5 fun activities to help build your child’s brain over the holidays

Winter has finally arrived, at least for many of us, and you’re probably already in holiday mode and looking for great deals on toys, electronics, and games for your kids, or perhaps a niece or nephew. One word of advice this holiday season: ditch the brain games! But why? Brain games are supposed to make your kids smarter right?

I know, it’s so easy and convenient to buy your kids board games, the latest and greatest video game on the market, or a new iPad for fun apps and games to keep them quiet at restaurants. However, studies and physicians are now saying those types of activities are actually making kids “dumber” rather than smarter. I can already hear you saying, “What are you talking about, I only have educational games on my iPad, or that video game can help with critical thinking and problem solving skills. How could that possibly not help my child learn?”

Guest post by Integrated Learning Strategies

The foundation uses a multi-sensory approach to instruction that combines music, movement, brain integration, and cognitive development. This story originally appeared at the ILS blog.

While those fun educational games on your iPad are still a good resource for learning, and that video game could potentially create opportunities for critical thinking, the real gift you should buy this holiday season is the gift of movement. Studies show children who are less active actually perform worse on tests and have lower academic scores than their more active counterparts. Not to mention, kids who show tendencies of behavioral issues, ADHD, lack of focus, and other attention challenges are many times those that are less active. To feed the brain with knowledge and growth, kids need an active body.

So, why not buy your kids toys and activities that get them running, jumping, skipping, throwing, and kicking this year? I know our natural instinct is to wait out the stormy days and hibernate until spring, but winter can be a great time to keep kids active. Buy them a jump rope, chalk for hopscotch, skis for those of you who live in snowy areas, soccer balls, baseballs, and gymnastics lessons. If you want some fun activities, here are a few that can directly affect your child’s ability to listen to the teacher, focus on subjects in school, control behavior, and process the homework they are given.

  1. Start a snowball fight: Physical skills developed include throwing; also develops better attention, such as sitting in the chair, listening to the teacher, or completing a test without getting distracted.
  2. Build a snowman: Physical skills developed include digging and rolling; also develops improved vestibular system for tracking words on a page, writing letters, and sounding out words.
  3. Skiing or snowshoeing: Physical skills developed include legs moving back and forth; also develops enhanced left and right sides of the brain used for solving math problems, factoring equations, and critical thinking.
  4. Build a snow fort: Physical skills developed include packing, crafting, tactile; also develops improved fine motor skills for holding a pencil, painting, handwriting, and typing.
  5. Going to the playground: Physical skills developed include sliding, monkey bars, climbing; also develops better sensory input and output which prevents clumsiness, anxiety, depression, anger outbursts, and awkward social encounters with peers.

For some children, barriers to learning can be removed with appropriate educational input, but children with behavior issues or those who aren’t challenged enough, are less likely to reap long term benefits from traditional educational responses.

So this holiday season, don’t give up on the brain games completely, but mix it up with some toys and activities to keep your kids active and you’ll begin to see the difference. The goal is to not only make them smarter, but keep them happier, more self-confident, and interactive with their peers and teachers.

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