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How students can stay mentally active over the holiday season
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2014 10:05 AM

Between Thanksgiving and New Years, many students are home for holiday break. Finally, they get to sleep in, relax and do less homework. While this time is fun, full of family and a great chance to recuperate mentally before the rigors of school return in January, students shouldn't get too comfortable. Avoiding all mentally-strenuous activities can cause students to perform negatively in school when they get back from break. By staying nimble and working their brains during the time off, students can come back ready to go. Your kids don't have to do Common Core State Standards math homework to keep in shape. Here are some ways your child can avoid the winter slump:

Read a book
Perhaps one of the most obviously brain-friendly activities, reading books keeps your child's mind engaged. Reading not only forces the mind to decipher words, but it also allows your child to use his or her imagination - picturing the setting and the actions of the book makes reading more exciting anyway. Encourage your child to pick out a handful of books to read during break. They can be anything that interests him or her, from the latest fantasy novel to a comic to a nonfiction text.

Get the blood flowing
Physical activity can actually improve brain function, so your child should get moving over the holidays. When you exercise, your body takes in more oxygen, which it delivers partially to the brain. The more oxygen your brain has, the better it functions. It can even store neurons the oxygen creates for later use. Take your child outside to go sledding or skiing. Build a snowman or fort. You can even sign up your child for an indoor sport, like flag football or soccer. These activities are fun and good for the mind.

Go to a museum
Learning doesn't just happen in school - you and your child can pick up new information in a lot of places. Take a family trip to a local museum to give your child a chance to learn something new. Whether it's art, history, space or engineering, the topics museum exhibits cover are vast. Plus, these venues make learning and exploring a blast. You can follow up your visit by having your child share what his or her favorite part of the museum was.

Be creative
Craft projects like painting, sewing and sculpting all engage your child's creative mind. Furthermore, if your child is doing a craft project, he or she has to follow instructions and focus, things he or she does in school as well. Make crafting a part of winter break, allowing your child to choose the activity he or she wants to do. 

Pick the right video game
You may have picked up a lot of misinformation about video games, but these fun computer activities are actually beneficial for the mind. Studies show that different genres of games have different effects on the brain. For instance, first-person shooter games (like Halo or Call of Duty) increase a person's decision-making skills and hand-eye coordination. Real-time strategy games (such as StarCraft) improve cognitive flexibility, which helps a person rapidly change thought or think several things simultaneously. If you decide to let your child flex his or her mental muscles with games, be sure to pick one that's age appropriate - every game has a rating.

Stay up to date on schoolwork
Many students get homework over the holidays. While it might not be a lot, it's still important to complete. Make sure your child slowly works through his or her to-do list so the end of break won't be too stressful. Finishing homework is good for grades and mental function.