Another fall season has gone by, and for some of you, the winter holidays and festivities mean a break from regular work and your children academic routine. How can you take advantage of this unique benefit while preventing the academic slide that often accompanies extended breaks? Rather than taking a total interruption from learning, what can you do to keep the learning going for your children?
1- Maintain Academic Skills in A Fun Way
Review academic skills with them for even a short period of time every day in a fun way to prevent your child from falling behind.
For example, you can have them play online math apps like Prodigy to review math skills, or you can get your children read for a certain amount of time each day (consider a “Stop, Drop, and Read!” for the entire family). You can ask your children commit daily to a short period of practicing a second language or an instrument. Here are some other ways to keep up skills:
• Post math facts or spelling words around the house in areas around the house. Ask your children to read them as they pass through each room.
• Mix educational games with other family activities. For example, play a game of Math War, where you lay down two cards and add/multiply them rather than laying down one card at a time. Choose board games like Apples to Apples or The Allowance Game to build language and math skills.
• Watch documentaries with them.
• Become a pen pal for your children to encourage writing.
• Remember you can count and add/subtract almost anything (i.e., cookies left on the plate, number of snowballs you can make, or how many ornaments are on the tree)!
2- Capitalize On Holiday Travel
Traveling to see friends and family over the holidays has its own benefits. However, you can improve on those experiences by incorporating some education time. Here’s how:
• Take a map in the car for your children to follow as you travel.
• Play youth friendly audiobooks while driving so the family can pass the time while discussing literature and highlighting new background knowledge and vocabulary.
• Explore the important places where you are visiting, including historic sites and art/history/science museums.
• If you are visiting a snowy destination, find new exercise activities to try, such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or snowboarding.
3- Use Holiday Traditions for Learning
What holiday traditions do you have in the family? Do you know the history of those traditions? Have your children do some research or ask older family members about your traditions. So, as you enjoy those holiday traditions, you can incorporate some learning too:
• Prepare for the holidays with your children by helping them make crafts and decorations, write greeting cards (or letters to Santa), and read holiday-related books. Have them practice cognitive flexibility by retelling a favorite story from another character’s perspective.
• Involve your children in holiday cooking. Have them write shopping lists, count money and pay for the food (with your guidance, of course), and read recipes. Play with fractions as you bake holiday goodies together.
• Give them scientific gifts and play/build the projects with your children.
• Help your children write goals for the new year and invite them to help write family goals as well.
4-Help Them Develop Real World “Soft Skills”
Do you ever get frustrated during school instruction time because you feel as though there is so much you want to teach your children but there is just not enough time because of academic demands? Perhaps the winter “break” can allow you to put some time and focus on those other skills you want your children to master. Here are some ideas for how to seamlessly incorporate “soft skills”:
• Pay attention to your children’s interpersonal skills during holiday events. Teach them how to greet family members, share new toys, and create and maintain “small talk.”
• Develop background knowledge and support problem-solving abilities by discussing current events at family meals and brainstorming creative ideas/solutions for real-world issues.
• Take some time to organize rooms and closets. Make this a group project so you can incorporate teamwork while also targeting work ethic and attention to detail. Pick a leader for each part of the project and help your children plan out their parts using time management skills.
• Do some of those critical thinking activities you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had time for. Work together to solve logic puzzles or Sudoku games before breakfast or do an after-dinner block of rebus brain teasers.
This winter, go ahead and enjoy your break from formal instruction! Spend quality time with friends and family, make memories, and sneak in a bit of learning here and there. Your children may not even notice.
Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous new year to all of you!