For kids everywhere, summer vacation is finally here. As their focus turns to sleeping in and swimming pools, students have attended their last day of school, where inevitably many will flip an internal switch learning off, play time on!But the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Research supports the idea that children greatly benefit from learning over the summer. Without educational engagement, they can forget many of the skills they just acquired. Similarly, the importance of play in child development is a widely researched topic.
According to a 2007 report from the American Association of Pediatrics, play helps children reach essential social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones.
"Learning through play gives children the self-confidence to explore new ideas and develop new skills," said Dr. Maurice "Reese" Flurie, assistant CEO of Commonwealth Connections Academy.
"The great thing about summer is that it allows students more time to play, ask questions, and explore new subjects. We encourage parents to be active participants in the learning process and to find teachable moments in everyday activities," said Reese.
"To help parents kick start learning at home, our teachers have come up with some great tips to use this summer."
Educators at the Pennsylvania cyber school Commonwealth Connections Academy encourage parents to use games to combat summer learning loss.
Here are their "Top 10 Summer Learning Tips" featuring games to give kids an educational boost while enjoying summer fun.
1. Take a Chance! Monopoly and Monopoly Junior are classic board games that put math skills to the test. Be sure to stop the game as needed to explain and assist with math problems.
2. Move over Milton Bradley … Invent a Game. Encourage children to get creative and develop their own board game. This activity is an artistic way to boost logic skills. Don't forget to ask children to write directions it's a great way to support reading and writing.
3. Test your knowledge Online Trivia Quiz Challenge. Connections Academy's free online Quiz Bowl Challenge is available to the public and features 20 trivia questions about "fun & games" board games, playground games, sports, and more. Visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com/quiz  to play.
4. Chalk it up. Replicate and enlarge a word search outdoors (in your driveway or in your favorite park) using sidewalk chalk. Kids will love the giant scale of their word search and will have fun practicing reading and spelling while searching for words. Be sure to check park rules to make sure that sidewalk chalk is allowed.
5. Be Wordy. With Scrabble and Scrabble Junior Edition, students can dig deep into their vocabulary for words that will get the highest score and they won't even realize that they are practicing spelling at the same time. Try making a rule that words must be three or more letters.
6. Deal out the Fun. Pyramid solitaire is a great way for students to keep those basic math skills in check. To learn how to play, visit www.solitairecity.com/Help/Pyramid.shtml . Seems too simple for your child? Try racing the clock! Can your child beat his or her time the second and third time playing? Better yet, let them race you!
7. Jump on it. Add an educational twist to hopscotch that will challenge children's math skills. Instead of drawing the traditional hopscotch board with chalk, replicate a calculator large enough for your child to jump on the buttons. To learn the details of how to play, visit familyfun.go.com, and search for Do-the-Math Hopscotch.
8. Game (show) on. Develop your own, modified, version of Jeopardy. Children will enjoy coming up with their own trivia categories and can use their research skills to come up with tricky trivia questions to stump their friends.
9. Seek, Look, Find. Scavenger hunts are fun for all ages, and adding an educational element is easier than you think. Instead of using a list of objects, give your child clues that will lead to various objects around the backyard, playground or park. (Example: Find an object that might be classified as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic. Answer: rock.)
10. Read to me. Take turns reading pages, start a chapter book that can be read in installments, and make up your own stories. Parents and children alike will benefit from this activity and it will encourage a lifelong love of reading.
Listen to Connections Academy's Learning Everyday podcast for more ideas, and visit its blog to share summer learning tips with other parents. To learn more visit www.ConnectionsAcademy.com .