Ahh! Summer. A time to relax and enjoy those lazy days filled with trips to the park, family vacations and backyard barbecues, right? Not so fast! Summer vacation can entail more than just a change from the usual routine. For children, it can mean a serious loss of learning that will send them back to school lagging behind in crucial knowledge.

According to the Sylvan Learning Center, students often forget new concepts within 24 to 48 hours after learning them unless the information is reinforced or applied immediately. And the Journal of Educational Research found that the average child loses 2.6 months of grade-level math skills alone during summer break.

So here are a few ideas recommended by experts to help prevent that dreaded summer brain drain.

Read between the lines. Sylvan suggests having children join the local library’s summer reading program or start their own reading program or book club. They can set a goal for reading so many books and even keep track on a book “thermometer” or “growth” chart, offering a special reward at the end of their goal. It’s all right to let them pick books by favorite authors on favorite topics, even if they’re easy page-turner books. Being a role model for your child can help as well if they see you pick up a book rather than flip on the tube.

Incorporate reading into everyday activities by pointing out billboards, fliers, food containers and such. Ask younger children what letters they see or play the alphabet game on longer drives.

Talk the talk. Ask questions about anything and everything, but not the kind that illicit “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, ask “What did you like about ...?” “What was your favorite part ...?” Get kids talking, and you’ll find wonderful opportunities to turn life’s normal experiences into teaching moments.

Narrate your own life as well for younger children. Explain what you’re doing, like a play-by-play announcer. Tell why you choose wheat bread over white at the grocery store or why the car gets so hot inside when it sits in the sun. Think of yourself as a tour guide in a foreign country whose job is to help your children understand strange and unfamiliar adult behavior.

Got game? Host neighborhood game nights where educational games are played. Games like Scrabble, Uno, crossword puzzles, Sudoku or basic card games can make for a fun night and reinforce skills such as memory, concentration, logic and reasoning.

Vacation your body, not your mind. Going on a trip can be a great time to expand more than your physical horizons. Use the library and Internet to learn about the destination and its historical sights, study maps and plot mileage.

It all adds up to fun. According to the National Summer Learning Association, losing math skills is the biggest threat. They suggest a variety of activities such as reinforcing math skills by looking at the measurements in a recipe you’re making, while sorting clothes (i.e. how many socks vs. shirts) or picking up clutter and deciding how to categorize items.

Trips to the grocery store are also a great opportunity to work on basic math skills when you work on adding up coupons or discussing decimal points as you price and compare items — not to mention teaching how to stay within a budget! Or try having a number of the day and have children point out whenever they see something relating to that number.

Kim has written for magazines like LDSLiving, the Washington Family, Back Home, Parents & Kids and Natural Life. She has two novels with Covenant Communications. Visit her at www.kcgrant.com.