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Summer brain drain

By Dina Halaseh , Family Flavours - Jun 20,2021 - Last updated at Jun 20,2021

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Dina Halaseh
Educational Psychologist


Over the summer break, we witness a combination of boredom, activities and fun times. It changes our little ones and in many cases for the best. Nevertheless, we still need to be careful of the “summer brain drain”.

During the school year, students are regularly introduced to essential skills that are reinforced daily. Summer is entirely different. Students spend around three months with as little work as possible. Many don’t even hold a pen or pencil throughout their vacation.

Of course, the much-needed break offers students a respite from schoolwork and a tough year of distance learning due to the pandemic. However, being away from school, now more than ever, has an impact on your child’s mental agility.

The learning gap


Even before COVID-19, we knew that children lose about three months’ worth of learning during their break, according to a study by Dr Harris Cooper. The negative impact is especially noticeable regarding maths, but spelling and reading are close behind. 

In many schools, children do not get the chance to revise the material of previous years. In some cases, this results in a huge learning gap for students. Each summer, the gap gets bigger and a child drops farther and farther behind academically, leading to many children struggling to catch up with their reading and maths afterward. 


The socio-economic gap


Unfortunately, this gap is proven to be greater among students of low-income families, those who cannot afford to send their children to camps, vacations or educational experiences. Higher-income students have slight gains after their summer break as they are able to afford useful and advantageous activities.


Distance learning


Many schools in Jordan have taken admirable steps to try to keep students learning throughout school closure. Digital learning has ensured that students still engage academically from day to day. But online learning isn’t a one-to-one replacement for an entire school day. This means that no child can afford to spend summer without engaging the brain. The brain responds to how we use it; the more we use it, the more we train it. This also means when we stop using it, it somehow deteriorates.

Tips for combating summer brain drain


The brain adapts to the amount and way it is used as well as to the environment. So, an environment with rich mental stimulation and lower stress is much better for the brain. Here’s how you can ensure that the environment is helping your child’s brain beat the summer brain drain:

Exercise boosts brainpower so make sure it is a part of your child’s everyday routine

Sleep boosts brain development. Many children and teens stay up late during summer break since they don’t have to wake up early. Make sure, though, that they get the right amount of sleep. If you sleep well, you think well!

Healthy eating is linked to better brainpower. Your child needs a balanced diet and everything in moderation. You can ensure that no vitamins or supplements are lacking and, if so, provide necessary adjustments according to your healthcare provider

Screen time has a detrimental effect on the brain. Play is essential to building fine and gross motor skills as well as problem-solving skills. So let your child get bored and discover other ways of having fun — off the screen. Encourage unstructured play that embraces creativity

Chronic stress affects memory and many other brain functions, like mood and anxiety. We may lead stressful lives but our brains shouldn’t. Children, especially, lack the ability to deal with stress. Ask for help if your child is struggling and try to ensure not to overwhelm them with too many activities. Try including yoga, mindfulness activities and being present in their daily lives 


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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