In addition to her efforts to promote healthy eating while reducing childhood obesity rates, First Lady Michelle Obama launched an initiative to help curb summer reading loss in 2010. Let’s Read. Let’s Move. encourages America’s adults to read with children, spend time outdoors together, and help others in the community to promote learning and healthy habits.

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Research has found that while many students’ skills and knowledge depreciate during the summer months, lower-income students experience the largest losses. But young children aren’t the only ones to experience the summer slide, which is the loss of skills that were gained throughout the school year.

Many high schoolers and undergraduates decide to get part-time jobs during their vacations from school, but older students can spend the lazy crazy days of summer camped out in front of the TV or playing games on their computers just as easily as younger ones. Whatever your age, make an effort to stay smart during your break from school.

Implementing the nine ideas below might just help help make a difference:


1. Read just for fun.

Even if you absolutely love the classes that you’re taking, textbooks aren’t the most thrilling reading material on the planet. Head to the bookstore or library and pick up a few books that interest you, and reading will be fun. According to Scholastic, reading as few as six books during the summer might help a struggling reader from regressing. If reading comprehension isn’t one of your strong points, choose books that are appropriate for your skills and/or reading level. Join a book club or choose a title amongst your friends if you want to discuss your reading with others. (If you absolutely don’t want to read any books or believe that you don’t have the time, get a couple of magazines instead.)

2. Talk about your college plans.

Most kids look up to and love spending time with their older brothers, sisters, and cousins. If you don’t have any, hang out with a child of a family friend or neighbor. Explain why you’re going to college and where you go to school. Let them know how you chose your major and what you want to be “when you grow up.” College Mentors for Kids explains that mentoring relationships between college students and younger students are beneficial for both parties involved. As the mentors learn more about being a role model, the kids are motivated to reach their full potential.

3. Play board games.

You probably don’t have time to play them in the midst of classes, but Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit and other board game favorites can be the foundation for a great family night or easygoing gathering with friends. Better yet, they might just help you stay smart. Research suggests that keeping your brain active by playing board games or cards (as well as other activities such as reading and doing crossword puzzles) can help you maintain cognitive skills. CBS News reports that a New England Journal of Medicine study found the risk of developing dementia later in life is lower in people who kept their brains active with games, puzzles, reading, and other similar activities. (Not a huge fan of board games? Try Words with Friends instead.)

4. Get physical.

Hitting the gym can definitely help you look better in your swimsuit this summer, but it might also help you retain those facts that you memorized for your final exams. According to researcher Xiaofen Keating, Ph.D., a kinesiology professor at the University of Texas, strength exercise helps improve brain function and therefore learning in children, and a study of over 1100 students at the university found that those who earned As exercised more frequently than those who brought lower grades, reports Men’s Health News. Hmm, a hotter physique and better grades? Sounds like a win-win situation.

5. Work, intern, or volunteer.

Even if you have just a couple of hours per week to dedicate to a job or internship, you can improve your communication and teamwork skills while gaining on-the-job experience. Performing relatively simple tasks like answering phones or making copies at an organization that is related to your chosen career field can help you gain experience, and even working as a server or customer service rep can also be beneficial because you’ll interact with coworkers as well as the general public. Volunteering can have the same benefits, too. You can help others and give your resume a little boost.

6. Take summer classes.

Summer school might conjure memories of childhood “punishment” for getting bad grades, but college summer classes are a bit different. If you’re able to swing it financially (you may or may not be eligible for student loans and other financial aid during the summer term depending on how much aid you received and accepted throughout the year) you may want to consider taking a class or two, especially if you know that a required class will be a tough one. Getting it over with while you aren’t bombarded with three or four other classes can help make it seem more manageable.

7. Listen to audiobooks.

Regardless of whether or not you plan on reading for fun (see tip number one) download an audiobook and listen to it while you work out (see tip number four) or drive to work (see tip number five.) There’s no denying that listening to books isn’t quite the same thing as reading them yourself, but studies show that reading and listening are remarkably similar processes. Forbes even reports that a 1985 study—long before iTunes and even books on CDs—suggested that people who read and comprehend books well can listen to them just as well. Not convinced? If you plan on lounging at the beach or relaxing in your backyard, it can’t hurt to try and learn something without even holding the book and turning the pages.

8. Visit a museum.

Head to a local art, history, or specialty museum and spend an hour or two exploring the exhibits. Some museums are set up like interactive classrooms, giving visitors the opportunity to learn in an informal environment. For the best “results,” go with friends or family for a fun day out. According to NPR, research shows that people feel better when they spend money on experiences rather than stuff. (Don’t want to spend your hard-earned money? Some museums are free on certain days of the week and many offer discounted admission for students.)

9. Catch your ZZZs.

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Experts claim that there is no magic number for how much sleep adults need each night, but a good rule of thumb is seven to eight hours. College students often get far less shuteye, especially when they pull all-nighters to cram for exams or head to an early class after being at the clubs until 3 AM. You may want to rethink your sleep habits, though, because lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of accidents (driving and other types) as well as health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Some studies have also found that sleep makes you smarter. USA Today reports that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that as little as a one-hour nap can significantly improve learning ability.

However you decide to send your summer, do yourself a favor and try one of these nine suggestions. They may not instantly turn you into a genius, but they just might help you stay smart—and isn’t that your goal as a student?