Kids outside

Keeping Your Child’s Mind Active During Summer Break

A child’s brain processes and retains tons of information. You’ve likely heard it before – ‘they’re sponges!’ But once the school year is over, many kids tune out anything school related, from multiplication, to memorization, to morning announcements.  As parents and caregivers, we tend to cut them some slack, especially after ten consecutive months of school. But allowing children to temporarily put their minds on sleep mode has some drawbacks. Depending on your child’s age and development, reading, writing and math can become a little more challenging after an eight week summer hiatus. So, how about infusing a little bit of education into your children’s everyday summer routine to help keep their brains active and sharp until they head back to school? Here are eight fun ways to do that!

Educational incentives

Summer vacation is less about structure and more about allowing children to take a mind break. If your child has increased screen time, try incentives like offering 20 extra minutes of TV time in exchange for doing a bit of math or reading. Implementing a one page of work rule before turning to the tablet will help keep your child’s brain sharp. If you choose workbooks, they can be purchased at many stores for just a few bucks.

Math games

Math doesn’t have to be dominated by full-page formulas and stressful brain teasers – break out a pack of UNO cards to brush up on math skills instead. Adding, subtracting and strategizing are all part of the game and the best part is, your children won’t even realize they’re doing math. For younger kids, play counting games by using bathroom tiles or hardwood floor planks by having them jump from tile to tile doing simple addition. For example, if two plus two is four, your child can jump onto four square tiles before it’s your turn.

Reading nook

Reading should be enjoyable. Whether you have a dedicated bookworm at home, or a child who is uninterested in books altogether, there are fun ways to strengthen and develop comprehension and language skills. If you have a tween or teen in the home, try and carve out some time to discuss what he or she may be interested in reading, whether it be in electronic  or paperback form. For younger readers, a trip to the library is a great way to get them to explore which genres they’re interested in. You can also create a small reading nook at home by simply giving your child a pillow on the couch, or building a fort made up of couch cushions and blankets. Children also enjoy being read to, which also helps stimulate their imagination.

A walk in the park

Take a walk outside to a nearby park or trail and let nature dictate. Whether it’s learning about different bird species, quizzing the kids about the many types of trees or counting how many animal calls you hear, heading outdoors will allow for endless learning opportunities. It’s simple in theory, but my children enjoy finding birch bark or spotting chickadees atop tree branches, which greatly expands their understanding of nature.

Grocery list game

It’s no secret most kids loathe grocery shopping unless they’ve been bribed into getting a sweet treat at the checkout. You can help keep little minds sharp by having your children help with the grocery list by either spelling out items on their wish list, or perhaps adding up the bill. Younger children can also help sound out simple words on the list, like plums or jam.

Fort building fun

Building forts never goes out of style. This indoor, timeless activity can involve both you and the kids. Using pillows, blankets, or an indoor fort building kit will allow your family to get creative and strategize when it comes to building a solid structure that’s both functional and comfortable. If the first attempt doesn’t hold up well, re-building the fort will allow your child to problem solve. When the masterpiece is complete, you can watch a movie, read books or snack on your family’s favourite food in the comfort of the fort.

Get growing

Gardening is a fun, educational activity where kids can quickly reap the benefits of their hard work. If your family didn’t inherit a green thumb, that’s ok! Gardening doesn’t have to be complicated. Hand over the gardening tools – so long as they’re age appropriate, and allow the kids to dig and plant. They’ll not only learn about plant basics (water, sun and soil), they will also develop a better appreciation and awareness of horticulture and nature.

Car games

Remember life before technology dominated our households? Our children’s generation is so vastly technologically advanced they’ll never understand the concept of waiting until a television program comes on, or racing to the VCR to press record, or even taping songs on the radio. Technology is at their fingertips every minute of the day. Instead of handing over the tablet in the car, try going screen-free and instead play eye spy, or rhyming games. You can also hold an impromptu spelling bee behind the wheel where the winner gets bragging rights.

There are many ways for you to interact with your children to help them keep their minds sharp over the summer. The key is to make it seem like they’re not doing much work at all. It can be light and fun and most importantly, will help get them ready for the upcoming school year.