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10 Things You Can Do with Your Kids this Summer to Keep Their Brains Developing

Activities, Summer
5 min read

Summer’s here and school is out (or will be very shortly), so what summer activities can we do to keep our kids’ brains developing?  

Here are 10 things that are brain-nurturing, fun and, most importantly, don’t look anything like school, to do this summer.

1. Play Simons Says.

In Simon Says, one person is Simon. Simon gives directions, starting with the words “Simon Says.” For example, “Simon says jump three times.” Which everyone must then do. If Simon gives a direction without saying, “Simon Says,” first, then the direction is void and anyone who forgets and does it anyway is “out.” This simple game develops inhibitory control, the cognitive skill we use when we stop ourselves from doing someone we otherwise would do.

2. Take an Adventure Walk.

This was a big favorite for my kids growing up. It’s really just a walk but the kids take turns deciding which direction to turn at the end of each block. This develops directionality (a sense of direction) as the kids try to keep track of where they are and how they would get home again.

mother son

3. Have a “scavenger hunt.”

This doesn’t have to involve knocking on strangers’ doors. Pick a list of things that can be found or just seen on a walk in the neighborhood. The kids keep a list and check off the items as they see or find them. This activity helps develop attention, visual processing and working memory.

4. Plant something (summer vegetables or flowers)

Even a small pot will provide something to take care of. Take a picture of it once a week and write a story about its progress. Even if it dies it can be an interesting story. This is good for observational skills and storytelling.

mon daughter
Smiling young mother gathering fresh kale with her daughter. Happy single mother picking fresh vegetables from an organic garden. Self-sustainable family harvesting fresh produce on their farm.

5. Create your own jigsaw puzzle.

Draw a picture on a piece of cardboard and then cut it into pieces. If adults are wielding the scissors, have your child draw on the back of the cardboard the shapes to cut the pieces into. Then see if you can put it back together! Jigsaw puzzles develop spatial perception, especially when you create your own.

6. Measure their height.

At the beginning of the summer and predict what it will be at the end of the summer. Measure your height again at the end of the summer. How good was your prediction? Good for estimating and measuring.

Dad measuring child
Dad measures growth of her child daughter at blank white brick wall

7. Play tic tac toe outdoors.

Use masking tapes or pieces of string to create the gridlines. Color paper plates with Xs and Os. Staple two plates together so that it can be tossed like a frisbee. Stand outside the grid and toss your frisbee. You have to get it into an empty square. Aiming your paper plate with your X or O develops spatial perception and the tic tac toe game itself develops attention and strategy.

8. Let the kids plan a day.

Give them a budget – as low as $0. Why this is good for your brain? It develops planning and collaboration skills if they are working with siblings. If the budget is something greater than 0, then a little math may be needed as well.

9. Let your child plan and prepare a meal (or maybe one dish, if they are young).

You’ll find lots of kid-friendly recipes online – something as simple as putting a few pieces of fruit on a toothpick can count as preparing. This can help with planning skills, attention, timing, and, again, some math comes in when you have to multiply a recipe for the number of family members who need to be fed.


10. Design a statue.

In this activity, we look into the future and decide on what we will have done someday that makes us famous. The mayor of our town has commissioned a statue and we get to design it. Draw it or build it out of sugar cubes or modeling clay or LEGOs. Creating a vision of what we can accomplish one day is great for our brains!

Wishing you all a fantastic summer!

Betsy Hill is President of BrainWare Learning Company, a company that builds learning capacity through the practical application of neuroscience. She is the mother of three boys and an award-winning educator.

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