Homeschooling puts parents in a responsible but empowering position. The homeschooling process has benefits but it also has quite a few challenges. One of these challenges is keeping your homeschoolers mentally stimulated. But in your homeschooling journey, you will have plenty of opportunities every day.
Mental stimulation is basically exercise for the brain. It helps keep the brain in peak working condition. When you engage your child in mentally stimulating activities, your efforts won’t just be fruitful in the present, all that mental stimulation will also be beneficial in the long run. Mental stimulation improves cognitive abilities, helps enhance self-esteem, and reduces anxiety and depression. Although most activities provide at least a little mental stimulation, some activities just activate the mind more than others. Here are some suggestions on activities that can keep your homeschoolers mentally stimulated:
This activity is beneficial in multiple ways. It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for physical health. A naturally green backdrop also offers tranquility to the mind. But have you considered how mentally stimulating a simple activity like gardening can be? Your kids will learn about new plants, how to grow them, how to care for them, and their characteristics. The older kids can also learn about the taxonomic classification of plants.
Gardening can help engage all the senses of the children. The vibrant colors of the plants, blossoms, and produce will appeal to the eyes. The kids can taste the products of their hard work in the form of fruits and vegetables. The fragrance of the flowers will be enchanting. The rustling of the leaves of trees and the feel of the plants and trees can contribute to the ultimate sensory experience.
Gardening improves the ability to focus on one activity and the attention span. There will be plenty to observe and wonder about. A blooming garden will also give the kids a sense of accomplishment.
Cooking or Baking
If you need a mentally stimulating activity that you can do right at home with little or no extra resources, engage the kids in cooking or baking. Of course, the level of engagement will vary depending on the age of the child. Older children may even be able to prepare whole meals on their own. We recommend igniting their curiosity by introducing them to molecular gastronomy - a perfect marriage between science and the culinary arts.
Preparing food involves paying attention to the flavors, textures, and combinations of ingredients. The children may also be able to experiment under your guidance. You could even teach them to prepare recipes for a brain-boosting diet. Involve them in the process of meal planning and securing the required ingredients.
Games have increasingly gained popularity as educational and mind-stimulating tools. All games have a stimulating effect on the brain, some more than others. Although many games are designed specifically for training the brain, you can tweak all games for education. Games like backgammon stimulate the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which help in complex thought processes and memory formation. You don’t even have to buy the board game. The children can play backgammon online and still benefit from its mental stimulation effect.
Engage the children in memory games, card games, or word games. Allow them to play with the different types of Rubik’s Cube. A game like dumb charades or pictionary can also offer much mental stimulation.
Sketching or Painting
Art will allow the children to express themselves. It is worth noting that even art involves making several decisions, like the medium to be used, the colors to be filled in, and how to compose the picture on paper or canvas. This is true even in the case of abstract art.
Sketching or painting from memory involves recalling the scenes and thinking about the features to be able to recreate that picture. Drawing while looking at the object requires focus, observation, and some amount of gauging. Art affects brain wave patterns and the nervous system. It raises serotonin levels and changes perspectives. As your homeschoolers grow, you can introduce them to the concepts of proportion, contrast, tones, rhythm, and balance. Introduce them to the various techniques of art styles.
Art is mostly seen as therapeutic and relaxing, but we cannot overlook its stimulating effect on the mind. Art has improved mental function even in senior patients with dementia, then imagine the benefits it holds for young and developing minds. Art is not a waste of time or just a filler activity. You could surprise your children by purchasing more art supplies for them and allotting more time to the activity. Do not underestimate the power of a paintbrush!
Writing exercises may be effective in gaining mental clarity. Such exercises help in organizing thoughts. They also make information processing easier. Writing helps engage all parts of the brain. Getting your homeschoolers interested in voluntarily spending more time writing won’t be difficult, but it will require some planning and effort on your part (as is the case with all homeschooling activities). Writing need not be boring. You can experiment with various styles, genres, and techniques of writing to see what your homeschoolers love best.
Our special recommendation is to teach the homeschoolers the art of journaling. While people have been indulging in journaling for centuries, it regained traction when its mental benefits began to be studied and understood. Journaling as an activity for mental stimulation and thought processing is really simple. If you are stumped, you can refer to various journaling prompts available online. Or maybe, your children might enjoy the freedom to express themselves without restraints. Whether it is guided or free-rein writing, it is still very beneficial.
While exercise is typically associated with physical health, studies have found that it is effective for maintaining and improving cognitive functioning. Physical exercise has the potential to bring about functional and structural changes in the brain. Yes, you read that right! It not only helps shape the body, but it also helps shape up the brain. Physical exercises are also effective in treating unhealthy behaviors and addiction.
We suggest you take the PE sessions outdoors. At times, you can let your homeschoolers choose the form of exercise they want. It could be pilates, HIIT, yoga, hiking, or maybe even hula hoop exercises. You could provide them with options from which they can select and you can guide them.
