According to the National Summer Learning Association, kids can lose two months of grade level equivalency during the summer months. Much like the rest of our body, our brain needs exercise to stay in shape. The key to keeping your kids' learning on track is to keep young minds busy and stimulated over the summer. Don't just let your children veg-out in front of the screen.

Here are 12 ideas for keeping your kids mentally fit this summer.

1. Read

Join a community book club (many libraries have them) or start your own. Joining a book club gives you and your kids a deadline for reading the chosen book and provides your kids with a forum to discuss what they've read. This helps with comprehension and retention.

Another idea to get your kids reading is to participate in a reading contest to see who can read the most books. Barnes and Noble sponsors a summer reading program. If your child reads a certain number of books, he or she gets a free book at the end of the summer.

2. Daily study time

This may not be popular with the kids, but they could use some quiet time inside away from any screen. They can spend the time reading, writing in a journal, drawing, doing work books, doing puzzles or building with blocks. Ideally, your child should be able to participate in these activities without your help - giving you both some needed down time. This will be good for everyone's mental health.

3. Cooking math

Letting your kids help you in the kitchen will help them brush up on their math skills. Your kids will be practicing fractions, measurements, time and temperature. They'll also love to eating their homework.

4. Kitchen science experiments

Kids are naturally curious and science with everyday items is a great way to mix learning and fun (and sometimes treats). There are a number of different books available with great ideas, like the Usborne Book of Science Activities. You can also find experiments on the web.

5. Waterworks

Appeal to your little engineer or builder by letting her build a car wash or water fountain in your backyard. With some sponges, pvc pipe and perhaps a kiddie pool, your kids can create a way to keep themselves cool all day. Drill any holes needed in the PVC pipe, but after that resist the urge to create it for your kids. Lining things up, putting them together, taking them apart and figuring out what works is half of the fun and all of the learning.

6. Learn a new skill

Is there something your child has always wanted to try or a skill you haven't had the time to pass down? Take the summer free time to let your kids learn a new skill. From whittling to knitting to gardening, learning something new will help keep their minds in shape.

7. Yard art

Get the kids' creative juices flowing. Your yard is their canvas. Beyond chalk art, your kids may enjoy designing garden embellishments pressing setting pebbles, buttons or other trinkets into a mosaic in the soil. You can also let them paint the fence red (or blue, or green) with washable spray paint. All you'll need is cornstarch, warm water, food coloring and a spray bottle. You can find the recipe online.

8. Museums

Take advantage of the museums in your area or plan a daytrip. Don't be afraid to ask at the front desk for learning aids.

9. Go to the zoo

When you visit, talk about the animals' characteristics, habitats, diets and more. You can get as basic or complex as you want depending on the age of your children.

10. Volunteer

Spend some time helping others. This will help your kids keep up their work ethic and focus. Often volunteer work also provides opportunities to learn a new skill. Volunteering on a weekly basis can help kids stay on some kind of schedule.

11. Take a community class

Most schools and communities offer summer classes in a variety of subjects for your kids. They usually only last a few weeks. Check out your city's offerings online or at the local library.

12. Current events collage

Keep track of the summer's major events with a collage. From headlines to family reunions, let your kids collect ticket stubs, pictures and newspaper clippings and glue them onto a summer collage page. It will keep them aware of the world around them during those summer months.

With all these summer activities, your kids will keep their minds sharp and never have time to speak those two words most dreaded by parents in the summer, "I'm bored."

This article was originally published on Check out these other related articles: Schools Out: Make a schedule to keep kids busy, 3 simple kids' crafts you can do with household items and 5 Science experiments for kids and your kitchen.

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