The summer holidays are some of the best months of the year for children. This can be heavily contrasted with the first few weeks back at school. Parents up and down the country will be wondering what it is they can do to help ensure they cultivate their child’s brain and keep them engaged over the summer holidays. Recent research from psychology may have the answer.
Discuss Next Years Goals
Focusing on a long term vision has been demonstrated to help boost students’ motivation, as they provide the light at the end of the tunnel. However, setting short term goals also helps, as it can break down seemingly impossible dreams into simple, tangible and achievable steps. For goals to be effective, they have to be both challenging and realistic. It is often in the gap between what people are comfortable doing and what they want to achieve where people grow and learn.
If you are setting goals with your child, ensure that they focus more on developing skills than just achieving the outcome. Central to this is to help them identify what areas they want to improve at and developing a joint plan on how to do so. Most of the time the final outcome relies on being able to execute your skills under pressure, so make that what you focus on.
Researchers have found that two of the most effective ways to boost memory is called ‘the testing effect’ and ‘spacing’. The testing effect describes the act of having to generate an answer to a question. This does not have to be anything formal. It can be as simple as answering a question, doing a multiple choice test or doing a past paper. Spacing refers to the concept of doing a little bit of revision often. The opposite of spacing, is cramming, where students try to do as much work (often just before exams) all at once. By doing a bit of extra-curricular work in the holidays, students will ensure they take advantage of both strategies, ensuring that their ability to recall and retain information is at its best.
Develop Their Mindset and Resilience
Some students believe that their ability and intelligence is set in stone and is relatively fixed. Others believe that it is malleable and can be developed over time. Research suggests that those who believe that they can get better are more likely persist during difficult challenges, seek out better feedback, enjoy learning more and have higher levels of self-esteem. The summer holidays are an ideal time to help your child develop their mindset.
This can be done by using certain questions as a conversation starter. These questions include ‘at school, do you spend more time arguing or actioning the feedback your teachers give you?’, ‘would you rather be drowned in praise or saved by criticism’ and ‘do you think the effort you put in today will be worth the rewards of tomorrow’. These conversations encourage a growth mindset as they help students realise the importance of effort, feedback and being open to learning.
Sleep Right, Think Right
Despite sleeping for about 20 years of our lifetime, most people aren’t very good at it and probably don’t get enough of it. The importance of sleep shouldn’t be underestimated, with a good night’s sleep being linked to better memory, concentration, alertness, immune system and decision making.
The National Sleep Foundation recommend that teenagers get an average of 9 hours sleep a night. Most fall short of this. During the summer holidays, sleep patterns tend to significantly shift, with children staying and waking up later. Although a little bit of leeway on this is expected, it is important to develop good sleeping patterns. Common sleep mistakes for children including watching TV right up until bed, being on their mobile phone when in bed and avoiding caffeinated/energy drinks just before bed.
Life is short and time is precious. For many students, they have worked very hard over the school year and rightly deserve some time off to enjoy themselves. The summer holidays are a great time to refresh and recharge. With a careful bit of planning and subtle nudging from those around them, it can also be a great time to help develop key habits that will help them thrive when they go back to school in September.
If you are looking for other ways to support your child this summer, check out our blog How to Help Your Child in Sport.