“Cognitive skills, in a nutshell, are the mental skills that are used in the process of acquiring knowledge, the skills that separate good learners from average to poor learners,” explains Susan du Plessis, Director of Educational Programmes at Edublox. “Some children have worked hard over the course of the year to address cognitive skills deficits like an inability to focus, slow processing speed and poor visual, auditory and working memory.
Other children may not have experienced any problems with learning. One thing is certain, though, all children can benefit from a happy and relaxed holiday period. The trick is for parents to select activities that will continue to enforce their children’s cognitive skills in an environment that is not associated with the strict rules and routines as is the case during the academic year,” she continues.
According to Joanna Fortune, columnist and psychotherapist, children are on the receiving end of countless multimedia messages and carefully crafted advertising campaigns over the Christmas season, and they can easily feel overwhelmed by the consumer market-driven hyper-stimulation. “I believe we must go back to basics,” she emphasises.
Du Plessis agrees: “Something as simple (and cheap) as a jigsaw puzzle can improve hand-eye coordination when children flip, turn and remove pieces of the puzzle.
That you don’t necessarily have to spend much to entertain children in ways that will support their academic development. Rather save the money to approach professional help if your children struggle with serious learning obstacles like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.”
Du Plessis shares a few other easy tips to keep children entertained while reinforcing their cognitive abilities:
1. Printable activities
There are a variety of online sources that provide printable activities for children – a great distraction if it’s raining outside or if there is no television or Wi-Fi at your holiday destination. Sit with your children and ask them to select their favourite exercises and bind them together in a folder. Exercises to look out for include: connect the dots colouring pages, high-frequency word puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, crossword puzzles, maze games, and word ladders.
Download some fun printables below:
2. Maximising road trips
Language plays a vital role in reading, and it’s important to provide children with enough opportunities to hear language in their mother tongue. Long-distance travel provides a wonderful backdrop for families to have conversations without too many distractions.
If children are not prone to nausea while reading in a moving vehicle, a parent can also easily pack some lovely books for them to read and discuss during the trip. A positive association with reading can be incredibly beneficial to a child’s development, regardless of whether they are struggling to read or not.
3. Spelling games
Spelling is one curriculum area in which neither creativity nor divergent thinking is encouraged – only one sequence or arrangement of letters is correct. Play spelling games with festive season-themed words and words that your child has struggled with throughout the year, to keep these words top of mind. Spelling-based games include Name, surname, animal and city, Word jumbles and Scrabble. One can also customise games using existing board games.
“Cognitive skills deficits are a common culprit when children experience reading and learning difficulties,” Du Plessis continues. “These deficits can, however, be overcome. Sometimes children may need professional help in the form of a learning clinic to address certain aspects.
Download: Print it! Free Disney paper dolls
One of the winners of the national Edublox Learner of The Year competition, Tshenolo Phateng, achieved a major increase in his school marks when his cognitive skills were assessed and consequently developed.
He worked hard to improve his form perception, visual memory and auditory memory. The learning of the letters of the alphabet, syllables, and words will undoubtedly be impeded if there is difficulty in perceiving and recalling the form of the letters, syllables, and words.”
Du Plessis concludes: “Ultimately, we must remember that cognitive skills are the great equaliser – every child needs them to succeed, regardless of IQ and background or whether they need special attention in class. Let’s take this holiday season as a time to reflect on how our children can play while learning in a stress-free environment. We might even add some wonderful memories to the family album!”
How are you entertaining your kids over the festive season? what do you have planned? Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish it.