How To Combat Summer Brain Drain

However, caregivers don’t want their home-for-summer students to spend over two months in front of a screen, never actively using their brains. They don’t want their kids to stay up half the night and sleep in until noon either. While their children may see unlimited screen access and no sleep schedule as ideal, parents know that when summer eventually ends, their children will find it nearly impossible to go back to a strict daily schedule. The struggle to help their children find a good balance of relaxation and stimulation can be a challenging task for caregivers.

Kara White, The Canopy School’s Head of School, has spent her entire career working in the field of education. She has seen first-hand the negative effects that a schedule-free summer can have on a child transitioning back into the school year. In fact, when a child has spent two months with little to no routine or neurological stimulation, it may take them over a month to adjust back to the demands of the school year. By the time these kids really tune into their daily schedule, rigorous school work is well underway, and they may fall behind. This issue – commonly known as “Brain Drain” – can be easily prevented with some simple but intentional steps.

“What you don’t want is for summer to be a free-for-all,” White says. “Kids need a routine.”

First, White encourages parents to help their children create and stick to a summer schedule by adjusting the schedule to which they are accustomed. Rather than throwing out the school year’s schedule entirely, parents should work with their children to modify it. Perhaps a child would rather go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 8 am, rather than going to sleep at 8 pm and waking up at 6 am. A child may also want to move lunchtime to 11:30 rather than 1:30. By working with your kids to develop a daily schedule, they will be more inclined to stick to it. They will also be well-prepared to adjust back to a school schedule after summer ends, as they will still be used to following a schedule.

After creating a schedule, White urges parents to take it one step further by helping their children create and establish a daily routine. This routine should contain every task a child is expected to do daily during their summer break. Working together, parents and kids can create a checklist that includes household chores, personal hygiene maintenance, and even activities for neurological stimulation. Rather than spending all day watching tv, streaming or playing video games, a routine with a checklist can include tasks such as “Read for 20 minutes,” “Do something creative for half an hour,” “Play outside for one hour,” and more. Crossing off completed tasks will give students a sense of accomplishment, and it will give caregivers peace of mind to know their children are not spending every minute of every day scrolling mindlessly on their phones. This can even help foster conversation, as parents can ask their children for details about the accomplished tasks that day, such as “What did you read?” or “What creative activity did you do?”

Speaking of reading, White strongly believes that caregivers should require their children to read at least 20 minutes daily, especially during the summer. “Reading is the number one predictor of improving test scores,” she says. Intentional daily reading time is one of the best ways to ensure your child’s mind stays sharp over the summer break. Many kids believe they hate to read based on their experiences reading in school, so parents should allow students to choose their reading material themselves. Some kids may want to read articles from Sports Illustrated, while others may want to read graphic novels or comic books. The important part is making sure children read something physical, not on a screen. “Don’t get into a battle over what they’re reading. We just want them to be reading,” White says.

White also recommends that parents collaborate with children about any big plans for the summer, such as day camps, overnight camps and summer vacations. Many caregivers sign their kids up for camp without first asking their kids if they would like to go. By presenting a child with options for different camps, parents can ensure their children are both excited to attend and engaged while there. Likewise, children who helped plan the family vacation are much less likely to spend the entire trip grumpy.

Finally, White advises parents to find or create opportunities for their children to be social. When the school year ends, children go from seeing multiple people every day to seeing almost no one every day. Socialization is crucial for a child’s cognitive development, so parents should be intentional about planning social activities, especially for children too young to drive.

To summarize, the recipe for a relaxing but stimulating summer is simple. Caregivers should guide their children away from two months with no schedule and nothing to accomplish by ensuring their kids have a daily schedule, a daily routine, opportunities to get out of the house and occasions to socialize. However, caregivers should also give their children as much ownership over their summer as reasonably possible. When the feelings and opinions of the child have been considered, the child is much more willing to go along with the guidance of their caregivers.

“It needs to be collaborative,” White says. “Coming up with a schedule and a routine for the summer together is the biggest way to get your child to buy-in on what they’re going to do in the summer.”

To learn more about The Canopy School, visit thecanopyschool.org or call 769-777-1503.