Fun ways to stop summer brain drain - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

Fun ways to stop summer brain drain

Games can stimulate your child's mind during the long summer break. Games can stimulate your child's mind during the long summer break.

Preparing for back-to-school season is more than just shopping for classroom supplies and new clothes. During summer vacation, kids can experience a month or more of learning loss. As a parent, you can halt the summer brain drain and give your kids the brain boost they need to prepare them for the upcoming school year.

Exercising the brain doesn't need to be something boring that kids dread. With some creative ideas, you can encourage your children to have fun and the education will come naturally.

Smart idea 1: Scavenger hunt

A family scavenger hunt can make for a fun afternoon activity full of education and a bit of friendly competition. For smaller children, focusing on counting skills can be a good way to add education to the activity. Have them look for things like five red rocks, three yellow leaves and one penny. For older kids, make nature your inspiration and have them seek more specific items, such as a certain type of tree leaf, a specific flower or a bird feather from a popular local bird. Arm them with a nature book or diagram so they can learn about each item as they look for it.

The great thing about scavenger hunts is they can be done anywhere. Stay close to home and have the hunt in your neighborhood, head to your local nature center, or plan a special scavenger hunt on your next family vacation. You may even offer a prize for participants such as a book or a special item for school.

Smart idea 2: Board games

Recent research has acknowledged the significant benefits that board games have, not only on children's cognitive development and their brain's motor functions, but also on important life skills such as patience, cooperation, concentration, teamwork and perseverance.

"We find that game play enhances many cognitive functions, including visual discrimination, visual span, visual processing speed, visual-motor integration and visual sustained attention," says Jason Pine, president and founder of the national after-school program Sharp as a Tack. "It is astounding how much progress each student makes in terms of cognitive processing speed in just one session! You can see the transformation in their eyes and body language."

Smart idea 3: Crafts that teach

Encouraging kids to be creative and use their imagination is a great way to have a blast while exercising that brain muscle. If your child has an interest in a certain type of art or craft, encourage him to explore it throughout the summer. From writing poetry to sketching flowers, you'll be amazed to see their talent develop. Here are three fun educational crafting ideas:

- Make puppets and plan a puppet show. You can create your own storyline and characters or choose from a favorite play or movie. Put the show on for the neighbors or family.

- Make learning about nature fun by incorporating crafting. For example, pick up leaves that have dropped and create nature rubbings by putting the leaves between two pieces of paper and rubbing with crayon. Collages that feature natural treasures are always fun as well.

- Encourage kids to write in a daily journal throughout summer and keep small mementos from their favorite activities. Each week go through the journal and add to a scrapbook that will serve as a great reminder of summer 2011 after they head back to school.

From playing games to making crafts, with these fun activities, your kids will be learning and preparing their brains for back-to-school without even realizing it. Summer will be a blast and heading back to school prepared will benefit you both.

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