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7 ways to stop summer brain drain

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Smart ideas for summer

No more pencils, no more books? Sure, if you want your kids to spend the first three months of the school year re-learning skills they forgot over summer vacation. Here's a better way to keep your kids on track while still having fun.

Mom helping son build birdhouse

The first few days of summer vacation are all about freedom. Kids are delighted to shed the routines, stay up late, sleep in and get absolutely lazy. And that's a good thing; we all need a little down time once in a while. But once the kids have had the chance to decompress, it's time to introduce a little bit of learning back into their days. Don't worry: If you follow our suggestions, your kids will never figure out what you're up to.

1Build a blog

If you tell your kids to write an essay about their daily activities, you can be fairly certain they'll balk. But if you set them up with a blog where they can upload photos, share their stories and get feedback from friends and relatives, well, that's a whole different story. Set aside a few minutes to blog each day -- during dinner prep, for example, or just before bed. Even if their spelling makes you cringe, their typing skills will improve, and far-flung family members will appreciate the updates.

>> Find out how to start your own blog

2Make a meal plan

Grab the grocery store circulars when they arrive and ask the kids to help you spend the budget effectively. Build your menus around sale items, in-season fruits and vegetables, and family favorites. Have the kids calculate the cost per meal, or per person, then try to figure out if you can do better next week. For extra credit, you may be able to get your kids to put the information into a graph "for Daddy."

>> Get quick and easy recipes here that your entire family will love

3Pick a project

It's a parenting concept so basic that it's novel: Ask your kids what they'd like to learn or do this summer; they might just surprise you. Tell them that they can pick one new skill to learn or one project to work on over the course of the summer. For example, maybe they'd like to learn to knit -- or build a desk. Craft stores and home improvement warehouses offer many free and low-cost classes. Have a kid who wants to learn a new language? Order some flash cards and see if your library has free access to online courses.

3Take a class

Sure, a class might sound kind of school-like, but it all depends on what you choose to study. A cake-baking class, for example, is hardly the same as one in trigonometry. Again, check your library and ask around to find free or inexpensive options, and let your kids make their own choices.

Next page: More fun and educational summer activities

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