On the blog we’re excited to share a guest post by the author of our best-selling children’s activity books, Jennifer Kemmeter. Engaging at-home activities is Jennifer’s specialty, and as a direct response to the Coronavirus upending the routines of many families, she recommends some easy-to-implement activities for children to do in the comfort of their own home.
Hey Moms and Dads,
I hope you’re all healthy and well. Many thanks to West Margin Press for inviting me to guest-post today. I hope you readers find the post useful, and your children enjoy the activities provided!
First, a little about me
I grew up in Upstate New York, but I now live in London, UK with my husband and twin 10-year-old sons. As a full-time author of children’s books, specializing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for primary school children, I am usually either planning games and activities, or playing them. My first two series are Build it!, a collection of Lego® building instruction books, and Play it!, beginner piano books with colour-coded labels so kids can play their favourite songs with minimal instruction.
...and a little about my kids
My sons are a pair of smart, sporty, naughty boys who, like most kids, are loads of fun and loads of work. These twin tornados of energy have unlimited potential, and learning how to guide them in positive ways has been an ongoing learning process for my husband and I. I’m particularly fascinated by the development process of the child’s mind, and was surprised to discover that many things we do in the home can influence their cognitive ability.
Not all plastic is bad - the brain is plastic too!
The cognitive skills kids develop in their early years help them ‘think things out’ independently in later life, when the stakes are higher and life is more complicated. Executive functioning in particular, sometimes called the ‘air traffic control tower’ of the brain, are the mental processes that help us plan, focus, and juggle multiple tasks at once. We need our executive functions to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, and help us achieve our goals. The good news is that the brain’s plasticity level is high during childhood, and there are lots of activities children can do outside of school that are fun and stimulating to develop neural pathways, improve cognitive ability, and up-skill their executive functions.
It often seems like the next generation has been mercilessly targeted by social media companies and video game designers, but if you’re able keep some of the more brain-expansive activities core to your household now, it will help your children navigate how to wisely and productively use their time in the future:
Activities and Games to Improve Cognitive Ability and Executive Functioning in Children
2-5 years old
Blocks, construction toys, obstacle courses, nesting and stacking toys, beginner jigsaw puzzles, matching games, storytelling, singing, and coordination games like “Simon Says.”
5-12 years old
Games: Scavenger hunts, puzzles, Sudoku, word games (Scrabble, crosswords, word searches), simple board games and card games, logic problems, Rubik’s cubes, Lego, memory games, “I Spy,” chess, musical instruments, singing and dancing. Car games involving words, numbers, and memory, and building their own obstacle courses. Computer games after age of 7 that involve planning and strategy, like Minecraft and Dungeons and Dragons.
Activities: Yoga, mindfulness, martial arts, jump rope games, sports and field games involving aerobic activity.
Logic problems, brain teasers, hypothetical and abstract discussions about beliefs, ethics and decision-making. Advanced strategy games like Chess, Go, Risk, Catan, Carcassonne and Scrabble. Regular physical activities as above.
Helping teens develop plans to achieve their personal goals, then execute them by following the plan. Help them become aware of the distinction between multi-tasking and getting distracted. Pacing work and good time-keeping should become a priority during homework.
Lockdown fatigue is definitely setting in for many families, and all the togetherness is sometimes too much.
Best wishes from across the pond,