UPDATED: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 3:24pm
(StatePoint) For families, summertime is all about active fun -- from vacations to ballgames, and fireworks to poolside picnics. But being on-the-go can mean lots of downtime in transit and waiting for activities to start.
While research shows that students can lose up to two months’ worth of learning during the summer break, parents can seize the opportunity to turn downtime into a time for purposeful entertainment, and keep kids off the summer learning slide.
“Parents can easily keep kids’ minds active and learning as part of existing summer activities,” says Jessica Hodges, Director of School Marketing at ACCO Brands, maker of Mead school supplies. “Rather than relying on phones, tablets and DVD players to fill time while waiting for summer fun, try packing creative, age-appropriate learning activities instead.”
When you’re loading up the car this season with sunscreen, bug spray and bathing suits, don’t forget to also pack portable entertainment that is both educational and fun. With a bit of creativity and a few extra items, you’ll keep kids learning, and they’ll think they’re playing -- all summer long.
• Make old games new. Fill the entertainment void while running errands with portable dry erase boards that make traditional games like hangman, tic-tac-toe and bingo easy to play, erase, and play again. Encourage siblings to play together as they build words, form letters and solve logic puzzles.
• Think convenience. In the car, opt for games and activities specifically designed for early learners on the go. For example, Mead Dry Erase Tangrams, stored in a convenient carrying case, are easy to pack and feature non-slip geometric shapes that can be arranged to create designs along a template. The non-slip material means that your kid’s design will survive even the bumpiest of wagon rides or road trips.
• Explore. Make a game of your surroundings, no matter where you are. Taking a trip? Ask kids to track car colors, license plate origins or types of trees. At the store, play a game of “I Spy.” The key is to turn everyday activities into learning games and exploration.
• Unplug. Taking a break from “screen-time” doesn’t have to mean sacrificing fun. Books, flashcards, puzzles and games not only make great alternatives, but they fit easily into day packs.
Reinforce math concepts, the alphabet, or colors and shapes with teacher-approved, age-appropriate learning tools such as flashcards. Or help kids learn to spell with Mead Puzzle Words, which give kids practice building words while playing with puzzles.
With no need for batteries or an outlet, these traditional activities are ready to go whenever you are.
• Capture memories. Designate a special notebook for the summer for artwork and writing. Journaling encourages children to express their thoughts and emotions while building essential writing skills.
More tips for fun learning on-the-go can be found at www.MeadEarlyLearning.com .
With some extra planning, parents can make good use of free time by incorporating easy-to-use activities that make early learning  memorable and impactful.