How do you keep your kids’ math and reading skills sharp over the summer?

by Amy Hilbrich Davis

in Ask Amy,Kids

Great question. Like any muscle, the brain can atrophy if not used, and some of those important skills your child spent a year mastering can fade. My approach to keeping my kids intellectually fit is pretty easy going, yet consistent– I encourage them to read, write and play throughout the summer.


To begin, make the library one of your first destinations this summer. Take advantage of the summer reading programs that begin at birth and span every age group up thru high school. Most programs encourage kids to set a goal as to the number of books they want to finish before the summer’s end and incentives are given along the way to entice them to achieve their goal. An entire world of learning and adventure opens up to your kids at your local library. We make multiple trips each week– it’s our routine, make it yours, too.


Next on the literacy front is writing. This one isn’t as simple, yet very important. My strategy to keep my kids writing is to encourage them to do it daily. Every summer I buy the kids composition or spiral notebooks and they journal each morning. Writing well is a skill, and the only way to develop it is to practice. I want my kids to be confident writers– more so than their loving mother. J Yes, it’s quite possible that your kids may not like their new journal routine, and, they may even complain. I’ve personally heard almost every complaint, yet my response is this, “My job is to keep you healthy, and that includes your intellectual health. I’m confident that you will think of something fun to write about!” To start your kids off, you may want to suggest that their first entry is to make a list of all the things they want to do this summer– places they want to visit, people to play with, etcetera. Make it fun! Then let your kids write whatever comes to mind each morning. At our house, my kids write for about 20 minutes and it’s for their eyes only. They all get into it and it becomes easier and easier for them and you! Start today– you won’t regret it! Also, all ages join in; scribbles, pictures and stickers are all early learning. Your younger kids may want to dictate their entries to you. Great, support them, have fun and watch their love for writing grow!


Finally, it is time to play– games that is. Your kids will stay mentally sharp and have fun at the same time.  All it takes is a deck of cards and some board games. Think back to when you were a kid; remember card games like war, gin rummy, hearts, concentration, or spoons? Those are great ones and all require number computation– math.  Board games also sharpen skills like critical thinking, spatial reasoning, strategy, and the list goes on. Our latest family favorite is Qwirkle, and the kids love Risk, Blokus, Connect Four, Yahtzee, Scrabble, etcetera. Keep a game or two out on the kitchen counter or table and start one up after dinner– if you set it up and invite them to play, chances are, you’ll have little trouble getting your kids to join in. Enjoy!

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