School’s out for summer! Your child’s teacher says “tag – you’re it,” and suddenly your kiddo has a lot of free time on his hands. Sure, at first your child will be so euphoric that he or she will do cartwheels in your backyard, play fetch with your usually-ignored dog, and may even play with the annoying kid next door.
But soon, that euphoria will turn into boredom. As the temperatures rise outside, and mosquitoes and ticks make their presence known, your child will say those dreaded words: “I’m bored.”
Besides being bored, the longer your child is away from school, the more likely he or she will experience what educators call the “summer slide.” Students forget part of what they have learned during the school year over the summer break. Teachers report that re-teaching skills lost over the summer take between three to six weeks out of the autumn term.
How do you stimulate your child’s brain? There’s always a fun-filled family vacation. But those end quickly. Where can you take your kids over the summer that will keep their skills sharp?
The Neighbourhood Park
You were probably thinking that the first place on this list would be the Egyptology exhibit at your local museum or the coding club at the community college nearby. In actuality, study after study says that exercise improves cognitive health. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to your brain, which in turn increases oxygen to the tissue. More oxygen in the brain leads to neurogenesis, or the production of neurons, that control thinking.
To put it in lay terms, exercise and sports are great for your child’s development.
Encourage your child to hang on the monkey bars, use the balance beam, play tag with friends, and spin on the tyre swing. Experts say that the average 10-year-old needs at least one hour of vigorous activity each day, and they should avoid periods of inactivity of two hours or more unless he or she is sleeping. It’s good for their bodies and suitable for their brains.
The Craft Store
Children need to develop their whole body (or gross motor) movements. At the same time, your child needs to establish excellent motor skills. They can do this by practicing art, sewing, and crafting. Children do not develop these skills by manipulating an app on an iPad. They do this by using a large, plastic needle, a piece of yarn, and a plastic canvas. They learn excellent motor skills by stringing small beads to make necklaces and bracelets. They learn this by piecing together model airplanes.
Children who have not developed their fine motor skills have an awkward pencil grasp and messy handwriting. They struggle in art classes and have choppy, messy cutting skills. Children who have not developed excellent motor skills have a difficult time learning how to type on a keyboard.
Take your children to the library. Allow them to check out books, but most importantly, make sure your child reads the books they borrow.
Build in time each day for your child to read. Model this by checking out your own books from the library, and then actually read them.
Some parents talk with their child about reading the same way they talk about household chores. They present the idea of reading as if it were a huge chore that has to be “checked off” each day.
If you want reading to be a natural and essential part of your child’s life, then model that behavior. Make reading time more of a reward rather than a chore. Say things like “after you do your household chores, you can read for a bit.”
Sign up for reading programs at the library and local and national bookstores. Decorate a comfortable reading nook for your child. Create a language-rich environment within your home. Read classics to your child – even if they can read on their own. It is important. The love of reading and language is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give to your child.
Modern parents tend to overcomplicate childhood. It is a time that we, as parents, all take a deep breathe and relax. Grade school aged children need time to chase fireflies (or lightning bugs – depending on where you live). Kids need to have free time and time away from all forms of media.
Let them dig holes in your backyard with spoons, and let them run through the sprinkler. Let them sleep on the trampoline all night during the summer and take the whole neighborhood gang to the local park to play. This is the stuff of childhood.