More Ways to Avoid the Summer Slide

We all know that over the summer, kids lose, on average, 30% of what they learned in the previous school year. Keeping their minds active and engaged while they’re on vacation will help them start the new school year ready to learn (instead of having to spend the first few months reviewing old material). Here are some great activities, one academic, the rest less so, that will keep your children’s minds sharp.

The Beautiful Book of Exquisite Corpses (book, edited by Gavin Edwards)

beautiful book of exquisite corpsesWith all the emphasis on science, technology, engineering, math these days, people forget about the A (for Art) in STEAM, which we prefer over the more traditional STEM. This book is designed to jump start those creative, artistic juices and it delivers, bit time. Each page is divided into thirds. The top third has a partial drawing or a provocative phrase (for example, “He pushed the truck’s accelerator down as far as it would go, but the angry kittens kept gaining on him.”). You and a partner, then tear a few pages out of the book, fold them (along the dotted lines so you can’t see the drawing or the text, shuffle them so you don’t know which one you’re getting, and then draw whatever you like. When you’re done, fold the page again so neither of you can see what the other has done, swap pages, and draw again. The result will be a wonderful artistic chimera (the mythical beast that had the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent). The book features art from famous illustrators, cartoonists, tattoo artists, and more, as well as text from just-as-famous rock stars, actors, TV writers, and others. Ages 10+. $17 on

Hoakes Island: A Fiendish Puzzle Adventure (book by Helen Friel and Ian Friel)

hoakes islandWritten and designed by a father-daughter team, this book is an escape-the-room type mystery in which you follow clues, decipher codes, solve puzzles, and analyze notes. The goal is to find Henry Hoakes, who’s gone missing, and save the marvelous amusement park that bears his name (and is filled with a variety of talking animals, including Rita the anteater and Granville the gorilla) from being destroyed by dastardly developers. It’s smart, challenging, thought provoking, collaborative, and, most of all, lots of fun. For ages 7+. $19.99 on

Summer Brain Quest (Workman Publishing)

summer brain questThis series of well-designed, educational, and engaging books will keep kids entertained all summer long. Each of the 15 volumes is filled with activities, games, and clever ways of reviewing concepts, introducing new ones, and just having fun (which is, after all, what will keep kids coming back for more). What’s especially nice about these books is that they’re clearly labeled as being “for adventurers between grades X and Y,” so you don’t have to worry about whether a book that says First Grade is for kids who just finished that grade or are starting it.  Under $12 each on

Genius Kit (Osmo)

genius kitParents often complain that their kids spend too much time in front of screens. While that’s definitely a valid concern, the reality is that screens aren’t going anywhere, so we need to figure out how to take advantage of the amazing learning opportunities they offer without going overboard. The good news is that Osmo has figured out the perfect way to blend the best of on-screen education with engaging hands-on, object-manipulation activities that can only be done off screen. Osmo turns your iPad into a learning laboratory, with five pre-loaded games that stimulate visual thinking, problem solving, creative thinking, art, reading and spelling, and math. Your kids will love it, and so will you. For iPad (including Mini) only (in other words, not for Android tablets, unfortunately). iPad not included. Ages 5-12. About $95.

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