Smart Summer: Beating the ‘brain drain,’ keeping your kids engaged with fun camps, activities this summer

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HOUSTON — Summer break is almost upon us, so it's cheers from the students, but fears for the parents.

"First off, parents need to take a deep breath because its very stressful," camp queen Sarah Gish said.

Parents often dread this time of year because there are big decisions to make over what their children will do to pass the time. How to keep them out of trouble, engaged — and most importantly — how to avoid the inevitable summer slide also known as summer learning loss. Newsfix presents a complete guide to having a fun and smart summer.

Gish has some great ideas to keep kids active.

"In Houston, we have a huge variety," she said. "We have over 400 places that offer day camps."

With camps for every age and interest, it's just a matter of picking what suits your student.

For those art and nature lovers

"Artist boat in Houston Arboretum and Nature Center both have great nature campsm," Gish said. "Artist boat goes down to Galveston and they make art out of what they find in the bay."

Hurray for history buffs! Bayou bend has a history camp with the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

"It's all about American History," Gish said. "Learning first hand how to do black smithing, how you make butter — things like that, those lost arts."

Or how about a little girl power? For the first time ever, the non-profit Girls Inc. is offering a local day camp.

"They're doing a camp at the health museum and their teaching girls to empower themselves," Gish said.

Raising a future Steven Spielberg or Sofia Coppola? Aurora Picture Show offers a filmmaking class for kiddos aged 7 and up.

"Kids could can get the camera and play around and make movies," Gish said.

And don't forget Houston's world-class museum district.

"In Houston, on Thursdays you can see a lot of museums for free," Gish said.

Learn and grow in a safe environment with summer camp

It's fun to stay at the YMCA! The community staple offers a safe place for kids to grow.

"So we have 25 traditional day camps throughout the city," Executive Director of YMCA Summer Programs Curtis Lemieux said. "We have four outdoor regional camps and those are spread out, so kids can have more of an outdoor experience."

Lemieux said the programs focus on science, technology, education, arts and mathematics.

"It focuses on literacy. It focuses on keeping kids happy, healthy and engaged while all being around positive adult role models," he added.

Of course, camp costs aren't cheap — but our experts say don't be too shy to ask for a discount.

"I always say to parents beyond the camp's listings, see if they have scholarships, talk to the camp," Gish said. "There may be something you can barter."

Looking for free options? How about your local library, many of which hosts reading programs if your children are bookworms.

"In Houston, they have free summer camps at different libraries throughout the city," Gish said.

Can't hit the beach? Then visit the local pool

You can also make a splash at one of Houston's 37 public pools! But there's also a lot of parks that have splash parks, too— like Discovery green, Herman Park!

Get involved with service projects

Getting kids involved in service projects is also a great way to build character.

"In Houston, kids 8 and up can go to the Houston Food Bank," Gish said.

Avoid the summer slide — or brain drain!

Now what about the slide? No, we're not talking about the one at the neighborhood playground. The summer education slide, or brain drain, can be a huge setback for students.

"Statistically, students on average show a lost of one month of reading skills over the summer— with math at a steeper drop," Tanglewood Middle School Counselor Dorothy Leahy said. " [However} there's endless possibilities to tap into interests and apply learning."

Leahy recommends robotics camps, STEM camps or reading programs.

"Ask your school if they can recommend a summer bridge program," Leahy said.

For those developing athletes

Got a teen athlete looking to up their game? Beast Mode Elite provides intensive drills and training to high school football players.

There is so much more to summer than sleeping in and slacking off! Encourage your kids to have a smart summer and believe us, they'll thank you later!

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