How to keep your child's brain active over the summer holidays

mother drawing with daughter

It's a no-brainer: children who keep their minds busy over the school holidays transition better into a new key stage. Here's how to keep your kids switched on over the summer break.

Daily challenges, big and small

child climbing

At the start of the summer break, sit down with your child and come up with a challenge for every day. Some might reinforce their school learning, but do fun and silly challenges, too. You could jot them on pieces of paper and scrunch them up – then pick a random challenge each day!

“When the weather is nice we do things like crazy golf, hire canoes and bike rides. On a breezy day we fly a kite.”

Dear diary…

child writing

Creating a holiday diary which you and your child can update together is a great way to keep their mind active, as well as documenting their summer memories. You could make it a scrapbook and include drawings, photos, and tickets from trips.

“I let her choose the cover and she can buy a new pen as well.”

“She kept a diary of the plants she planted and how they grew over the summer, and rated films we went to see and reviewed them.”

Give their inner bookworm room to wiggle

father and daughter reading

Reading is good, we all know that – but it can be a bit of a struggle helping a reluctant reader see that. For competitive kids, setting targets can help – try the Summer Reading Challenge. Reading together and taking turns can make it more entertaining.

“I found my local library had loads of activities and incentives to keep them reading throughout the summer holiday, and the medal and certificate at the end were always well received.”

Keep the art of conversation alive

mother and son chatting

It can be surprisingly difficult to fit in during term-time, but a good old natter helps support all kinds of skills. Discussing ideas, asking questions, engaging in relaxed debate – all of this stimulates your child's thinking and helps their language development.

Try a change of scenery

father and daughter at an art gallery

There are so many places you can go where learning happens simply by showing up. You might go on a sightseeing tour or visit a museum or gallery, but even a trip to the park can lead to interesting adventures and discoveries.

“The V&A does backpacks for children, doing activities in various galleries depending on the pack’s topic.”

Go for green fingers and muddy hands

children with mother in garden

Get out in the garden – or, if you don't have one, create a box for the window ledge. Paint faces on eggshells and grow cress heads, or nurture a tomato plant and watch it grow fruit. Research the best way to care for your plants, and record their growth.

“You could let them all grow a sunflower and have a sunflower race.”

“All you need for spuds is a black bin or one of those potato growing kits.”

Play the fool

mother asking child a question

When your child is telling you something or explaining an idea, try acting like you just don't get it, and ask them to explain. Not only will this be an amusing game for you, it'll make them articulate their ideas in more detail and more carefully.

Let them be quizmaster

10/10 test result

Children love testing their parents, right? Get your child to create a quiz in which you and your partner or friend can compete for a top prize. Your young quizmaster can write a series of 'really hard' questions and answers – inadvertently learning as they go.

Create something… anything!

mother and son painting

A model, a picture, a game, a story or a dance routine – whatever works. Foster an atmosphere of 'anything goes' – mistakes and challenges are all part of the creative process.

“Anything that guarantees mess will probably be a success, i.e. glitter and glue.”

“Give her some pretty ribbons and pieces of fabric to twirl and shake in time with the music.”

For more ways to get your child ready for the new school year, have a look at these back to school essentials.