SIOUX CITY -- Heather Bremer is keeping her three daughters busy this summer.
Annika, 11, Jillian, 9, and Lydia, 6, are participating in a plethora of camps and activities ranging from sports to the arts.
On Wednesday afternoon, while Annika was attending theater camp, Jillian and Lydia were learning how animals communicate at the Sioux City Public Library -- Morningside Branch.
According to Bremer, of Sioux City, there's a variety of educational activities for kids to do in the summer: "You just have to kind of look for it."
During "Music of Nature," which was presented by staff from Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Jillian and Lydia "chuffed" like lions, touched a gray-banded kingsnake and learned the sobering fact that the poaching crisis is wiping out Africa's elephant population. By the time the girls reach college, zoo outreach instructor Holly Arndt said there might not be any elephants left in the wild.
Keeping children engaged in learning through fun activities can help stave off "summer brain drain" or "summer slide."
Studies have shown that many children fall behind academically over the summer. According to the National Summer Learning Association, most students lose two months of mathematical skills every summer, and low-income children typically lose another two to three months in reading.
Sioux City Public Library youth services manager Adrienne Jansen, said she and other library staff members have created a diverse list of summer programs designed to peak the interests of toddlers to teens.
"What I like about our programming at the library is that we do it for learning, but mainly we do it for fun -- to keep their brains going during the summer in a fun way," she said.
After the Wilbur Aalfs Library closes its doors for the night on June 22, 6th-to 10th-graders will put on their detective hats to solve the mystery of a rock legend's missing guitar using microfilm, books and other resources. Toddlers and their caregivers will bust a move amidst a sea of floating bubbles on July 6 during the Super Toddler Dance Party, while students in grades 4-12 will enjoy a show from jugglers and comedians Jay and Leslie on July 16.
"Nothing beats dancing babies. It's always super popular," Jansen said of the Super Toddler Dance Party. "We just got a brand new bubble machine that we're eager to use. We'll have fun music and songs and rhymes."
Education coordinator Connie Macfarlane said many of the Sioux City Public Museum's summer camps filled up quickly, including Space cities, a three-day camp where children learn about working and living in space, and Day of Wizardry II, a one-day camp where young participants make wands and potions and play Quidditch.
A Victorian tea party is planned June 20 at the Peirce Mansion. Children ages 7-10 will play parlor games, such as charades; make crafts, drink tea and feast on fancy sandwiches, cupcakes and scones, according to Macfarlane, who said manners and proper posture are also covered during the party.
Then, July 10-12, Macfarlane said a high school science teacher will present Mad Science All-Stars, a camp which features famous scientists, inventors and hands-on experiments.
"They've gone outside and they've launched rockets. They've done all kinds of things," she said of past Mad Science All-Stars camps.
Jansen is already looking ahead to summer 2019. In July, she said library staff will start planning next year's activities.
"These ideas grow and grow and get more creative and then we kind of have to reign them in a little bit and refine them," she said. "What we're working to do is find engaging ways to keep kids busy in the summer, but not just busy, creatively busy using their imaginations."