When the summer vacations begin they thrill us with the possibility of change and evolution that they hold. Even before the vacations begin we eagerly sign children up for activities and camps hoping that the activities and camps will build our children’s brains.
But do children really need all these activities for their brains to grow?
Or do they need downtime to recharge during the vacations?
Actually they need both. But most of all they need an environment where they are not being asked to hurry up, not being scolded for sleeping late and not being nagged for moving too slowly for adult tastes.
10 Things that will build your child’s brain during the vacations
As parents what we worry the most about how to keep our children entertained. But while scheduling multiple activities for our children assuages our guilt as parents – it teaches our children that boredom is unacceptable.
It is this fear of boredom that has resulted in children lacking patience and perseverance.
The only way to excel at something, the only way to succeed at something – is to put in hours of practice. And practice is boring.
A child who cannot endure boredom, a child who needs constant excitement and stimulation – will find it difficult to succeed because she/he cannot endure the boredom of practicing.
Do not try to entertain your child in the holidays. Allow your child to get bored.
Also read Allow Your Child to get Bored – for these 7 amazing reasons
Organised games are useful when your child needs to learn a sport. But free play is crucial to build the brain.
During free play – the child has the opportunity to decide what she/he truly wants to do. She/he has the opportunity to decide – whether he/she wants to play alone or with someone else, whom she/he wants to play with, what she/he wants to play and for how long.
Free play is your child’s opportunity to learn decision making. And also to take up tasks that offer just the right amount of challenge.
Don’t plan every minute of your child’s day. Allow her/him to make decisions about her/his time and learn from them.
Also read Is your child too busy and over-scheduled?
The most important thing a child needs is self-belief and self-confidence.
A great brain is of no use if it is owned by a person who does not believe in her/his own ability and has low self-esteem.
Make your child feel important and worthwhile by giving her/him your undivided attention.
Listen to what your child has to say with full focus. And answer the questions she/he asks you with enthusiasm.
When you listen to your child it builds self-esteem. When you answer your child’s questions it builds her/his self-confidence.
Don’t plan trips that are so hectic that you have no time to focus on your child.
Wherever you go and whatever you do – whether you are taking a walk in the garden or walking on a beach in Hawai – make sure you have the time to give your child your undivided attention.
Of course you love your child. But how many times do you show it?
It is not enough to love your child. It is important to show it.
Hug, kiss, sit close, laugh together, snuggle together in bed and look into your child’s eyes whenever you talk.
All the above actions get the hormone of love – Oxytocin – into circulation and makes your child emotionally secure.
The fear of failure is the primary obstacle to success. And most children fear failure because they think that if they fail they will lose our love. When we show our children that we love them, we build emotional security. And emotionally secure children recover easily from failure.
Use the time the vacations offer to have conversations that are not transactional or instructional. Convey your unconditional love in every conversation. Make it your agenda to tell your child that you will love her/him no matter what.
Use the leisure of the vacation to rid your child of the fear of failure.
Remember that those who are afraid of failing can never succeed.
A period of doing nothing and thinking nothing is essential to feel motivated.
Don’t think your child is wasting time when she/he does nothing.
Doing nothing makes the brain crave the excitement hormone Dopamine and prompts us to do things.
A child who has rested enough will make plans like “Let’s make a sand castle” “Let’s climb that mountain” and so on – without any prompting from you. On the other hand – if your child has not had enough rest – you will be struggling to drag your child to the breakfast table from the bedroom.
Allowing children to do nothing – is the secret to having happy self-motivated children who need not be pushed to do things.
Doing things without pausing to think – can never result in excellence. It will just result in mediocrity.
Also read My Kid Sleeps In The Class. What Should I Do?
A dose of greenery and fresh air
Trees, green grass, blue skies and fresh air bring down stress levels like nothing else can.
And children need generous doses of all these because the sad truth is that in today’s time of competitive parenting they are under considerable stress.
Plan a holiday where your child wakes up to the chirping of birds. Spend time just drinking in the vastness of nature. Reduce your child’s stress levels and your own by breathing in deeply and allowing yourself to realize that there is more than enough for all of us in this world. And that it is not essential to compete for everything all the time.
Allow your heart to fill with gratitude for everything that you have and teach your child to be grateful for small things (which are actually massive) – like the fact the sun rises everyday.
Also read Academic Pressure :15 Ways To Manage Pressure Of Studies In Students
Time to build attention and concentration
Apples had been falling from trees for years – but it was only when Newton decided to spend time lazing under the tree one day – that he noticed it falling. And the rest is history.
Things happen all around us every day and all the time. But when we constantly have something to do and have somewhere to go we do not pay attention to these things. We just feel annoyed and frustrated and stressed. And we block the sensations of sight and sound coming into our brain – in order to reduce our stress.
But children who block the entry of sensations into their brains become slow learners. Because rapid learning is a result of keen observation.
In a class of 30 children where the teacher is teaching all the children the same thing – one child learns much more than what is taught and another child struggles to learn what is being taught. Why is that? It is because the first child can observe and listen much better than the second child
This holiday – try to build your child’s powers of observation by planning an activity like bird watching or dry leaf collecting. Help your child to notice fleeting things like the chirping of a bird before it flies away. And the beauty of leaves that are no longer green and may look like trash when you are busy – but like magnificent pieces of art when you have the time to notice.
Hoarding accumulates negative energy and makes you cranky and irritable because you are constantly struggling to find things and tidy up.
Letting go makes space for positive energy to flow in because when you do not have to waste time finding things and complaining about the house being untidy – you can actually spend time doing something creative and connecting with each other
Most households suffer from excess. We have much more than we need. Our children have more clothes than they can wear, more toys than they can play with and more stationery than they can use.
Spend time going through old things with the idea of finding new homes for them.
As you declutter – remember all the good things that you did with those things. Relive the memories of playing with the toys that your child has outgrown. Talk about the fun times you had when she/he was that age. Tell your child how amazingly cute she/he looked in that old dress.
Children love to remember happy times when they were younger. And with your participation – the process of clearing space in your house can turn into a beautiful bonding activity.
After you declutter – don’t just drop everything into the garbage can. Brainstorm on who may need these things that you don’t need anymore. They could be friends, relatives or the lesser privileged. Clean and iron the clothes you are discarding, wash the toys you no longer need. Make a ritual of going to the person you have identified and sharing with her/him the things you don’t need. That will make decluttering a joyous experience.
There is great comfort in continuity and constancy.
While every vacation must be different from others – there must also be elements of similarity because repetition is comforting. Knowing what needs to be done, knowing how to do it and doing it exactly the way you have before can bring great joy.
Have a vacation ritual and do it every year.
Plan something like mango plucking or making a small jar of pickle together over several days which you can enjoy together when the holidays are over.
When children are going through stress and feel like their whole world is falling apart, these rituals can bring them great comfort.
A journal of Happy memories
It is easy to forget happy times and remember only unhappy times unless we really make an effort.
Children need to be shown how to relive good times and be grateful for everything good that happens every day.
Creating a scrap book is a great way of doing that.
At the end of every day pick up a glue stick and stick the scraps of the wonderful day spent during the holidays in the book. What you stick could be a leaf that you found when you went for a walk, a ticket that you bought to watch a movie or the wrapper of a chocolate that you shared.
Write a caption with the date and a small description and your child will have storehouse of great memories ready to flip through when school begins again.
The vacations are a time to recharge – to give in to laziness – to indulge in impulsive behavior and to be agenda free.
Give your child a vacation free of targets and expectations. That is the right way to build your child’s brain power in the holidays.