The holiday season has arrived, and winter break is right around the corner! While rest, relaxation, and some good old-fashioned fun are certainly in order for your child, it’s important to think about strategies to keep them learning as well. Especially for younger children still establishing foundational skills like reading, writing, and basic math, two weeks can be a long time to go without practice. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways parents can keep their children’s brains engaged and have fun in the process! Start with these five learning-focused winter break activities!
1. Get lost in a good book
Reading is truly exercise for the brain—and its impacts are broad and deep. Regular reading helps young kids understand the structure of language, develop vocabulary, improve concentration, and even build new neural pathways in the brain. And of course, it’s a great way to pick up a new skill, become an expert on a new topic, explore a different city (or time), or simply dive into a thrilling, chilling, amusing, or inspiring story. Whether it’s spending 20 minutes with your child each night at bed time enjoying a book together, or encouraging your independent bookworm to curl up in their favorite chair for the afternoon, reading is one of the best ways to keep your child sharp over break.
2. Plan a family field trip
Field trips are always a highlight for kids when school is in session, so why not translate that excitement to their time at home over break? If you live in a large urban area, art, science, and children’s museums are always a great choice. If that’s not an option for you, look into others like local historical societies, nearby state parks (many have outstanding educational visitor centers), or simply drive to a nearby town. Your kids will love the chance to explore something new, and you’ll gain the satisfaction of having tamed the indoor chaos and cabin-fever (at least for one day).
3. Have a game night
Lots of family-favorite games also offer a great chance to practice skills including math, logic, reading, spatial reasoning, and drawing. Think about it—card games like blackjack and cribbage focus on counting and probability; word games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Bananagrams stretch vocabulary, and Pictionary is all about making connections between words and images. Take advantage of time off around the holidays to dedicate a night to enjoying these games—and helping your child brush up on some learning as well.
4. Hire a sous chef
There’s no shortage of food around the holidays, and all of that cooking can be a prime opportunity to expose your child to a little everyday math and science. So, when the time comes for you to make some holiday cookies or prepare dishes for a big family potluck, request your child’s services as your “sous chef”. Ask them to help you read and follow the recipe you’re working on, and practice their fractions by carefully measuring out ingredients. Along the way, take the time to explain some of the basic science behind cooking, like how oil and water separate, and how different baking ingredients come together to make the delicious holiday treats we all get excited for.
5. Say thanks
At its core, the holiday season is really all about gratitude. Writing thank-you notes together is a great way to cultivate that sense of thanksgiving and appreciation in your child, while giving them a chance to practice their writing and penmanship. Encourage your child to write a thank you to each person that they receive a gift from over the holidays, challenging them to make each note heartfelt and personal. They’ll walk away a stronger writer, and having taken valuable time to appreciate the people in their lives and the gifts they received this holiday break.
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