How To Keep Your Kid’s Brain Active During The School Holidays!
By Matific’s Education Expert, Brent Hughes
Children are constant learning machines, continually taking in and processing new information. Every time they construct a Lego tower, climb the equipment at the park and even make a mess in the kitchen, they are creating pathways in the brain that help them develop even more skills. All this activity helps them supplement learning alongside the more formal environment of school.
Rituals and routines are important in the classroom because they provide structure and certainty for kids – but they can also help at home, and especially during the holidays. Having some rituals around eating, playtime, packing-up time, relaxation time and sleep helps create a healthy learning environment for kids. Ensuring limited but good quality screen time is also important too.
Kids are natural learners, so during the school vacation there is lots parents can do to support children’s learning. Check out some top tips below which Brent Hughes, Ex-Teacher and Education Expert for Matific, has pulled together to help them fulfil their potential out of the classroom during the holidays, and prep them to return to school hungry for more!
1. Don’t Discount The Importance Of Diet and Regular Meals
First things first, a healthy, balanced diet isn’t just good for kid’s bodies, it’s fantastic for their brains too. Making sure they eat the right foods and at regular times can improve brain function, memory, and concentration, all ensuring they are starting with the best building blocks for learning. Like the body, the brain absorbs nutrients from the foods we eat. Make sure that when the holidays arrive they don’t just gorge on treat foods but have nutritional meals too. Top foods to help kid’s grey matter include: fatty fish – (such as salmon), eggs, peanut butter, oats, berries, beans, colourful veggies, milk and yoghurt and lean beef (or a meat alternative).
2. The Wonders Of Storytime
Not just at bedtime but at any time during the day, stories have long been known to foster parent-child bonds and prepare children for sleep, but this activity also boosts your child’s brain development. Benefits of shared reading include facilitating enriched language exposure, fostering the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension and vocabulary, and establishing essential foundational literacy skills.
3. Put Screen Time To Good Use
We know how much kids love their devices, but often we don’t want our children to spend hours of time in front of the screen. Although it’s important to include a range of vacation activities, not all screen time is bad and there are tons of apps and games that help reinforce and teach maths concepts in an engaging and educational way for children. Matific Galaxy, an award-winning program (available on desktop and soon via app) allows your child to learn and love mathematics through gamified activities.
They are tasked to complete fun and stimulating activities to help save little creatures in a space-like setting that are educationally engaging. Gamifying maths has been shown by research and real-world practice to have a significant impact on maths engagement and outcomes, says Hughes. The proof is in the research, a report from Western Sydney University found an average increase of 34% between students’ pre and post-test results, and for many students the use of Matific was a significant influence on their improvement.
4. Get Messy (Creatively!)
Many parents are put off by messy play, as although the idea of crafts or finger painting sounds fun, the reality of a major post-play clean-up of the glue, paint and glitter (that inevitably gets everywhere) soon sets in. But please don’t let this deter you as it’s so important to embrace messy play as it allows children to explore and experiment with different objects and raw materials without any end goals to restrict them. Unlike toys, raw materials (paint, play dough, paste, sand etc.) enable children’s imaginations to run wild, allowing them to make their own discoveries, stimulating their curiosity and developing their knowledge.
With messy play, the sensory experience also helps children to understand their senses. By exploring how things feel, smell and taste, this type of play nurtures an awareness and understanding of the world that surrounds them.
5. Puzzle It Out
Why not revisit your old classics, and all-round family favourites, and pull out the board games? They may be oldies, but they haven’t stood the test of time for nothing – board games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Pictionary or even Snakes and Ladders are fantastic for exercising little minds (and big minds alike). Pull out a boxed game and your kids will be practising their numbers, letters and shape recognition skills, improving their hand-eye coordination and honing their visual perception and colour identification skills.
6. Incorporate Exciting Day Trips
Planning daytrips around your local area allows for interesting adventures and discoveries, and these trips don’t need to break the bank either! Many museums and galleries offer free or discounted entry for concessions and include kid-friendly zones where children can learn new things in a way that engages them. Post day trip you can plan a fun pop quiz or ‘questions about the day’ to practise what they’ve learnt too.
7. Learn An Instrument
The school holidays offer the perfect time to develop a new skill/hobby and learning a new instrument is a fantastic way to challenge the brain and reap many benefits. Learning an instrument can significantly improve both verbal memory and childhood literacy. A study by University of Liverpool, found that musical training also increases blood flow to the left hemisphere of the brain – the area responsible for language. It found that even just half an hour of simple musical training was all that was needed to increase this blood flow.