The Brainpower Boost: Rev Up Your Child’s Imagination During the Sunny Season

All the recent chatter about America’s childhood obesity pandemic has shifted our gaze away from another potential sloth: Our children’s brainpower may be seeping away as they passively take in oodles of media. Without consistent, vigorous exercis the brain indeed atrophies as quickly as your waist measurement seems to climb once you hit 30. What better time than summer to give your kid’s brain a mini sweat session?

If you want to kick-start you kids’ imagination, you’ve come to the right place. This August, keep one eyeball peeled for My Take Along Theater from Playmobil. Using figures and variable scenes, children can dream up an endless number of storylines that ignite their creativity for hours. The set even comes with a touch of theatrical authenticity—a sound box of pre-recorded music, sounds, and children’s laughter. Bonus: Moms will love that the self-enclosed carry box stashes away all of the figurines and makes portability a snap. If stagecraft isn’t quite your cup of tea, then swing by for a visit with the crown prince of creativity—Crayola. From the Spira-Chalk Blaster (which lets kids create eye-popping spiral designs using sidewalk chalk) to the 3-D Disney Fairies (which lets kids draw and color characters like Tinkerbell), Crayola has mastered the art of all things imaginative. They even offer aSidewalk Chalk Maker where children can whip up their own customized hues using six jars of colored chalk powder. When it comes to bolstering your child’s fine motor skills—as it turns out, our children’s dexterity development is just as exercise-starved as their brains are—few products trump Perplexus (PlaSmart), a maze game in which players must maneuver a marble around challenging barriers inside a transparent sphere. To add some fitness training to your children’s mystery-solving and navigational skills, introduce them to Treasure of the Lost Pyramid (Basic Concepts), a 3-D pop-up game during which teammates compete to discover what’s hidden in each of the four Pharaoh’s Tombs. Then at Toy Fair 2010, Hasbro unveils its brain-titillating Scrabble Flash Cubes—for a twist on the classic game, players can slide, move, and shuffle electronic cubed letter tiles in a race to create new words in 60 seconds flat. And not list of brain-teasing toys would be complete with a mention ofCreationary—a LEGO game in which each player can builds an object while playmates guess what he or she is creating. Not only does this game stretch your memory to the max, but it brings together family and friends for at least 30 minutes of bonding.

Fit or fat? When it comes to keeping those neurotransmitters popping in your child’s brain, what goes for the gluteus maximus also holds true for the cerebellum: You either move it or you lose it.

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