Putting an End to Summer Brain Drain
May 24, 2016 · Posted in K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Teens · Permalink

PrintBy Rose Howell, Academic Liaison at Thinking Caps

As the school year comes to a close, your child’s attention will turn to playdates, summer camp and the screens of his or her iPad, iPhone and TV. The mental stimulation provided at school inevitably takes a dive, leaving many parents wondering how to react. A study from Bell State University shows that Americans now spend more time on electronic devices than doing anything else, and kids are no exception. Further, we now know that excessive electronic usage causes memory loss and waning communication skills (eye contact, interaction), as well as weaker observational skills, language articulation and vocabulary. Too much screen time indoors also underlies health issues such as inadequate exercise, headaches, eye fatigue and tendonitis. Here are some realistic ways for you to combat “summer brain drain,” expand your child’s education and keep his or her body and mind active.

Harness your child’s natural curiosity:

  • Your child is still absorbing his or her surroundings like a sponge. If you move with the momentum of their natural curiosities, you’ll have more success keeping them engaged.
  • Find a special notebook for your child, and suggest that he or she writes down any questions, hopes or musings about a topic of interest. Then, carve out a day or two each week to go exploring within that theme. Take him or her to the library for books on the topic, a museum, or explore the haunts of that famous individual in the city. If your child often has questions about the world that you can’t answer, encourage him or her to write them down for future investigation.
  • Encourage them to learn more about a topic so they can tell everyone at dinner time what they learned. If your child is competitive, challenge him or her to learn 10 new things that day. Need an incentive? Have something scheduled at the end of the summer which he or she can attend if they promise to stay active.

Stay strong when it comes to screen time:

  • Of course, this is always easier said than done. However, you are the parent, and your children will thank you later if you’re able to nurture their relationship to reality over mind-numbing hours in front of a screen.
  • Treat gadgets like you treat dessert—they are not a given. Set limits for screen time by being honest with your child about the effects that this time is having on him or her. If your child refuses to give up the gadget, that time will come out of his or her allotted time for the next day.
  • Encourage your child to engage in imaginative play, exploration in nature and activities outdoors. There are hundreds of places around the city, as well as summer camps that encourage this kind of stimulation. Teach your child to plant flowers, go on a scavenger hunt or play capture-the-flag. Do not be fazed if your child claims he or she is bored—a healthy dose of boredom triggers new ideas. Electronics can rob children of the natural process of brainstorming, discovery and initiation.

Fight the academic slide:

  • Reading is one of the best ways to keep your child’s brain sharp. Go with your kids to a library or bookstore, and let them pick the books they want. If they don’t like to read, read out loud and leave off at a moment of suspense. Before you know it, they’ll begin picking up the book themselves. Also, try graphic novels—they still require the child to read, but provide accompanying visual stimulation. Books on tape are another good trick; any travel time can be an opportunity for learning.
  • Use a workbook series, like Summer Bridge Activities, created by Michele Van Leeuwen, mother of three. Such workbooks often contain exercises for reading, writing, arithmetic and language arts, which can be done in transition moments like breakfast, snack or winding down before bed.
  • Consider tutoring sessions. If your kid is behind or struggles in a certain area, summer is a great opportunity to seek support. At Thinking Caps, we match students with compatible tutors who provide individualized guidance and learning for school subjects, study skills/executive functioning, and test prep. Even one hour per week of support can make a huge difference come fall.

These strategies can provide your children with a fulfilling and substantive summer that will leave them refreshed and prepared for school. There’s no need to let summer brain drain take its toll—it’s time to fight back!

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