The summer brain drain is a very real issue that many kids experience each year. This phenomenon occurs when the brain becomes less engaged during the sunny summer months due to the lack of stimulation or structured learning.
While summer is a great time to have a break from the school routine, there’s value in some daily brain engagement activities. Here are a few activities and tips to keep your children’s minds sharp all summer long.
Use Daily Puzzles and Brain Games
Consider setting aside time each day for puzzles and brain games. These activities are great for a morning jumpstart or during periods of quiet time before bed.
There are various age-appropriate types of brain games and puzzles to work with. Start with choosing an appropriate puzzle for your kids to put together, either alone or with assistance. You can also print off simple word searches or number puzzles for a change of pace. Consider starting each morning with a daily riddle to get everyone thinking and talking.
Make Time for Creativity
The brain thrives on creativity. One of the best ways to keep your child’s mind engaged without making it seem like work is to prioritize creative time. During this time, have kids make crafts, write, draw, create dance routines, or even put together a play or puppet show.
The key to encouraging creative time is to ensure you have enough supplies on hand and a plethora of ideas and prompts. You can find simple poem and story prompts online, as well as drawing tutorials for any age.
Practice Unstructured Play
While it may seem contradictory to create structure through unstructured play, this experience is incredibly important for a child’s development. Unstructured playtime encourages kids to get creative, solve problems, and become aware of their environment.
There are various ways to encourage unstructured play. The key is to remove screens and tech distractions and inspire the child to engage with their environment. Give your kids a few toys in their room or send them outside to the backyard. If they need ideas, start with a scavenger hunt or challenge and let them run with it.
Physical movement does wonders for a child’s brain. At a very basic level, it increases oxygen flow to the brain and promotes health within the organ itself. Movement can help improve memory, focus, and mental health through the release of endorphins.
Encourage physical activity whenever possible. Try to think beyond the definition of exercise and focus on “movement” instead. Physical activity could be a kitchen dance party or playing outside during unstructured playtime. You can make this a group effort by going on family walks or hikes.
Practice Basic Life Skills
While school is important, many curricula tend to leave out a lot of basic life skills. Give your child age-appropriate chores and responsibilities or tasks to help promote learning that will help them as they grow. For example, a 6-year-old could help with basic food preparation, like mixing and stirring. A 13-year-old can take over the family activity budget and be responsible for tracking allowance.
Teach your kids how to read a recipe, fold laundry, or order their own meal in a restaurant. These seem like simple things to adults who have been doing them for years, but they’re great learning opportunities for young children.
Set Daily Goals
Finally, put it all together with daily goals. Consider setting a privilege-earning system that requires kids to finish a set of brain-boosting tasks before they get tech time. This is a great way to promote lifelong learning without being overly restrictive during the fun summer months. For example, your child may have to read for 30 minutes, do a chore, and play outside before they get the iPad.
With these simple strategies and activities, you can prevent brain drain and keep your kids engaged during the summer months.