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museum-webRISMEDIA, May 28, 2009-(MCT)-With the end of the school year and summer vacation quickly approaching, now is the time to plan educational activities for your children so that their vacation is full of fun and learning. Here are some suggestions from experts to stop the summer brain drain:

-Look for a special-interest camp that will appeal to your child. But don’t just rely on a brochure. Parents should visit the camp while it’s in session and talk to other children and their parents.
-Plan your summer trip with an educational theme. Headed to Disney World? Stop at the Kennedy Space Center. If you’ve already decided on a particular town, look up national parks nearby and take the kids on a ranger-led geological or historical tour. Have them read a book about where you’re going before you leave.
-Recruit your child to help plan a vacation. Have your child prepare a budget for spending money, and ask for their help plotting the trip on a map and estimating miles using the map key.
-During the trip, play “I Spy” to search road signs for numbers, colors and geometric shapes. For older children, estimate and calculate the travel time to your destination.
-Look for intellectually stimulating activities in your community that don’t involve a classroom or workbook. Museums, zoos and other attractions usually offer educational programs as part of a tour or visit. Parks are also a great place for fun learning activities. Before spending time outdoors, a parent can encourage the family to learn about the area’s wildlife. Use the Internet to look up native plants and animals, then check them off as you spot them during your visit.
-Read, read, read. While most schools have a summer-reading requirement, educators and child experts say it’s better to go beyond the two or three books typically required. Stop by a bookstore during story hour or sign up for a summer book club.
-Consider enrolling your child in an inexpensive continuing-education course at a local college.
-Teach your child how to keep statistics for summer sporting events like baseball. Kids can compute ERA, RBI and other percentages.
-Turn any activity at home into a teachable moment. For example, beading jewelry with a young child helps support pattern recognition and counting.
-Think of the kitchen as a math lab. Ask your child to help you cook and bake. The extra mess is well worth the effort of applying such math concepts as measuring and figuring out fractions. Make it a game, too, by asking: How many pints in a quart? Cinnamon is which country’s major export?
-Turn your home into an international destination by using the Web. Research your family’s heritage or a favorite foreign city.
-Use a trip to the store to help a young child practice counting or the recognition of shapes. Ask an older child to bake a cake and change the ratio of ingredients.
-Find a structured volunteer position for your older child in an area of interest. If, for instance, your high-school junior is considering law, ask an attorney friend if your teen can help out in the office several times a week.
-For older children, check out the free courses offered by hundreds of universities online. While you might not expect a ninth grader to understand everything, he may find some subjects very interesting. Some courses you can even download to an iPod using iTunes U.

(c) 2009, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.