You may have heard about the “Summer Slide.” It’s how teachers refer to the significant decrease in material retention that requires them to spend an average of four to six weeks re-teaching materials in the fall. But even a two-three week holiday break can put a serious dent in learning.
To help keep your child’s brain strong when school is out of session, consider these seven tips:
• Get them moving. Exercise isn’t just good for the body, it’s also good for the mind. Increasing oxygen flow to the brain helps increase its performance, and time spent playing sports or bike riding is time away from the TV. Winter fun like sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, and ice skating, are all perfect activities out of the house right now…or when the snow finally comes!
• Play board games. There are plenty of fun games to engage brains of any age. From jigsaw puzzles to strengthen attention and visual processing skills to games for two (like Battleship or Connect 4) or for families (like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit) that work multiple cognitive skills, building a family tradition on board games is good for the brain – and the soul.
• Feed them healthy foods. Just as junk food can muddle your ability to focus, think and stay alert, healthy foods like beets, berries, lentils, salmon, walnuts, sardines, ground flaxseed and green tea can increase clarity, memory and focus. Have them pick a new recipe to try out with you in the kitchen.
• Keep them reading. They don’t need to be studying their science books to fight off the brain drain. Even leisure reading can keep them in the habit and help them increase their processing speed.
• Do yoga. In addition to being a great form of exercise, yoga incorporates the practice of meditation, which has been shown to be very beneficial to the brain. Plus kids will love to join in an “adult” activity on break so take them with you to that yoga class!
• Keep them on a sleep schedule. One of the most vital pieces to a healthy brain is getting a good night’s sleep. There’s no such thing as “catching up on” sleep and while it’s tempting to let kids stay up later during the break, any extreme change is going to make it that much harder to adapt after the break ends.
• Play school. Fake it ‘til you make it! Whether you’re the teacher or the pupil, keeping your child in school mode can do wonders over the break. Having a special project completely directed by your child’s interest and creativity can provide direction. Give them plenty of supplies, a space of their own and invite over a couple classmates. It’ll keep them busy in a way that doesn’t drain their brain – or your energy!