How to Avoid Brain-Drain During the Summer Holidays

by ParentalChoice
in Parenting, Holidays, Family, Children, Childcare
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We all know that our children need a break during the summer, so they come back to school refreshed and ready to learn. However, research consistently shows that children can lose up to a third of what they have learned during the holidays.

Thanks to Claire Winter and Families® Magazine here are eight great ideas to keep young brains active during the long break:

Write a Summer Bucket List

Get the kids to write a list of things they want to do during the holidays. They can create a scrapbook or document it on a computer or tablet. Get them to research where the places are and the cost of visiting. Give them extra credit for finding free activities or keeping the trip under £20. You can also get them involved in household budgeting, shopping and cooking too.

Read for Pleasure

Remind them about the wonder of books. Being told what to read at school can make it less enjoyable, so let them choose what they want to read. Oxfam has dedicated bookshops at which you can pick up teen favourites and kids books for as little as £1. You can also sign up your children for the Summer Reading challenge at the local library. This year’s theme is Mischief Makers, inspired by the classic comic, The Beano.

Get Outside

Being outdoors in new environments will keep everyone happy as well as firing up brain neurons! A study by the University of Rochester has found that spending time outdoors not only makes you happier, it also leads to an increased sense of vitality. Being in nature can also calm the mind, boost creativity and improve focus and attention.

Take a Class

Summer holiday workshops and camps can teach your children some new skills, which will also help their brains stay active. Circus skills, kayaking, and coding are all interesting options.

Create Art

Remember the holidays are supposed to be fun, so get the kids creating some fun art in the garden or kitchen. This will enhance their creativity and motor skills. Leysa Henderson, education specialist and author of Lost Lives says, “We need to encourage creativity; it could be in the form of music, movement, art or cooking. Computer games keep us passive. I’m seeing more and more passive learners in schools as teachers feel under pressure to deliver an unrealistic curriculum. Give children a chance to get it wrong as it teaches resilience to push through challenges.”

Avoid Gadgets. There are some great viral posts about this on social media, in which parents change the WiFi password at home and say to their kids they will only get it back if they tidy their rooms, read a book or go outside! You can set your own rules with this one. Most kids need an Xbox or mobile phone detox, so just set some limits on screen time and let them decide when they get to use their allocation.


You’ll be relieved to know that travel does broaden the mind. Being on holiday helps families use their brains differently. According to new research, it can trigger systems in the limbic part of the brain PLAY and SEEKING (Panksepp 2016). Play is activated when you mess around in the sea or build sandcastles. Seeking is activated when you explore and find a new rock pool to investigate or restaurant for a meal. Professor Jaak Panksepp, a world-leading neuroscientist at Washington State University, has shown that being on a family holiday can activate these systems in both adult and children’s brains. This then triggers feel-good neuro chemicals like opioids, oxytocin, and dopamine. These make parents and children feel happier and less stressed and allow them to re-connect emotionally.

Mindset Matters

Teach your children resilience and the growth mindset – for example, they aren’t good at something ‘yet.’ The fixed mindset is the belief that they can’t change or develop new or different skills, and are born clever or ‘arty’. The summer is the perfect time for them to try new things or develop existing skills and understand that you can become good at something if you practice. Children who have a growth mindset are much more likely to try a new challenge.


Claire Winter

This article has been provided by Families® Magazine, a free local magazine for parents and carers of children ages 0 to 12. Families® helps you get the best out of local family life, so find your nearest magazine here  and don’t forget to pick up a copy!


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