Summertime seems like the perfect time to forget about learning and just enjoy the nice weather. And yet I’m writing this article about research on the how the human brain connects to learning. According to recent studies, we learn the best when learning is connected to emotion and when it makes sense to us. And in summer we do lots of things that make us happy and make sense to us, don’t we? So let’s use that to our advantage!
Holidays are not only a great time for having amazing experiences, but also for talking about them. Talking about what experiences you had or will have can help us develop and understand our children’s emotional intelligence. Knowing how certain activities made your kids feel can give you insight into how they processed it.
Try creating a summer diary together. It may seem like nothing new - why reinvent the wheel? But your summer diary can be unique in many ways. For example, have children draw what they see in nature, and glue pieces of moss or pretty stones on the cover to make it look extra magical. If you go on a summer holiday, let interesting people you meet write notes in the diary for you to read later. You can even impress the paw print of a dog you made friends with on a blank page. Later, use the diaries to talk about what kids learned and experienced during the summer. By reliving it, they will remember it better and the emotions connected to it.
According to many studies, laughing decreases stress, strengthens the immune system, and what’s more, humor improves learning. I’ll always remember that the best teachers I had were those who made me laugh. And summer is the perfect time for some crazy fun! When you go on a trip, tell each other jokes and fun stories and sing funny songs. You can change your voice according to various roles – sing like a pig, an old witch, a snobby princess, or someone with a cold. You can also imagine what animals say to each other and try to have a dialog with them. Tweet at birds, bark at dogs. Don’t be afraid to be super silly and laugh together.
Physical activity in nature is not only good for the body, but also for the brain. Physical activity releases adrenaline, which improves our mood and sharpens our senses. Nowadays we tend to be a bit overprotective of kids outsides, making sure they don’t get harmed, dirty and so on. But we should remember that these things (to a reasonable degree) are good for kids. According to a 2015 study, climbing trees or walking on a log improves cognitive functions in the brain. Scientists believe that one reason for this is that during such an activity, we need to constantly use both brain hemispheres. So, want to improve your and your children’s short-term memory? Climb a tree!
Kids can train their brains by being involved with planning trips. Vacations and longer trips will probably be planned by you, but there are smaller day or two-day trips that would be fun to plan together. Show kids a local map and decide where you could go. The best thing to do is limit the options to a maximum of three options, because choosing from a wide variety is quite difficult for a child’s brain. Find pictures of interesting places on the internet or in a guidebook and think about what you could do and experience there. Kids will really look forward to a trip they were involved in planning.
It’s a well-known fact that we learn the best when we use all our senses - and summer is the perfect time to try this. There are so many colors, smells, and sounds to take in. Smells are just as important as colors, and some can really facilitate relaxation (e.g. lavender and lemon balm), while other scents energize us (e.g. citrus). The next time you go outside or for a walk in the woods, have your kids close their eyes and tell you what they can smell. You can also pick some nice-smelling herbs, hide them in boxes, and turn it into a smell guessing-game.
Part of our intelligence lies in being able to identify various patterns around us and their connections, whether they are language patterns or mathematical relationships. Nature is full of these patterns. Explore which patterns are made by dropping something in water, how scales on a pinecone are organized, or which routes ants take on the ground. Have kids write down all of their discoveries in their summer diary.
We wish you a summer full of amazing experiences, tree climbing, beautiful smells, and laughter.
Bergland, Christopher (2015).Want to Improve Your Cognitive Abilities? Go Climb a Tree! [Online]. In Psychologytoday.com.
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