Many parents struggle to find summer activities that are both engaging and educational. Summer ‘brain drain‘ is real and accounts for many of the academic and behavioral challenges that occur when the school year begins. Don’t let your child fall behind, here are some of our favorite summer activities that boost brain power, increase cognition and focus, while regulating your child’s nervous system.
When the heat hits and boredom ensues, it can be easy to hand your child a device or turn on the TV, but resist the urge a little longer. Why? The National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University shows that summer activities can help set your child up for success come September. Summer can be a great time to get them on the right foods, supplements and start implementing those behavioral changes you’ve wanted to all year long.Use the rest of the summer to your advantage, here’s why:
- Most children tend to fall behind in math and spelling because they have fewer opportunities to practice these skills while on break. Reading and comprehension also declines according to research.
- Teachers spend an average of four to eight weeks every fall reviewing material students have forgotten over the summer.
- Kids tend to gain more weight when they are out of school — particularly those who are not engaged in summer activities are at higher risk of obesity and spend a lot of time playing video games or watching TV.
The right summer activities can build new associations between different neural connections of the brain. They can improve motor skills, enhance coordination and balance. They can rebuild neurotransmitter levels and aid healing the gut. Here are some of our favorite activities you can do with your family that doesn’t only help with spending time together, but also keeps their brains ready for back to school!
9 Great Summer Activities to Boost Brain Power
- Go Swimming. Swimming is an awesome physical and neurological activity. It stretches and relaxes skeletal muscles while creating deep rhythmic breathing patterns. It also allows the body to perform motor operations and cross-patterning movements that are different from walking and running. The movements activate both the cerebral hemispheres and all four lobes in the brain. This helps with cognitive development. Swimming also releases endorphins and boosts the parasympathetic nervous system long after one is out of the water. For a calmer brain and a more focused child swimming is one of our favorite activities for boosting brain power.
- Create a Healthy Check List or Chart. This isn’t your typical checklist. Boring but instead of making it about school work, backpacks and chores, have it include vitamins, glasses of water, fruits and veggies as well as activities. They can earn points, stickers or a prize for incorporate new healthy habits, which will no doubt set them up for success before the school year.
- Break Out the Board Games. Boggle, Scrabble, Apples to Apples, and other word games help your child practice patience, recall information and facts as well as learning new vocabulary. You can create a system of bonus points for longer words, or words your child has recently learned or have them read the questions out loud to practice reading in a new and exciting way.
- Practice Real-Life Math. Use counting skills in everyday activities and errands. Track daily temperatures. Add and subtract at the grocery store. To really support their brain and body, help them learn about the ingredients and look for foods that have the ones you allow them to eat. Find a recipe online together (or in a cookbook) and have them help you get the ingredients, budget for the cost and use fractions to make it. These summer activities will help your child learn real life skills that increase self-esteem.
- Play Ping Pong. Believe it or not, ping pong is more than just an activity for your child’s game room and for family parties. A fun and competitive game of table tennis with your child improves his or her motor skills and can enhance coordination and balance, which helps the right and left sides of the brain to work together. ILS Learning says Ping Pong is “the perfect combination for breaking a real sweat as well as a mental sweat. Recent studies show ping pong can invigorate the brain and improves concentration. Like chess, it uses the prefrontal cortex for strategic planning and allows us to form and retain long-term facts and events.”
- Have a Healthier Lemonade Stand. What child doesn’t want to earn some extra money this summer? A simple lemonade stand can be a great way to engage social skills, math, marketing, and creativity. Kids can research what’s the best time of day for getting the most customers? Where is the best location? What will be refreshing? How much will we need to spend on supplies? Get creative, how can they make their stand unique? Instead of classic Kool-Aid, maybe slices of watermelon or sell and make Popsicle’s that are all natural. They can market them “organic” or “non-GMO” if they are, this gives them a little education on health too.
- Read together. Visit the local library and see what events and contests they have for summer readers. Allow them to pick out ones they may not get to read during the school year. Researchers have found that the decline in reading and comprehension can interfere with the first few months of learning once school is back in session.
Improve reading confidence and fluency too. Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and smoothly. The absolute best way to improve fluency is to read aloud with your child, the shared experience helps your child create positive associations with reading.
- Make your own audiobook. Practice reading a favorite story with your child until they feel comfortable and familiar with it. Practice in different voices and get silly! Then, fire up the audio recorder on your cell phone or computer and record the results. Play the recording back so your child can hear how they sound. A fun activity that makes a great memory or a gift to a friend or grandparent.
- Visit the Zoo, Local Farm or Aquarium. Local zoos and aquariums are great summer activities. Farms, local petting zoos and wetlands/protected habitats teach kids of all ages the importance nature and our ecosystem. Many zoos and aquariums offer tours for families full of great information. At the aquarium, make sure to visit the interactive area where they can learn touch underwater creatures and learn about the oceans, recycling, and how climates are changing
What summer activities do your children enjoy? Stay happy, healthy and hydrated this summer.
Emily Roberts MA, LPC and the Neurogistics Staff
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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