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Kiddo Korner: Exercising Brains this Summer

The Covid-19 pandemic really took a toll on academics. It forced parents, teachers, and students to adapt quickly to a highly independent learning style. This lack of structure really took a toll on our children.

According to Student Support Coordinator for Mountaintop Montessori School and president of the Virginia Montessori Association, Trisha Willingham and psychology professor at the University of Virginia and National Board for Education Sciences board member, Daniel Willingham, "Recent analyses show that distance learning went poorly; most students will be far behind where they should be this fall...Covid-19 swept away that structure...and this year, summer, which is traditionally the structure-free season, comes with social distancing, closed camps, and in some cases, expectations kids will make up schoolwork."

Parents and teachers are in for an uphill battle to undo the damage from the sudden lack of routine and structure, BUT this summer, there are several things parents can do to help. Below, we've given you a quick rundown on the top 4 ways!


Stick to a Routine

Even though Summer can be a great opportunity for kiddos to "take a break" from all the responsibilities of school, it shouldn't be a true free-for-all. Make sure you establish a routine and stick to it! Focus on a freedom-within-boundaries approach. This involves helping your child to resist distractions when taking care of their established responsibilities, but involving them in the planning. Here's how Trisha and Daniel Willingham say practicing this impulse control applies to schoolwork:

"Planning and resisting distraction are actually related — both are examples of what psychologists call executive function. Just as a CEO directs workers, the executive directs other cognitive processes. Although the mechanism is not completely understood, it’s broadly accepted that suppression is a key function of the executive. When the child aims to watch a video for history but feels the impulse to check Instagram, the executive must squelch the distracting thought. Mind-wandering can’t be eliminated; good focus means good control of impulses."

Combine Virtual and Tangible Learning

Yes, things are starting to open back up, but with new guidelines, it's certainly harder to organize a family museum trip. So, for the sake of convenience (and safety), we tend to opt for those virtual field trips. While that's totally fine every once in a while, limiting media time, in general, is more beneficial for the developing brain. You can absolutely get out and enjoy an educational, fun, and safe experience even during a pandemic.

The Children's Hospital of Orange County says, "Children who spend more time outdoors have improved motor development and lower obesity rates. Playing outside promotes more curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking — especially essential with schools closed and extra-curricular activities canceled." They suggest:

  • On a nature walk, collect twigs, leaves or rocks. Then, build a nature sculpture by sticking these items in play dough. Help your child notice the patterns created by different items.

  • Go on a family bike ride, while keeping a safe distance from others.

  • Nature scavenger hunts can be fun for the whole family. How many different kinds of plants, flowers, animals, or birds can you see?

  • Playing soccer or catch is fine, but don’t share equipment with people outside your household.

If you are looking for some ideas for some educational media time:

  • Many educational companies are offering free subscriptions in light of school closures. Here’s a guide.

  • Scholastic offers day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing.

  • Budding scientists can access Nova Labs at PBS, for video, animation, and games on scientific topics like predicting solar storms and constructing renewable energy systems.

  • NASA’s Teachable Moments offers a range of activities and lessons for grades K-12.

  • Carnegie Hall’s Music Explorer program offers a way to learn new musical genres and cultural traditions. Courses conclude in an interactive concert experience.

  • Chrome Music Lab lets kids learn music through a hands-on website.

  • Google Arts & Culture has partnered with thousands of museums around the world to offer virtual tours from the comfort of your home. Here’s the complete list.

  • The San Diego Zoo offers 10 different webcams so animal lovers can keep up with a variety of their favorite creatures.

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers 10 different webcams for families to experience underwater life from anywhere.

  • CHOC nutrition experts have curated some of their favorite recipes and offer tips for how to get kids involved in the kitchen.

  • Learn a new language with Duolingo.

  • English52 allows users to strengthen English skills through video lessons and activities.

Connect with Teachers and other Kiddos & Parents

You don't have to go this alone. Staying in touch with teachers and parents and encouraging your children to do the same is critical to their learning! The CDC recommends that you:

Building those social skills while social distancing may seem daunting, and we strongly encourage taking precautions to keep safe, but if you're going to organize playdates during this time, here are some safety tips from assistant professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Dr. Tamasyn Nelson:

  • Stay outdoors: "Our current understanding is that COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets," she said, "so it is better to have children play outdoors where there is a free flow of air rather than having children play together indoors in a more confined space. Staying outdoors is definitely less risky."

  • Have kids keep their distance: It's safest to follow the 6-foot recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said. "If that is not possible, then wearing masks can serve as a protective barrier." Children under age 2, she noted, should not wear masks, as it could lead to other dangers.

  • Keep playgroups small: Limiting the number of children and adults interacting will reduce the chances of exposure, she said.

  • Schedule play dates with the same group: If families want play dates to be routine, Nelson recommends keeping the group of playmates the same to limit potential exposure to the virus.

  • Don't share snacks, toys, or equipment: Not sharing these items will also help reduce the risk, as well as washing hands before and after eating and playing.

  • Spend less time together: "Keeping visits shorter will be best," she said.

  • Wash hands well and wipe down toys: Making sure that kids wash their hands before and after they play, and that toys are sanitized, "will be an important step in keeping them safe," Nelson said. It's also important to disinfect shared surfaces.

**We also recommend that children do not attend playdates if any parent, guardian, sibling, or another person a child has been exposed to exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms.**

Keep an Open Line of Communication

The world is changing fast, and our kids are doing everything they can to keep up. Allowing time and space for them to discuss their fears, questions, ideas, and experiences are essential for proper development. The CDC recommends:

Watching for signs of stress...

Not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch for include:

  • Excessive worry or sadness

  • Unhealthy eating habits

  • Unhealthy sleeping habits

  • Difficulty with attention and concentration

Supporting your child...


If you have any concerns or just need more guidance, talk to your pediatrician! The health and safety of you and your family are our TOP priorities!

If you need assistance during these challenging times, please click HERE for a list of child and family-specific resources.

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