Summer is upon us, and the first thing that you and your kids are thinking about is how to further develop executive function while school is out, right? It’s actually easier than you think. The summer is a great opportunity to show your kids that projects and difficult challenges are not just for the school year. Here are a few (truly) fun ways to keep you and your kids sharp over the dog days ahead.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Many of us parents arrange summer activities for our children without much thought to how instructive it can be for our children to make their own plans. I do this all the time, my child tells me what they’d like to do, and I send the texts, arrange the timing, figure out the transportation, check the weather, and then let them know what Concierge Mom has accomplished. This is a perfect example of a multi-step process with lots of variables and dependencies and the perfect opportunity for your child to learn to do this for his or herself. Even if your child is not yet able to fully plan, involve her in the planning process. Tell him the steps you take, the dependencies and variables you weigh, and ask him to reason with you to find the best plan. Not only does the child appreciate the control over their schedule, but they also get to experience what it means to research, plan, and execute a plan—even if it’s just a playdate or a trip to the movies. This teaches kids to plan their own time, a vital skill for being an adult.
Take Me Out to the Ballpark
We, and our kids, rarely record statistics by hand anymore. And yet, the act of recording statistics takes concentration, quick thinking, good listening, and faithful recording of facts. These, it turns out, are also vital skills to have as an adult. If you like a baseball game in the long days of summer, try recording the stats on your favorite team. Get yourself one of the old school paper and pencil baseball score cards and teach your child how to record the big leagues, or the little leagues. This helps teach kids to monitor progress, take adequate notes, and remain focused on repetitive tasks.
One of the most important aspects of executive function is the ability to break down a complex problem into smaller tasks. Another is to overcome feeling overwhelmed by a difficult task, and taking action. My oldest child has a tendency to throw his hands up in the air and say (literally) “Oh, I just cannot do this. This is so hard. Why is this so hard!!?” We have all wanted to do that as recently as today, but it’s just not an adult thing to do. So, put some really fun challenges together with your child. Build a cake in a fanciful shape and decorate it. Make a robot, construct a dog house, or try the old lemonade stand project. All are excellent for distracting kids for long periods of time, just be ready to jump in and facilitate when needed.
One of my favorite sites for activities these days is http://www.makerparent.com/. It’s got spectacular projects for kids as young as one all the way up to adults.
Have a great summer, and remember to write!