Dr. Lori Desautels 317-207-0336 brain@revelationsineducation.com

For Parents!! Brain Compatible Strategies for Summer Time

Summer Fun with the Brain in Mind
Summer months are typically designated times for less structure, pleasure, enjoying the outdoors and welcomed free time; but sometimes our brains feel discombobulated without a bit of structure or schedules we have been used to the other 10 months of the year! In school, at home, the pool, and playground or on vacation we are always using our brains. The brain compatible activities below are intended for parents and children or adolescents to implement so that the joy of learning, decision-making, questioning, and playing with ideas is activated during the weeks of summer break and beyond.
The activities and strategies I am going to describe include the use of story-telling, novelty, and questions. These strategies are all natural ways the brain learns, makes meaning out of real life experiences and engages the pre-frontal cortex in times of negative emotion or conflict. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that processes emotion and thought and when activated, can lessen the fight flight freeze response.

1. The Story Lady or Story Man- There is nothing more exciting for you and your children than dressing up, donning an accent, and bringing a bag of books or your own homemade stories while ringing the doorbell at your own front door. When my three children were little (and not always so young, as we kept this tradition for years) I dressed up as a funny little lady naming her Mrs. Kit Kat with a very interesting foreign accent. She surprised my three children with stories and facts about them! How could she know their names and ages? They could not believe how much I knew about their lives and interests. We shared so much laughter, questioned and kept the mystery alive a couple of times a week with her witty unexpected visits.

2. Meal Time Scavenger Hunt- Our children have favorite movies, colors, habits interests, books, etc. An evening a week, with each dinner course served, fold up and tuck away a clue on a post-it that relates or hints to the topic you chose about your child. This is very motivating and engaging because the brain loves when it has to figure out information based on clues or parts of a subject, as we are pattern and novelty seekers. We do this today with our teenagers and they love to guess while we are eating and laughing over some of the clues given. For Regan, her topic was her favorite author; Sarah’s topic was her beloved stuffed animal “Carrots” and Andrew was always given clues about his favored sports teams.

3. Letter of Advice for the Parents- Conflicts over curfews, friends, boundaries, activities among other subjects always appear and sometimes magnify in the heat of the summer. If there is a disagreement or conflict looming between parents and adolescents and neither seem able to find a solution; go to your teen! There is nothing more satisfying than being sought after for advice. Directly and indirectly, when you ask your adolescent or older child, “What can I do to resolve this? “Tell me or help me to find a better plan that we all agree upon;” you enlist the help of your adolescent’s higher level thought processes. They begin to feel valued and appreciated moving from the brain’s fight response into a “responder” response. If a conflict occurs, maybe parents and children can agree to write out a story sharing each perspective and then compare, ask questions, and talk in a time where the heat of the moment has fled.

4. It’s All About Me Day- Nothing is more critical to our well-being than feeling valued, capable, loved, felt and heard! As a family, designate a day for one another, choosing and planning your child or adolescents’ favorite things! This is actually great modeling for children, as they too can show their appreciation for all you do and are. This doesn’t have to cost money. There are so many opportunities in the summer to plan a meal, a field trip to a favorite location, write a poem, a story, or even post signs in the yard or neighborhood about the genius of this designated family member. Creating a picture folder, inviting a surprise visitor, planning an outing that serves another is always an uplifting experience.

5. Upside Down and Backwards Day- We all become stuck in our ruts, structure and lifestyles. They feel comfortable but not always enjoyable. On this day, everything: meals, location, the timing and setting all change. Have a snow cone and vitamin for breakfast. Pack up your lunch and take it to a secluded or unusual area. Pull up or decorate different chairs for dinner, create invitations, design a sundae bar, dress up, decorate the dining room or kitchen and eat late. On this day, wear your clothes backwards, make up your own language and talk this way all day long; even in public. How? Maybe you begin every word with an S and try to end it with a T or P! See what happens?

6. Creation Day- I feel this activity is my favorite and as parents or educators it is a great way to warm up the brain for thinking outside the box. When our children awaken or there is a break in the day, bring out large paper bags with each child’s name on the printed on the outside. Inside the bag, are gathered random objects from junk drawers at home, closets, or even nature objects. Maybe a couple of bags are filled with some rocks, a couple of limbs, leaves, twigs and petals from flowers. In a specific and agreed upon amount of time, each person begins to construct their creation. Music can be playing but the talking is kept to a minimum during this creative time. The projects could be set aside and shared later that evening. Children might choose to write a story or poem about their construction, or they can just verbally share.
All of these brain compatible activities are great for any classroom as well as summer time home time. Enjoy!

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