Play Time, Brain Time: 4 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Brain Power at Home

Your child can learn a lot at daycare, but there’s another place where he or she should be learning, too: home. Although you can’t be with your children 24 hours a day, you still want to take part in their learning and growth.

Helping your child learn doesn’t have to be boring – far from it! After all, the best way for children to learn is through play. Here are some quick ideas to turn play time into brain time as you boost your child’s brain power at home.

Practice a Language

If you and your children speak two languages at home, count yourself lucky. Scientists believe that being bilingual stretches the brain and improves its problem-solving abilities. One study even found that bilingual preschoolers were able to solve a shape-sorting mental puzzle more quickly than monolingual kids.

What does this mean? It means that teaching kids two languages won’t make some aspects of learning harder, as some believe – it can can actually make learning easier. Kids pick up new languages faster when they’re young, so if you know a second language, speak that language around and to your child!

Your child can even benefit from learning key phrases in another language. Try these ideas for learning a new language:

  • Create index cards with foreign words. Use words for common household items. Tape these index cards on the items they represent. When your child sees the item, they will associate it with the word on the index card.

  • Expose your child to natives speaking the language. Allow your child to read a children’s book, watch TV, or listen to the radio in another language for a few minutes a day.

  • Teach your child a song. Singing in another language can help your child internalize new words and phrases.

Turn Your Car into a School

Got a long road trip ahead of you? Don’t waste the opportunity to boost your kids’ brains! Don’t let them spend the entire ride watching TV, playing video games, or asking “Are we there yet?” ad nauseum. Instead, try these ideas:

  • Ask questions from trivia cards. You can even make the game more interesting by counting points, like you would on a game show.

  • Play common car games. Activities like “I Spy” (one person chooses an object and the other must figure out what it is by asking questions) will get your child thinking and problem-solving for the entire car ride.

  • Create a pass-along story. Begin the story, then have your child tell what happens next. Your child’s creativity will increase as they figure out how to keep the plot going.

Set a Family Game Night

Games aren’t only for fun. Many games encourage kids to employ critical thinking skills, enhance memory, and boost creativity. Choose a night each week when your family can get together and play games. Here are some great choices for kids:

  • Memory. This classic card game allows kids to enhance visual recognition and, of course, memory. Both of these are necessary to solve and remember the location of a matching pair.

  • Monopoly. You probably played this game as a child. Now’s the time to pass it on to your children. From Monopoly, they learn how to count and manage money, how to make decisions under pressure, and how to solve complicated problems.

  • Charades. Kids will learn how to be creative by getting family members to guess what they’re acting out. By forcing them to communicate nonverbally, this game can stretch how they think.

  • Puzzles. Putting together a puzzle as a family will help your child learn to think critically as they match colors and shapes. If your children are young, they will develop fine motor skills when putting together a simple puzzle. As your children grow older, they will develop the logical side of their brain with a complicated puzzle.

Teach Your Kids to Build and Create

Simple creative activities can also increase your child’s ability to solve problems and to come up with unique solutions. Examples include:

  • Cooking. When cooking a simple recipe, your child learns basic measurements and develops coordination. And if you’re working together to make something like cookies, the result is oh-so-sweet!

  • Crafting. Give your child a variety of art supplies, such as markers, glitter, magazine pictures, and various colors of paper. Let your children decide for themselves how their final product will look. The creative skills they’re building might give them a leg-up in subjects like music, theater, and writing.

  • Building. There’s a reason both parents and kids love Legos: they’re more than fun – they build both problem-solving skills and creativity. Kids can choose to follow the instruction manual, or they can go out on their own – great preparation for careers in engineering and mathematics.

No matter what age or academic level they’re at, your children will benefit from some of these brain-boosting activities at home. Learning at school or daycare is great, but spending a little extra time at home will really give your child an advantage.

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