Summer is here, and the cries of “I’m bored” and “there’s nothing to do” have already started, barely days into your kid’s supposed favorite time of the year. It’s an annual ritual; the wave of excitement for the coming long days and warm night soon turns to the dread of the inevitable return to the classroom.
Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) has been developing products for decades to help kids (as well as adults) improve memory, concentration and overall brain function, while also helping to reduce stress, auditory processing and speech disorders, and deal with the symptoms of autism, ADD and ADHD among others. The Listening Program® (TLP) is a music listening method, personalized for each listener to improve brain health, at any age or level of ability. Used and trusted by hundreds of thousands of people in over 35 countries, TLP is offered through an international network of trained ABT providers.
To help you through these months, our providers suggest the following ideas to keep your kids engaged, so when that school bell rings again, they’ll be ahead of the game.
When you hear “I’m bored”
“In my personal and professional experience, the phrase ‘I’m bored’ expressed by a child rarely means what we adults think it means,” says Kellie Huff, CCC-SLP and President of Aurora Strategies in Norcross, GA.
One of the best suggestions Kellie has for parents is to create a “Boredom Box” filled with activities. The trick is to fill the box or jar with fun activities as well as chores. She calls them “creativity starters”. When a child says “I’m bored”, it’s time to choose an activity. They may choose a fun idea, or they may get stuck washing windows or putting dishes away.
Schedule and Structure
School is a very structured setting and often summertime means no structure whatsoever. Many of our providers suggest creating a schedule for summer days and sticking to it as much as possible.
Pamela Torres, ABT Provider in Sunnyvale, TX, says creating visual schedules can help your kids to know in advance what to expect each day. She recommends the web site www.boardmakeronline.com which has free options for creating visual schedules.
Jeanne Kennedy has used incentives to keep kids interested in completing routine tasks. Buy a roll of event tickets from a party store, and give them out after the child completes certain tasks. As the child accumulates tickets, he or she can redeem them for various rewards such as frozen yogurt, a night at the movies, etc.
Pat Mattas, a Provider in Plainville, CT, suggests finding a healthy balance between different activities. Make sure there is time for “work” activities such as chores, “play” activities such as bike riding or free play time, and “learning” activities like reading, visiting a new museum, going to the fire station, etc.
Pamela Torres recommends adding “downtime” specifically to your child’s schedule. This way, you will treat it as an equal to all of the other activities you are doing throughout the week. Provide them with a quiet space to have some solitary time, away from the TV, siblings and other external distractions.
Keep your kids interested in reading throughout the summer. Erica Hammon, resource teacher at Whittier Elementary School in Utah, recommends at least 15 minutes per day. Allow your child to pick out the books they would be interested in reading, while making sure the book content is both challenging, and appropriate for their age.
Erica says utilizing time in the car is a valuable way to keep kids learning. When you’re on the go, or headed on a long road trip for vacation, bring along activities for the kids that relate to academics. Instead of filling an iPad with movies, download math or spelling games. If they insist on watching videos, find fun, educational videos so they can learn at the same time. One iPad app that is recommended by Jeanne Kennedy is Thinkster Math, a subscription-based program.
Jeanne also recommends pairing academic activities with The Listening Program or other movement activities, such as The Movement Program, a brand new 12-week program from Advanced Brain and Learning Solutions in the UK. She says that immediately after doing a listening session, the child has “in essence primed their brain to take in information,” and that is a great moment to then dive into some learning activities.
Turn it off!
These days, children are drawn to video games, cell phones and TV to occupy their time. While professionals almost universally recommend limiting the amount of electronics time for children, it is especially important during the summer.
Mary Padula, MA, CCC/SLP and Neurodevelopment Program Consultant in Stow, OH, recommends a maximum of 30-60 minutes of electronics time per day. She says that when you do allow TV time, try to make it a family activity, such as movie night.
Camille Perfetto-Roldon, ABT Provider in Old Bethpage, NY, suggests making sure you are always challenging children in whatever activity they are doing. Puzzles and games such as Blokus, Kanoodle, Q-bits and board games like Stratego, chess, checkers, and Scrabble are fun to play and help develop cognitive abilities and strategic thinking. Camille also suggests changing up the rules in games to provide a new challenge to a familiar game. Allow the kids to choose the rule changes for another twist.
Kathy Johnson, provider in Saratoga Springs, NY and founder of Pyramid of Potential, echoes the sentiment that challenging kids will produce better outcomes, and suggests repetition is necessary.
“The brain creates connections and long term learning the same way that the brain creates a habit,” says Kathy. “Whatever it wants to learn must be done daily or almost daily for at least a month. You cannot create a habit of daily exercise by only exercising a couple days a week.”
She says the brain does not like boring or frustrating activities. Choosing activities that the child enjoys doing will help them develop better habits over the long term.
When kids are away from school, they often find themselves away from their classmates as well. Staying socially active is important for both parent and child, and can often help alleviate some of the stress parents feel when they must “entertain” their children all day.
Pamela Torres recommends seeking out mom or dad groups in your area to connect with other parents who have similar-age children. Create weekly get-togethers and take turns creating the activities for that time. This creates variety and interest for the kids (“What are we doing THIS week?!”) and gives some support to the parent to help make the seemingly-endless summer a little easier.
Jane Davis recommends group activities as much as possible, even if it’s within the family. Games like charades and Pictionary are great social activities that the whole family can do together.
Have some fun!
While schedules and chores should be a big part of your child’s summer, make sure to save time for good old fashioned fun. These fun activities can still incorporate stealth brain-enhancing activities, however. Shoshana Shamberg, OT, MS, FAOTA and ABT Provider in Baltimore, MD, says you should give your kids multisensory experiences. Find different types of material on which to draw or paint, such as aluminum foil, cardboard or cardstock paper, sandpaper, wood boards, etc. Let them try using different materials to draw with as well, like paints, crayons, sand or mud, and even whipped cream. You can also create your own materials. Find recipes here that Shoshana has put together for playdough, silly putty, paper mache, etc.
Kate Wilde, ABT Provider and Director of the Son-Rise Program, has produced dozens of YouTube videos that teach fun movement activities for kids to do throughout the summer. Head on over to their YouTube channel to start watching!
The Movement Program is another fun activity for kids to participate in, while helping to train their brain at the same time. TMP is a 12-week program that has been proven to increase academic performance in school-age kids. If started at the beginning of summer, the changes your child could see at the end of the program coincide perfectly with the beginning of the new school year and could really make a difference in their performance in the classroom. Plus, it gets them up off the couch, following direction, and doing some exercise!
With these suggestions, and a little pre-planning, you will have a summer filled with new memories, happy kids, calm and peaceful households, and better academic performance the following year.