kids can learn a lot about technology applications with tools found in the kitchen, garage, or utility room. Provide access to tools such as a vegetable peeler, a screwdriver, an eggbeater, a level, or a socket wrench. Challenge your child to identify how the tools are used and what problems the tools were designed to solve.
  • Time Travel: Help your child develop an appreciation for how technology has changed over time. Suggest an interview with grandparents, other family members, or neighbors to learn about new technology versus old technology. They can compare today’s telephones with the phones from 25 and 50 years ago. Light bulbs, televisions, cameras, and other electronic devices have changed too. Children can use drawings and stories to show what they learn.
  • Take a Tech Break: And finally, take a break from technology. Unplug for an evening of telling funny family stories and playing board games. You can also take turns reading aloud to each other. Engineer some time for face-to-face smiles and human interaction. You’ll be recharged!


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