Classes are done for area schoolchildren, but that doesn’t mean the learning should stop.

(Wait just a second, you kids are thinking. Learning? But it’s summer vacation! We know. Just hear us out.)

“Every time we come back (to school) in the fall, their comprehension and their scores take a little dip,” said Melissa Weigant, a second-grade teacher at McLean Science and Technology Magnet Elementary in north Wichita.

Lazy summer days often translate into academic deficiencies, which is why many experts refer to these next few months as the summer brain drain.

A study by Duke University found that when students returned to school in the fall, most had lost one to three months’ worth of learning. Declines were especially pronounced in math.

But stopping the brain drain doesn’t have to be complicated or costly, Weigant said. And activities don’t have to — in fact, shouldn’t — feel like school.

“You just have to make it fun,” she said. Consider these strategies:

Check out the library. The Wichita Public Library’s Summer Reading Club and Teens Read programs are free. Branches also host guest speakers, musicians and other activities. For details, visit the library’s Web site, Weigant suggests that kids read at least 30 minutes a day.

Plan outings. Visit museums, art galleries, the zoo and other destinations. “Lots of local attractions have really fun programs for kids,” Weigant said, and some even have free-admission days.

Get cooking. Cooking or baking are great ways to practice measuring, fractions and following directions, Weigant said. Older children can plan a brunch or dinner party and invite guests.

Write on. Get a pen pal, or just write a letter to a friend or family member. Compile a family newsletter. Write text for wordless picture books. Keep a journal. If you travel, write postcards to friends or mail some to yourself for a scrapbook.

Everyday errands , such as a trip to the grocery store, can boost learning if you encourage kids to participate. “Help them add the cost of items or figure out the savings from coupons or sales,” Weigant said. “All those are important math skills.”

Play word games. For preschoolers, label household items — mirrors, cabinets, chairs, etc. —so they begin to recognize those words. Ask questions: “What rhymes with ‘bat’? How many syllables in ‘refrigerator’? Think of a word that begins with ‘T.’ “

Have a yard sale. Have your child organize and run the sale. It’s a great way to get rid of stuff, and it teaches kids about money. Even easier: Let children set up and run a lemonade stand.

Play board games. Games like Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders teach young children how to count, recognize colors and take turns. Older kids can learn a lot from Scrabble, Catch Phrase, Racko, Scattergories, Boggle, Risk and others.

Memorize. Challenge your child to memorize a favorite poem or story. Or let a group of kids perform a short play.

Plant a garden. Use an outdoor thermometer and rain gauge to track temperatures and precipitation. If you don’t have a lot of room, plant herbs in pots to use in the kitchen.

* Check your school’s website. Many local schools post math, reading, science and social studies activities on websites that families can access from home. McLean Elementary’s computer lab page, for instance, features timed math challenges and rhyming games.

* Consider “bridge books.” Most local bookstores sell workbooks designed to keep kids learning between grades. They feature games, puzzles, reading lists, science experiments and other activities that review skills and preview the grade ahead.

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