Ten ways to engage in summertime brain exercise

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By Carol A. Clark

School dismissed for the summer Friday and graduation for Los Alamos High School seniors was Saturday, but students still have options: They can stagnate in front of computers and television sets or get busy working out their minds and bodies.

Mesa Public Library offers a broad spectrum of youth services available this summer.

“We have a fantastic summer reading program,” said Assitant Manager Bernadine Goldman. “The national theme for this summer is, ‘Catch the reading bug’ and the teen portion is called ‘Metamophisis.’”

For detailed information on all the library’s youth programs, Goldman encourages people to call the youth services department at 662-8250.

Singer and songwriter Patricia Shih, who performs at schools, libraries and other venues, is filled with creative ideas.

“Woo hoo – school’s out,” Shih said in a news release. “No more books, teachers, thinking, learning – NOT!”

Just like muscles, brains also needs to be exercised regularly to keep strong and healthy, she said, adding, “You may be tempted to veg out in front of the TV, computer or video games, but summer time is a golden opportunity to grow a super brain.”

Shih lists 10 tips to keep the brain fit:

1.  Read, read, read – Just as eating nutritious food builds muscles, reading is one of the very best things for the mind. It almost doesn’t matter what one reads; just do it often and for a good length of time.

2.  Write, write, write – Try being an author, a poet, a playwright or an illustrator. Kids can write and with a group of friends act in a skit.

3. Take up a hobby – Try horseback riding, acting, crafts, electronics or collecting. One never knows where following an interest will lead.

4. Learn a new instrument – Find a friend to learn with, maybe even start a band. Look into taking lessons on a new instrument. Parents or family members or friends with musical skills are good learning sources.

5. DO CrosswordS and other puzzles – Working on puzzles is an excellent way to exercise the mind. Also make up puzzles and share them with family and friends.

6. Invent a game – Create a new twist on an old favorite board game. Use markers, cardboard, buttons and charms, and write up a set of easy-to-follow rules. Or invent a new game. These are physical games that are cooperative rather than competitive. In other words, if everyone works together, everyone wins. Check out www.inewgames.com and other websites for ideas.

7. Learn to play chess – Strategy, cunning, endurance and strength are used when playing chess.

8. Start a business – Ask a parent or grownup to be a “sounding board” to bounce ideas off of as to what would be fun to sell or do. Babysitting, lemonade stands, custom-designed jewelry and tutoring are just a few ideas for fun summer businesses.

9. Create – One doesn’t have to be Michelangelo to mess around with paint or clay. Make doll furniture from scratch, a miniature ceramic animal community complete with trees and a lake or invent things out of cardboard boxes and household things.

10. servE THE Community  – Nothing feels better than giving back and helping to make the world a better place to live in. There is no shortage of places to lend a hand. Gather a bunch of friends and family, and clean up a local park or beach. Volunteer at the animal shelter and make new furry friends. Spend some time with someone lonely, reading, making things, sharing the day and some memories. Organize a neighborhood yard sale or fundraising walk to benefit a local charity.

Be thankful, Shih says, because every day is like a new gift to unwrap. It’s bursting with endless possibilities – try to never waste a precious moment.

“Focus on the bounty of life’s blessings, count and write down all the things to be thankful for,” she said. “Appreciate family, friends and all the good things in one’s life. A grateful attitude and thinking about the positives is another glorious way to exercise one’s mind.”

To learn more, access www.patriciashih.com.