The Lyceum of Monterey County offers summer camps in arts, science, robotics and more.

Celia Jiménez here, remembering how when I was kid I couldn’t wait for school to end for summer so I could visit my cousins, go to the beach and read the books I wanted to read.

I’m pretty sure thousands of kids and teens in Monterey County are waiting for that moment too. But while it’s great to take a break during the summer months, it’s also important not to let it all go. Our brains are like a muscle—if you stop practicing multiplication tables or don’t read much, you’ll lose part of what you have already learned. I know it sounds a tad boring to bring academics into the summer, but there are different ways you can make it entertaining. Plus, it doesn’t have to take a lot of your time: just 20 minutes a day is plenty. 

Sylvan Learning Center owner Cary Swensen has some suggestions to make summer reading more fun. For some kids this might mean reading comics—I used to read Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy the Good Little Witch when I was a kid. Other kids might be motivated to read a book before watching the movie adaptation, like Peter & Wendy or the Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

“I always tell my families here at Sylvan that summer is a good time to read for pleasure—that it’s not all school-related,” Swensen says. 

There are different places parents and kids can look for summer adventures. The Monterey County Weekly’s Family Guide, the 2023 edition of which is out today, is one resource that features an array of camps and programs kids and teens can enroll in, from dance to science, biology, arts and more. One of them is Ocean Learning Adventures at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where kids ages 11-13 learn about the interconnection between the land and sea, rivers and shores and get in the water and practice snorkeling and boating. 

Another resource is InPlay, a website where parents can find different summer activities for kids in Monterey County (some for a cost, some for free).

School districts also offer summer programs. At Salinas City Elementary, kids will learn about engineering, coding, learn new vocabulary or dance, and more. Another place to look for events and workshops is your local branch of Monterey County Free Libraries, which offers activities such as chess club, storytime, robotics and science. 

Swenson says many middle and high school students struggle with basic math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. She suggests sending teens to the grocery store to practice their math skills while shopping. Parents can also invent simple math games like multiplying or adding numbers. Singing multiplication songs is another great way to build math skills.

Even outdoor activities like hiking can be turned into an educational opportunity. Looking at different types of trees, leaves and insects is a natural lesson in earth science. “In addition to computer activities,” says José Fausto, director of extended learning and safety with SCESD, “We want kids to focus on non-screen activities.”

Mixing summer fun with learning pays off, too. Fausto says when kids are in an environment where they can learn and have fun, they perform better during the school year. So while relaxing and taking time off this summer, don’t forget to mix in a little learning. Your brain will thank you.

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