Summer vacation is a crucial time for students; it offers a time to be active in the warm weather, build life-long friendships and decompress from the demands that go along with the school year. However, summer vacation also poses a significant threat to students’ knowledge and skills retention. brain left idle for nearly three months can slip into a pattern known as summer learning loss. This problem is fairly easy to avoid and this article has some Great suggestions for helping your students retain what they learned last year and expand their learning potential for the coming year. 

Baylin Stich could have let his 14-year-old brain turn to mush this summer. Instead, the Ashland High School sophomore is staying sharp by playing cards and board games.

“Unlike video games or watching TV, these games keep me mentally active,” Baylin said in between perusing thousands of game boxes at the Funagain Games store in Ashland on Thursday afternoon.

Hanging over shelves stocked with preschoolers’ playing cards to complex abstract strategy boards is a sign that states: “Grow Your Brain, Play a Game.”

Research shows that games can teach children reading, math and logic, free of academic stress.

While taking on fun roles of explorers, knights or scientists, they also improve their eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity.

And kids who aren’t good test takers have their confidence boosted with each skillful move on the board, say experts.

Ruth Alexander, a volunteer tutor in Ashland who served seven years on the Ashland School Board, created a ladder game that students use to practice equations.

“Children who are introduced to math through games never say they don’t like math,” she said.

Above all, children learn to play by the rules and they polish social skills not needed to succeed with workbooks, flash cards and most video games.

To be invited to play a game around a table, kids have to practice getting along with others.

“They need to have basic math skills to count spaces, money and points, and to calculate odds,” said Tom Vasel, a math teacher and youth pastor in Florida who produces game-related podcasts for his popular website “But more important, they have to talk to other people to play a board game.”

Every third Saturday of the month, about 20 students gather at the Gresham Room at the Ashland library to play cooperative games such as Mice and Mystics, Forbidden Island and Pandemic.

These games are popular because players work together to beat the game, not compete against each other, said Christopher DeFrisco, who with his wife, Chris, started the free game night four years ago.

It’s no wonder that principals, teachers and librarians justify game playing during precious classroom time and host after-school game clubs.

Jade DeBoer, 16, of Jacksonville remembers attending the sixth-grade game club at St. Mary’s School in Medford.

“With games, you have to think ahead,” she said, while showing people how to play the sequencing game Quoridor as part of her summer job at Funagain Games.

Nearby, Baylin was still circling the store in pursuit of a new challenge.

He comes from a family of dedicated gamers.

His older brother, Gavyne Stich, is a senior at AHS who co-founded the school’s Board Game Club three years ago.

Their mom, Renee Stich, believes playing games helps children concentrate and learn.

“The kids I see playing board games are in honors classes and have great GPAs,” she said, “and they know how to win and lose gracefully.”

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