WHEN I FIRST had the twins, my mom would say, “Have a schedule for them, or they’ll have a schedule for you.” Basically, she was cautioning that I’d better keep those little minds and bodies active, or chaos would inevitably ensue. Being a mother of eight children, I think she was speaking from personal experience. So, during the summer, having a schedule for the “body” part is easy. We take the kids to the playground; we play sports; we go for a swim; we ride bicycles … anything to keep them moving so that at the end of the long summer day, they are tired and ready to hit the pillow for a good night’s sleep.
But what about the mind? Here are a few ways we are keeping our kids’ brains turning all summer with things that they not only enjoy, but that they also find rewarding and fun:
• Regular trips to the library, where they each get to pick two books on their own. This is quite the process for four kids (I’m pretty sure the librarians get a kick out of me saying “Use your inside voice” about a million times), but it’s a fun way to help them further discover the joys of reading.
• Taking turns reading aloud. This ritual is usually done before bed. Since there’s no homework during the summer, it’s easier to fit this tradition into the nighttime routine, and the kids love it. Whoever’s turn it is to read gets to pick the book, and so they feel empowered as well as excited.
• Games that don’t involve an electronic device. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having fun on the Wii or tablet, but there’s something to be said about games that inspire you to make eye contact with the other players. I can’t tell you how many roaring rounds of Old Maid and Go Fish we’ve enjoyed. This summer, we are also teaching our kids the basics of chess. This game challenges them while helping them learn how to plan ahead and strategize.
• Science and discovery. Having four kids ages eight, six, and five, we get a lot of questions in our household. They might ask, “Mom, how many stars are in the sky?” Or, “Do tornadoes ever happen in Florida?” Or, “How are diamonds made?” These are questions where — instead of giving them a one-sentence generalized response — I reply, “Let’s research that together.” So, we take out the smartphone and fire up the Internet search engine on a digital expedition of discovery. If they find a topic that piques their interest, then I tell them we can find a book about it at the library during our next trip. (That really gets their minds moving!)
• Penmanship and communication practice with heart. Another mental activity we are doing this summer is practicing our penmanship and communication. Together, we’ve made a list of people they want to write to, and each of the kids are writing at least two letters a week. We also discuss what we will write beforehand, so they are excited to share their “good news” with their intended recipient before their pencil touches the paper.
These simple mental exercises keep their minds active, just like an hour outside keeps their bodies in shape. Thanks for reading Central Florida Health News, and I hope you have a safe and active summer!
column by CELESTE JO WALLS
Celeste Jo Walls is managing editor of Central Florida Health News. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.