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Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

If you are trying to find fun activities for your children this summer, but want the extra added bonus of a great brain workout, we have 6 great ideas. These 6 activities can help improve your child’s reading, comprehension, attention, and academic success. Start now and give them that extra brain power before they go back to school in the fall!

  1. Ping Pong

Believe it or not, ping pong is more than just an activity for your child’s game room and for family parties. A fun and competitive game of table tennis with your child improves his or her motor skills and can enhance coordination and balance, which plays a key role in making the right and left sides of the brain work together. It’s the perfect combination for breaking a physical sweat as well as a mental sweat. Recent studies show ping pong can invigorate the brain and improves concentration. Like chess, it uses the prefrontal cortex for strategic planning and allows us to form and retain long-term facts and events. So next time your child is bored or it’s too hot to play outside, grab the paddles and challenge them to a ping pong match.

  1. Swimming

Hitting the pool on a hot sunny day offers more benefits than just keeping cool this summer. Any kind of aerobic exercise is great for improving your child’s brain activity, but swimming is especially good for children who may experience Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression. Swimming both stretches and relaxes skeletal muscles while creating deep-rhythmic breathing patterns. It also allows the body to perform motor operations and cross-patterning movements that are different from walking and running. The body and muscle confusion that comes with swimming teaches the brain to receive messages that makes it think. Kids as young as 3 months old who swim consistently become stronger and more coordinated, which creates higher academic achievement. So don’t wait! Sign your kids up for swimming lessons this summer.

  1. Become the Class Clown?

Don’t encourage your child to join the circus just yet. While a big red nose and big floppy shoes might be entertaining, it’s juggling that actually makes areas of your brain grow. According to a 2013 study in the journal Nature, non-jugglers who practiced the tricky activity for 3 months showed increases in gray matter in the mid-temporal area, which is responsible for visual and motor activity. This suggests juggling grows brain networks and can improve learning, memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Next time your child feels like “clowning around,” have them do a few juggling exercises to give their brain a mental workout.

  1. Dancing

Yes, that’s right! When your child starts tapping their feet, busts a move on the dance floor, or shows off his or her footwork on Dance Dance Revolution, it’s building their brain power. Dancing not only helps the brain with forethought and judgment, but also produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps neurons communicate more effectively. Studies show different types of dancing blends cerebral and cognitive thought processes with muscle memory and proprioception held in the cerebellum. Dancing at least once a week can maximize anyone’s brain function and creates social interactions that provide nutrients to brain cells. So if you see your child grooving to a beat or bopping out to their iTunes, think about signing them up for a hip-hop class or ballet to get that brain moving! Don’t forget, music is also critical for improving brain development.

  1. Puzzles and Board Games

This seems simple of course, but encouraging your children to do puzzles and play games that stimulate the mind with new words, new languages, word games, numbers, and strategy allows them to recognize, remember, and understand new ideas and concepts. This can dramatically help them in their cognitive development when it comes to reading, spelling, and writing, while making it a fun and challenging learning environment. Imagine how much your child’s vocabulary and knowledge of new words and grammatical skills are enhanced when the mind is challenged.

  1. Switch it up!

Our main goal is to get the left and right hemispheres of the brain working together to produce maximized results for learning and academic growth. One way to accomplish this is to encourage your children to switch it up. Each child has a dominant side, whether it be right or left handed, right or left eye dominant, or right or left leg dominant. Make a game out of it this summer by helping your child to strengthen his or her weaker side. If they are right handed, have them brush their teeth with their left hand. If they kick a soccer ball with their left leg, have them try out their right. Switching up your child’s everyday tasks forces the brain to compensate and allows them to focus on strengthening their hand-eye coordination. These types of challenges can build new associations between different neural connections of the brain.

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