Ask the Doctor: How do you defend against summer “brain drain?”

Q: I’ve heard that children can have brain drain in the summer. What can I do to prevent my children from loosing the skills they learned all year?


A: Summer leaves many children without regular access to educational activities, which contributes to learning loss or what we call the “brain drain.” In most children, this equates to two-months of grade level mathematical computation skills.

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Prevent learning loss this summer

One of the best ways to avoid brain drain is to keep your children engaged and active. Look for organizations in your local community that offer free programs for children of all ages during the summer. Seek out those organizations that you know and trust, such as the National League of Cities or YMCA, to find summer programs in your neighborhood.

Another way to keep your child prepared for learning is to make sure they have access to healthy, nutritious food this summer.

Hunger and nutrition can affect everything from a child’s brain to their overall growth. Children must get proper nutrients throughout the summer so they can continue to develop, stay focused, less stressed and more prepared for learning.

In fact, the problem is so big that even corporations have jumped into action. Companies like Walmart gave $14 million in grants to expand access to meals for children outside of school this summer and throughout the year, while also teaching families how to develop healthy, low-cost eating habits.

Here’s healthy summer eating habits I encourage all parents to try:

  • Get your children involved in planning and making healthy meals together – find ways to make it fun!
  • Visit your farmers market or, if you’re close enough, visit a local farm. This provides the opportunity for kids to have direct access to understand where food comes from.
  • Try what I call Red, Yellow, Green Eating. Setup your cabinet and refrigerator so that your kids know which foods they can eat whenever they want (green), only sometimes (yellow) and only once or twice a week (red). This will help them learn which foods are healthy and how portions are important to eating a well-balanced diet – eat “green” anytime! 


Michele Borba is an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development.