The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, scrumptious food, and presents galore. Yet with this festive season comes winter break, a time when kids are off school, do little academic work, and often lose valuable skills they have learned in school. Help keep your child stimulated over winter break and avoid academic regression with the ideas detailed below.
Winter break is a great time to put down those tablets and take a family trip to the library or bookstore. Help your child find books on topics she is interested in, like animals, nature, friendships, or the like. She might prefer comic books, nonfiction books, or poetry—anything she will enjoy reading will work. Then find a cozy place at home for family reading time. This could be a couch in your living room, a group of bean bag chairs, or even seats around a dining room table. Pick a time every night or as often as possible, and have each family member choose a book (possibly with a holiday theme!) and read during this allocated family reading time. The idea is to create a family ritual and show your child that reading is fun at all ages and all levels.
Go to a museum
Take advantage of downtime over winter break to visit a museum with your child. Science museums are great places to continue learning while still having fun. Kids love making their own giant bubbles, examining objects in microscopes, and playing with vacuum tubes that send balls and clothing items flying. At some museums kids can listen to their heartbeats, play with magnets, and analyze the DNA in their fingerprints. Oh, and don’t forget the planetarium shows and IMAX movies for added fun and learning! You can also try sparking your child’s imagination by visiting an art museum over the holiday break. Aside from the cultural experience of viewing paintings and sculptures, many art museums offer interactive exhibits that allow kids to come up with their own creations in a hands-on fashion. These creations help spark creativity and critical thinking, while engaging in valuable family time.
There are few times of the year when cooking and baking are as festive and fun as during the winter holidays. Take advantage of this time to cook or bake special treats with your child while building core reading and math skills. Start by perusing a cookbook or internet site with your child and have him read the different recipe options. Once you decide what to make, put him in charge of all measurements. Say you decide to bake apple pie for your upcoming holiday celebration. Since you have so many people coming, you may need two pies and thus will need twice the amount of ingredients. Have your child read the ingredients and tell you the total amount of sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter you’ll need. Then have him measure out each ingredient in a measuring cup and combine them accordingly.
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As a bonus exercise, tell your child how much each ingredient costs (or have him come with you to the grocery store and write down the cost of each item), then figure out the cost per pie and the total cost for two pies. Baking can foster critical thinking and creativity too; let’s say, for instance, you are making a pie that calls for large marshmallows and you only have mini ones. Have him come up with the approximate number of mini marshmallows that will equate to the amount of large ones required. The more fun and laughter involved, the better!
Play online games and apps
While it may be ideal to have your child completely shut down her tablet for the duration of winter break, that may not be realistic. Instead, encourage your child to play online games and apps that are educational by nature. Starfall and Bobbooks are great sites for preschool and elementary students to practice their phonics and reading comprehension skills. Montessori Crosswords is an engaging app for spelling, and many kids enjoy playing the Rocket Math, Counting Caterpillar, and Crazy Times Tables apps for building their math skills. These games and apps are colorful, fun, and engaging to play, and will keep kids learning over the holiday break.
Winter break should be filled with quality family time and lots of laughter. Yet it’s important to help your child continue learning and avoid academic regression during this time away from school. In doing so, you will help him start the new year with confidence, ready to tackle new academic tasks.
Dr. Emily Levy is the founder of EBL Coaching, a local tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home and on-site instruction for students in grades pre-K-12. She is also the author of the workbook series Strategies for Study Success and Flags and Stars. To learn more about Emily Levy and EBL Coaching, visit eblcoaching.com!