Our kids don’t have a ton of screen time. Sure, they watch some TV and my older two have to use Google Chromebooks for school work sometimes. Cate has a Gabb phone and Ben has a Gabb watch. We want to create safe, healthy technology habits while enhancing their cognitive skills.
Your child’s cognitive skills enable them to think critically and retain information as they grow older. The skills also boost their analytical abilities by helping them understand the process of cause and effect and the relationship between ideas. Cognitive development is essential for your child’s academic success, making it important to prioritize it.
Here are three ways to help achieve that:
Motivate them to read more
Various studies indicate reading is beneficial for children, regardless of age. It increases their attention span, vocabulary building, and emotional and social development. A 2013 study revealed that babies whose parents read to them scored higher in problem-solving and other cognitive activities. Other benefits of reading include a broader attention span, improved listening skills, and creativity. It’s important to invest in the right books to see the full benefits. For instance, educational resources such as summer bridge books can prove helpful.
I’m thankful to be raising readers. I have one child who loves fantasy and dystopian novels, another who loves non-fiction books with lots of facts, and the youngest child who is doing a good job learning to read. We have multiple bookshelves with more books than probably necessary, visit the library often, and keep books near in case we have unexpected waiting times.
Even so, I have a confession for you: I don’t keep summer reading logs. Mostly I just don’t want to fool with it, especially on Summer Break. But I also know I have readers who have learned the value of books and don’t need prizes at this point. I’m not opposed to reading logs and understand they may be just the reading motivation some kids need.
Let them dabble in arts and crafts
Arts and crafts keep kids engaged and entertained. But did you know that they are also instrumental in developing their cognitive skills? Arts and crafts enable children to acquire and practice valuable things like patterning and critical thinking, according to the Michigan State University Extension Office. Likewise, they develop language, math, and fine motor skills. Crafts also create an avenue for your kids to explore their creativity and self-expression. If you haven’t already, you want to encourage them to participate in arts and crafts.
My youngest girl loves to paint, color with markers or crayons, and use stickers. She wishes I’d hold onto every paper she creates or brings home from school. The sad reality is I end up trashing many things, although I keep plenty of her creations in her designated binder of memorabilia. She also loves when her older sister helps her make slime! (Yep, another confession: I don’t do that, but I don’t care if they do!)
Giving kids the space and freedom to create while offering some parental guidance is a great way for them to develop cognitive skills without even realizing it! Spending time in the museum helps introduce your kids to art and develop an appreciation of what others have created.
Encourage them to play outside
I love those afternoons when the kids come home from school and spend hours outside. I love the springtime when they have to wash off all the dirt and outdoor smell even if they just took a shower the night before. We have plenty of wide-open spaces for our kids to roam, ride, and explore. The trampoline has been one thing all three of my kids have enjoyed for years, and we actually just have had to replace the one we got more than five years ago. They also like wading in the creek, swimming in our pool, fishing at our pond, hiking through our pine forest, and playing games of hide-and-seek with their friends.
Kids aged 8 to 12 spend approximately four to six hours on their smart devices, while teens spend nine hours, according to the AACAP. I’m thankful my kids aren’t the norm there! While screen time can be entertaining, it leads to issues like lower academic performance and less time for physical activity. The National Institute of Health says children who have more than two hours of screen time have lower thinking power.
On the other hand, Harvard research indicates that outdoor play helps sharpen their troubleshooting, planning, multitasking, negotiation, and prioritization skills. Moreover, it also increases their attention span, stimulates their multiple senses, and improves wayfinding abilities.
Of course, there are benefits to getting outside, keeping a book close, and creating artwork. I’m thankful for these experiences for my kids and encourage you to incorporate these activities into your life too.