Homework & Studying

11 Summer Brain Builders

The brain is a muscle. It needs exercise to stay strong. For kids with ADHD or learning disabilities, this is particularly true. They have to work harder to retain all those multiplication tables, punctuation rules, and history facts. Help them with these fun, ADHD-friendly summer brain builders.

A young girl avoids summer learning loss by reading in the park during the summer.
Girl reading in the park
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Stop the "Summer Slide"

While kids do need a break from school, this doesn't mean they need a break from learning. Studies show that children who don't exercise their brains during the summer can lose up to two months worth of valuable, hard-won learning. For kids with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), particularly those with coexisting learning disabilities, it's critical that they engage in educational activities year round to help them retain what they've worked so hard to achieve. Here’s how to prevent "summer learning loss" for your child this time around.

Three children avoid summer learning loss by reading together on a bench
Three kids with notebooks on a bench
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Read Every Single Day

"It's very important for kids to read every day," says ADHD education specialist Sandra Rief. "Reading anything — comics, song lyrics, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids or National Geographic for Kids — counts." The point is, kids will make reading a daily habit if the material taps into their interests and passions. Encourage independent reading by signing up your child for a summer book challenge at your local library or bookstore, and aim for books with no more than five foreign or frustrating words per page.

A boy and his mother reading a book during the summer to avoid learning loss
Boy and mother reading book with lily pads in the water
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Read Together to Check Comprehension

Motivate your child to engage with books by reading aloud to him and with him, taking periodic breaks to make sure he understands the material. Ask comprehension questions such as “What do you think will happen next?” or "Why do you think that character did that?” These discussions keep kids focused and help them retain what they've read. If your child can’t summarize what you've just read together, this may point to a working memory problem.

[Read This Free Guide to a Smarter Summer]

Two children with headphones reading together to avoid summer learning loss
Two children with headphones reading together
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Build Reading Skills with Dyslexia

Nearly half of all children with ADHD also have dyslexia — a common, language-based learning disability. If your child struggled to learn the alphabet, vowel sounds, and sight words, or stumbles slowly over words when reading, have your child evaluated right away. Dyslexic children can benefit enormously from listening to audiobooks — a great tool to develop language skills, build comprehension, and expand vocabulary. Listen together and periodically take breaks to summarize the story and ask your child questions.

Two girls drawing together to avoid summer learning loss
Two sisters with braids writing together in the grass
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Stress-Free Writing Projects

Writing is stressful and intimidating for many kids with ADHD or LD who struggle with the overlapping brain processes of planning, organizing and remembering long enough to get their thoughts on paper. Spelling and handwriting challenges only add to the anxiety, so focus on making fun and stress free over the summer. Encourage your child to start a multimedia blog, send emails to a friend or family member, begin a photo journal or scrapbook, write a comic book, or even draft photo captions for a summer photo album. For tech-savvy writers, consider investing in an app like Book Creator, Scribble Press, or StoryKit.

A family playing a board game together during the summer to avoid learning loss
Family sitting on the floor playing board game and laughing
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Review Math Skills with Games

Fun, interesting math lessons lurk around every corner during the summer. "Board games like Monopoly, Mastermind, and Qwirkle are terrific for practicing counting, adding, and subtracting," Rief says. "Money and dice games provide opportunity for math practice, too." Online interactive math games like FunBrain, Cool Math 4 Kids, and Math Cats also make practicing math skills less like work and more like play.

A female student presenting a book report on learning loss during summer school
Girl holding orange folder labeled book report
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Presentation Preparation

The new Common Core being implemented in 48 states now emphasizes oral presentation skills as a target competency. Help your child master public speaking by starting with subjects she finds personally interesting: performing a magic trick, building a go-cart, or cooking up a great meal. Together, write down key talking points on index cards, and help her rehearse. Once she’s ready, she can present to you, a sibling, or a family pet. Use your smartphone to record a video your child can post to YouTube if she wishes.

[Get This Free Download: Choosing the Perfect Camp for Your Child]

Kids participating in a play about fruits during the summer, preventing learning loss
A play about an apple interacting with a rabbit, who is also holding carrots? Is fruit alive but vegetables aren’t? Is the rabbit murdering the carrots and making the apple watch? Also there’s a bear who appears to be a villain but it’s likely he’s being framed
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Take Reading To The Stage

Amp up your child's oral reading fluency and public speaking skills by putting on a mini play together. Readers' Theatre Scripts are specially adapted from leveled children's books, but any book or poem your child is reading will do. Split up the parts, then have your child rehearse by reading and rereading his lines. Once he's ready, perform your scene together.

A boy reading a book by the pool during the summer to prevent learning loss
Boy reading book by the pool, wearing goggles
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Take Learning Outside

Some kids with ADHD just need to be outside. Turn whatever he's doing outdoors — building a fort, playing sports, climbing a tree, or swimming — into a learning experience. At the end of each day, ask your child to write a few sentences about what he did in a journal, or make a list of the things he should remember to bring to the beach tomorrow. Reading and writing can be done outside, too. Search for educational games that are of interest to your child and play them outside in the fresh air.

A smiling boy playing with a kite during the summer to prevent learning loss
Boy smiling holding rainbow kite wearing blue shirt
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Build New Organization Systems Together

Use the summer to devise new organization systems with a clean slate and fresh eyes. Redo his homework area together to make it a more cool and motivating place to work. Work together to add some new shelving, filing systems, or furniture to facilitate better work flow. And figure out what school supplies and systems he'll need to stay organized when the school year begins.

Young boy laying on his back during the summer, reading a book to prevent learning loss
Boy laying on back reading book, legs in the air
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Sneak Previews of the Year Ahead

Ease your child into the academic year ahead by requesting early access to text books and reading lists for the year ahead. Begin talking about concepts casually. Before the other students return to school, arrange to walk your child through the halls and meet the new teacher in his classroom. Early meetings with the teachers are critical in making sure everyone is prepared and excited for the school year ahead.

[How to Avoid Summer Learning Loss]