Learning New Languages
If you thought learning a second language was only about communication and developing language skills, then it is time to change your perspective. The MRI scans of the brains of monolingual and multilingual people show actual visual differences. Multilingual people have denser grey matter and more white matter integrity.
Studying a new language is an effective brain workout. It improves concentration, increases memory, and boosts creativity. If you wish to incorporate additional language learning into your homeschooling schedule, make it engaging and fun. Let your homeschoolers watch some movies or series in another language. They can play games or use apps that help in learning the language. They may also write to pen pals under your guidance. At later stages, your homeschoolers can even try following the recipes in that language.
Meditation or Mindfulness Activities
Meditation and mindfulness activities can make a person feel more alive. These activities are meant to enhance the quality of life. There is evidence that meditation thickens the prefrontal cortex. Higher-order brain functions such as awareness, attention, and decision-making, are controlled by this brain region. Meditation boosts higher-order brain functions while reducing lower-order ones. If you need help with meditation and mindfulness activities, child-centered audios are available online for guided practice.
Children love anything to do with stories - listening, reading, and sharing. Although listening and reading stories can also be mentally stimulating, telling or sharing stories multiplies that effect. This is because storytelling is akin to multitasking. Multiple processes are going on, all at the same time. Your child will be using language skills while simultaneously trying to express and decipher emotions. The story will spark imagination, boost creativity, and improve critical thinking. This activity will also boost the confidence and public speaking skills of your homeschooler. If you want to add a bit of extra interest, encourage your child to use a few props and visual aids. You can even try providing them with story prompts when they struggle to get started. Prompts could even be in the form of pictures or objects. In the case of more than one child, you can encourage them to try collaborative storytelling.
Jigsaw puzzles are in a league of their own. The predecessors of jigsaw puzzles were called dissected puzzles. These were created in the 18th century by John Spilsbury, a map engraver. He gave these puzzles to the local schoolchildren to enhance their knowledge of geography. Puzzles have evolved much since then. These days, children can solve jigsaw puzzles online. They even have the option of creating their own jigsaw puzzles with images they choose.
For completing a jigsaw puzzle, your homeschoolers will have to pay attention to shapes and spatial relationships. They will have to analyze the image, colors, and patterns. They will have to find connections between puzzle pieces using trial and error, logical reasoning, and deduction. Find age-appropriate puzzles for your homeschoolers.
Model building is an activity that combines mathematics, science, and design beautifully. This is mostly the case with models built from scratch. While we recommend building models from scratch as an activity, you can engage your homeschoolers in variations of it. You can purchase or order sophisticated and diverse model-building kits. The simplest model building activity may utilize colorful construction blocks. The process of building models will allow your homeschoolers to be more imaginative and use logical thinking, problem-solving skills, and spatial reasoning. This activity will encourage them to plan, implement and review.
Mental maths can improve problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and the mental agility of your homeschoolers. They will be able to perform calculations swiftly and will start to take pleasure in the process. Mental maths deserves some time in your daily homeschooling schedule. You can start with simple warm-up exercises and proceed to complicated ones. Ask your homeschoolers to apply their mental maths skills in real-world scenarios like calculating change, expenses, or even ingredient measurements. You may challenge them further with a timer.
Your homeschoolers don’t even need to engage seriously in sports for mental stimulation. As in, they don’t have to play at the national or international level or even provincial level for that matter. All they need to do is to participate in any sport of their liking. Competitions are great, but that’s a discussion for another day. Here, we are talking about playing sports purely for passion.
If your homeschoolers love a sport, chances are that they are going to want to learn more about it and develop their playing skills. They become more self-motivated and their minds are stimulated. Apart from this, sports also help release ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, thereby uplifting the mood. Playing sports also helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression among children. You can try encouraging your homeschoolers to engage in any sport like swimming, basketball, gymnastics, bicycling, skating, tennis, badminton, or even parkour.
Acting or Role Playing
Role-playing and acting serve to deepen knowledge and help children in the exploration of concepts. Your homeschoolers will be nudged into exercising creativity and critical thinking. They will also be able to practice and improve their skills. Both these closely related activities can stimulate the mind to a significant degree.
Acting or role-playing will encourage your homeschoolers to think about what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. It may improve their ability to empathize and sympathize with others.
During role-play, the kids will act out scenarios while assuming various characters usually without the use of scripts. These scenarios can be based on reality or fiction. In the case of acting, there’s usually a script and set storyline involved.
Mind-stimulating activities are not limited to the list given above. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, every activity offers some kind of stimulation. As a homeschooling parent, you would want the maximum benefit for your child. Therefore, we have provided you with this list of activities as a starting point. Coding is yet another activity that is quite mentally stimulating. You could engage them in learning any new skill like pottery, stitching, and budgeting and it would stimulate their minds. Even looking after a pet can be quite mentally stimulating. At times, it may be possible to combine activities or tweak them to derive additional benefits. Thinking of further activities can be a mind-stimulating activity too!