Neil Patrick Harris and Goldstar Team Up for a Smarter Summer

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“The Circus King” at Aurora Theatre

Every year, kids across America experience the “summer slide.” It might sound like a ride at the water park, but it’s actually a term for all the learning kids lose while on school break. Studies show kids slide back in math and reading skills by as much as two to two-and-a-half months — and low-income students suffer the most.

To help families avoid this setback, along with actor Neil Patrick Harris we’ve created a Smarter Summer program again this year (read about our launch) filled with events that get kids’ brains buzzing, with a big emphasis on fun. Whether it’s a play, concert, museum or comedy show, there’s a live event that’ll stimulate learning and spark creativity. And because it’s Goldstar, where tickets are typically at half price or better, fighting “brain drain” doesn’t have to drain parents’ budgets.

“My kids start kindergarten this year, but live entertainment is already a big part of their lives,” says actor Neil Patrick Harris, father to 5-year-old twins. “It helps keep them sharp and creative, which is why I love Goldstar’s Smarter Summer campaign so much and encourage other parents to really get their children engaged.” Harris is known for his TV role on How I Met Your Mother and an impressive film and stage career, including a 2014 Tony Award win for Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Additionally, Harris recently penned an autobiographical choose your own adventure book and will release a new middle grade fiction series called The Magic Misfits in 2017.

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Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

“The cultural experiences that surround us in a big city are the best summertime classroom a kid could ask for,” says Peggy O’Brien, director of education for the Folger Shakespeare Library and former chief of family and public engagement for D.C. public schools. “They build knowledge, they’re fun, and they can be amazingly affordable.”

Here are some of the ways kids learn from events they’ll definitely think are just fun:

  • Theater: Going to a play is a fun (and sneaky!) way for kids to learn plot, vocabulary and character development. “Experiencing live theater together gives kids and parents a chance to talk through what happens, why the characters do what they do, and the differences between live theater and movies or video games,” says O’Brien.
  • Music: When it comes to calming stress, nothing hits the right note like music. Studies show it can have a greater calming effect than pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Sports: Taking the kids to a sporting event is a great way to engage their brains. You can create a game of keeping score or calculating batting averages; and simply talking about sports and the issues it brings up — like morality, ethics and race — helps kids develop critical thinking skills.
  • Comedy: Much like music, humor has been shown to decrease stress hormones and increase brainpower.

The key, says O’Brien, is to create moments of informal learning along the way. “In the preparations for attending the event, and in the conversation afterwards, your child can be exercising their reading, math, geographic, and critical thinking muscles.”

Find all kinds of brain-building fun in Goldstar’s list of Smarter Summer events.

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