School is out for summer, meaning that many children who have learned a daily routine will have three full months of down time. Although this may be the most exciting thing for the kids since the invention of Cheese Whiz, parents often dread the last day of school. Summer break means finding activities to keep the kids occupied both mentally and physically. These activities can be very time consuming and expensive. Day care tuition prices are often on the rise and, while horseback riding, private tutoring and overnight summer camps are great activities, they may burn a deep hole in your pocket by the time summer ends.
It is important for children to maintain a routine in the summer that allows them to have fun and keep up with their academic endeavors. Staying mentally stimulated on a daily basis is vital for children. Taking three months off from reading, learning and writing can cause academic challenges when they go back to school in the fall.
Cognitive games are a great way for kids to practice their cognitive skills while having fun. These days, kids are used to electronic learning, so downloading apps on iPhone or iPad is a great way to engage children during the summer. Below is a list of free apps that focus on cognition.
Samorost 2 is a visually graphic, point-and-click game, in which children can journey through strange worlds while testing and strengthening nonverbal reasoning abilities.
Blockout is a game that develops visual spacial skills, planning, attention and visual processing.
Set is a card game that now offers some free online challenges. The New York Times also offers Set challenges.This game develops visual processing, sequential processing, planning and time-management skills when playing with others. Consider purchasing the card game, because it is a blast to play with others.
The Hardest Game in the World
This is a great but very challenging game that strengthens visual-spatial skills, fine motor dexterity, planning and patience.
This is a visually graphic game that will help children to develop spatial skills, planning and patience.
The iTunes app store offers other free, interactive, educational games for children.
As always, games do not have to be played on an electronic device. Board games and card games are just as good at helping children to focus and improve their cognitive skills. Colorku is “The Color Sudoku Puzzle,” in which children use colorful wooden balls instead of numbers to solve Sudoku puzzles. Colorku comes with 81 colored balls in nine different colors and a 13.5-inch game board, all made from high-quality, solid wood. Pix Mix, Q-bitz and Qwirkle are fun cognitive board games that focus on visual-spatial skills, critical thinking and strategy development.
Reading for enjoyment
Reading books is also one of the best educational hobbies to do during the summer and the school year. Children often do not get to read for fun during the school year because they are so bogged down by school work. Used bookstores and libraries are great resources to pick up books to read. A good bonding activity is for the parents and kids to each read the book separately and then have a discussion about it; similar to a book club.
Educational day trips
Visit educational places like the science museum, the planetarium, aquarium and nature centers, where kids can learn and explore and, at the same time, get out of the house. Many of these places in the summer have free days or discount days. Check with the local city to see when these days are offered.
Joining a sports team in the summer can help kids become more physically active and simultaneously help build teamwork. Teaching children to swim also builds confidence, promotes fitness and can help prevent drowning accidents. Organizations such as the YMCA offer team sports and swimming classes for affordable prices.
Learning from nature
Arrange an “adventure” or “exploration” and take pictures of or collect objects from nature. The beach, a nature hike, tide pools or a park are great places to find things like rocks, shells, acorns and other things. Afterward, have fun looking up the names of each of the items and learning about them.
Go on a vacation. Kids remember great vacations for the rest of their lives. Family vacations can elicit family bonding, and a sense of adventure. Bring a book or an educational game on vacation. Go camping or stay at a bed-and-breakfast or an Airbnb to save a little of money.
Summer is one of the best times of the year for kids, but it can be one of the most stressful for parents. Keep in mind that keeping a routine is one of the most important things to keep kids on track. Developing an activity and educational plan during the summer can help kids get a jump-start on school in the fall and stay out of trouble in the summer.
Sovereign Health Group understands the importance of developing healthy habits at all ages. In its brain wellness program, Sovereign addresses the cognitive component to addiction and mental health, while teaching the holistic practices that lead to physical, mental and emotional well-being — including nutrition, sleep, physical activity and supportive relationships. For information, please contact 888-530-4614.
Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer