When you hear the term “summer slide,” you might envision excited kids going down a slide at the playground. But when teachers hear this phrase, they picture something very different. Many kids lose educational ground during the summer months, forgetting much of what they learned during the school year.

On average, kids lose a month or more of learning during the summer. The effect is cumulative, and worse for low-income families. By the time ninth grade rolls around, kids from low-income families can be two years behind and this can affect whether they earn a high school diploma or go to college.

Even though there is a lot of debate about how to prevent summer learning loss, we know that kids who are actively engaged in learning during the summer are better set up for success down the road. So, don’t let your kids turn off their brains during the summer.

Here are three tips to keep kids learning:

Trips to the Library

The local public library is an excellent free resource for families. Studies show that having access to a lot of books has a bigger impact on education than household income. Take kids to the library and allow them to choose books they like. Kids are more likely to read when they are interested in the topic.

Ask the librarian to help you choose books that are not too hard and not too easy. All it takes is 15-30 minutes a day of reading to prevent summer learning loss. Even six books for the summer have been shown to be beneficial.

Learning Outside of the Classroom

Some families may not have access to affordable summer camps, but activities don’t need to be expensive or even in a classroom to be effective. Allowing kids to explore local museums and parks can provide low-cost learning opportunities. Reinforcing learning with questions and being actively engaged is crucial. Summer can be a good time to teach kids a new skill, such as planting a garden, pursuing a new hobby or learning a new sport. Many websites list free community programs and opportunities.

Summer Nutrition

You might remember your parents nagging you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They were right! Eating a healthy breakfast has been shown to have a positive benefit on learning. Missing meals or having a poor diet impacts a child’s memory, concentration and energy levels, making learning more difficult. The USDA provides a free summer meal program for kids.