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Summer Brain Health Survival Guide

With the warmth in the air and the school year just three weeks away from coming to a close, it’s helpful to start planning for the summer.

While some families chose to register the kids for camp to keep their schedules busy (check out our camp, “Ready, Set, Grow”, which focuses on outside natural play, yoga and hands-on academic learning), other families choose to free themselves from the web of a busy schedule so they can spend more time together and, hopefully, relax!

Whatever category you fall in, kids do well with routine and rhythm. It helps them understand and visualize what is next to come, to be more independent in getting ready and can eliminate any transitional issues.

Children are also visual learners. They are continually using their eyes to take in the environment and plan around them. Consider making a visual schedule: a daily checklist or monthly calendar to schedule out vacations and summer commitments. This will keep them excited, with anticipation for what is ahead during their summer break.

Some parents are surprised when behaviors increase during the months of July and August. The unpredictability of the summer days and the lack of structure can really trigger children, especially children who tend to be more anxious or sensitive to their environments. Having a semblance of a routine, prepared games or outings will help curb negative behaviors due to restlessness.

When considering the routine or schedule of the summer, make sure to include at least one or two activities a day. Connecting with nature and getting daily movement is so important for brain health and overall child development, and there is no better time to take advantage of this than during the summer months. Children learn more when they are learning with their whole body. Take a nature walk and try to point out various animals, insects and plants you see, or spend time gardening with your children, who will also enjoy eating the plants they sow (see our blog on gardening).

You can also encourage children’s independence in their own skills during the summer when there is less of a rush to get to activities. Allow them to get dressed or ready on their own, or take part in the chores or cook with you.  This will not only be great for your relationship with your child, but it can really help with the transition to smooth mornings during the school year.

While you may be discouraged from trying out these suggestions because of difficulty in scheduling your child in the past, I urge you to really evaluate your home environment and, at the very least, try to implement some of these healthy activity suggestions. Brain health in our society is truly not taken as seriously as it should be. Children are over-stimulated and programmed to crave video games and technology. They are over-scheduled, and over-stressed. A great read or audio book download I recommend is “Simplicity Parenting” by Ki John Payne. I personally feel this book does a great job explaining the brain health and environmental changes we work on during our Brain Health programs.

Additionally, I encourage you to consider buying a technology monitoring device, such as Disney Circle. This device monitors the entire families devices, calculates how much time each device is spending on a variety of apps and social media networks. It also calculates usage for individuals and can pause the internet for a single device.

Screen time is difficult to navigate in todays world because it is so accessible, and at time necessary. Limiting screens can mean impacting your child’s social communication with others. At the same time, there are no longitudinal studies of the effects of all the light and screen stimulation. However, it is known that EMF’s are associated with cancer rates, and over-usage of video games and screens impacts sleep quality, behavior, mood, focus and brain health.

The truth is that summer has arrived and we should all enjoy this special time that we look forward to during often long and difficult winter months. As parents, I encourage you to take an active role in planning fun activities with the whole family this summer. Create a visual calendar of both events and commitments so your children know what to expect and also have things to look forward to. Brainstorm activities which you can do together in good and bad weather. Include your children in on what you are doing as well, like gardening or cooking. Take them out on exploratory walks and encourage learning in everyday life. And most of all, try to limit screen-time, utilizing it when acceptable and beneficial, not just when convenient.

Be Well,

Katie Gately
Behaved Brain Wellness Center
Healthier Kids – Happier Parents