When you're a kid, summer is all about vacations, bike rides and trips to the ice cream stand. Unfortunately, the carefree nature of these months means many children also lose important academic skills before they go back to school.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, all children and teenagers lose some of the knowledge they learn in school unless they take part in educational activities during summer break. Thanks to a phenomenon known as “summer slide,” most students end up about two months behind in math once school starts in the fall—and kids from low-income families generally arrive in class two months behind in reading.

While some teachers assign homework to keep their students’ minds active, it’s really up to parents to engage children so they keep learning all summer long.

“If you've got kids doing interesting things that are keeping them sharp, that's kind of what summer is for,” says Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University's School of Education. “If they're not engaged, they're not learning anyway.”

The key is for kids to have a choice in what they do during the summer. Tap into your kid’s interests and let her choose which museum to visit, which books to check out from the library, which projects to do and which games to play.

Here are some more ideas for summer learning activities:

Vegetable Garden
While it can fun to visit a vegetable garden, it’s fun and educational to create your own vegetable garden. Your kid will use science, math and logic to set up the garden and grow the plants right. The best part? She can literally enjoy the fruits of her labor!

Family Olympics
Get active and take advantage of the summer sunshine with Family Olympics. Play a series of athletic or not-so-athletic games, letting kids keep track of everyone’s points for a math challenge that’s far from academic.

Community Service
How can you help your community? “Let me count the ways!” Whether your kid likes to get down and dirty by planting a garden or building a fence, or if she’s a people person who wants to tutor younger children or serve meals to the homeless, there’s a great community service activity waiting for her help!

Grocery Store Math
Turn ordinary moments into teaching moments! While you're grocery shopping or going out for ice cream, talk to your child about counting money. If one avocado costs $2, ask how much you have to pay for two or three.

Summer Scrapbook
Help your child keep a journal of the fun things you do during the summer. By putting in the time to create a charming design and construct the book itself, your child will be motivated to write anything on her mind, without the pressure or constraints of the school assignments that await her in the fall.

Tailor these activities to your kid and she’ll have an enjoyable summer—and be sharp for when school starts up again.