When kids finish school for the year, they’re probably overjoyed. No more school! For them, it’s vacation time. Parents, on the other hand, are faced with many challenging weeks. You want your children to have fun, but you don’t want them to spend all their free time on mind-wasting activities.
How can you ensure your child’s mind stays sharp and engaged even when he or she isn’t in school anymore? Luckily, there are savvy and sneaky steps you can take to stimulate and challenge your child’s brain during the summer.
Here are 13 games and activities that actually double as brain-boosting fun. This way, your child can work on self-improvement without even knowing it.
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Play “I spy”
“I spy with my little eye” is a great game that actually has a lot of cognitive benefits. It helps your child pay attention to detail, as well as develop their language skills.
Visit your local library
When your kids are going stir crazy and only want to watch their favorite TV show for the hundredth time, take a trip to your local library. This way, they can discover all the books available, and bring home their favorites.
This is a good way for them to explore their interests and passions, as well as to improve their reading and comprehension skills.
And if getting your kids to read is like pulling teeth, considering creating a fun incentive program. For example, if your child reads so many hours or books each week, he’ll be rewarded with a prize.
Watch foreign films
Of course, it’s important to limit screen time, but sometimes it really helps to put the television on and let them veg out for a while. But, instead of putting on mindless programs, why not challenge them with a foreign language film or show?
When you allow them to watch the show with or without subtitles, it’s a fantastic way to introduce them to a foreign language, and to also support learning a new language, too – all without even trying.
Organize a scavenger hunt
Depending on your child’s age, you can create a scavenger hunt – both indoors or outside – to stimulate their little minds and send them exploring. For younger children, finding things like grass, a flower or a tree are all ideal for their developmental stage.
For older children, you can challenge them by finding specific species and more intricate details. In the end, it becomes a lesson in biology, too!
Tech-free, talk-friendly meals
It’s easy to rush through a meal or be sidetracked with screens and social media while you eat.
However, whenever possible, make meal time a tech-free and talk-friendly occasion. You can encourage children to discuss their day, and share what they did, saw and learned.
It’s a good way to improve language skills and help children improve their conversation skills by listening, speaking, asking questions and using descriptive language.
Dominoes is a simple, age-old game, but it can also be a good way for kids to improve their pattern recognition skills. For older children, dominoes also pushes them to think strategically and critically so that they can make the most out of their tile points.
Play chess and checkers
These games can do a lot to stimulate a child’s brain. For one thing, they improve strategic thinking and planning, while also teaching patience – good skills for every child!
Pull out the puzzles
Perfect for a rainy day, or when it’s just too hot to spend lots of time outdoors, puzzles are a great way to help your child improve. They target cognitive skills and problem-solving.
Have story time
Story time is a colorful occasion that allows children to step into their imaginations, get creative and dream. If you’re telling the story, do so in a relaxed, easy manner.
And when you’re finished, ask your child questions to see what they remember. This can engage their memory and language skills.
You can also invite your child to make up their own stories. To encourage them, ask open-ended questions, which they have to answer with descriptive language.
Remove cartoon captions
Comic books are a fun way to pass the time, but why not look for caption-free cartoons, or even remove the captions yourself? This allows your child to figure out what’s going on, and to create a storyline of their own. This boosts critical thinking, imagination and language skills.
You can enroll your child in local art classes, such as sewing, painting, drawing, pottery, etc. It all depends on their interest. These classes can improve hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and creativity.
And even though these classes may be a far cry from their math and science books, these are skills they can use in the classroom, too.
Create obstacle courses
Children have lots of energy, but if they don’t use it, you can expect kids to get moody and even misbehave. And no one wants that! So, help your children get up and off the couch by doing obstacle courses either in the house or out in the yard.
You can make an obstacle course using household or outdoor items, like boxes, chairs, cushions, pillows, stationary, kitchen accessories, trees, flowers, the driveway, sidewalk, etc.
For example, they must hop over one item, crawl under another, race between two stations and skip between two things. It really doesn’t matter what you choose. The idea is to get them moving.
They’ll be exercising without even realizing it, and exercise is an excellent way to build a bigger, stronger brain, according to a neuroscientist, Wendy Suzuki.
Last but not least, the memory game strengthens a child’s memorization skills, as well as their focus and attention skills. That’s because the child must keep the cards facedown and only flip two over at once.
If they don’t match, they must flip the cards face down again. This forces the mind to remember the location of certain cards without seeing them anymore.
Your child might be out of the classroom this summer, but that doesn’t mean he or she won’t have any opportunities to work on self-improvement. These 13 activities and games will keep your child’s mind sharp and set them up for a new year of personal and academic success.