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The holiday season is a magical time for kids and families everywhere as they take breaks from school and work and enjoy more time together as a family. Some families travel, celebrate specific holidays, and practice meaningful traditions that will leave memories for a lifetime. Children love the break from school around this time of year, and they often delve into technology fiercely, spending more time staring at screens during the holidays than any other time of the year. However, not only is too much screen time not a great idea in and of itself, but it also is a poor replacement for some quality engagement, learning, and family time that could be happening instead. Students and adults alike should keep their brains sharp and keep their minds working over the holiday season so that everyone can return to work and school with energy and growth and brilliance. Here are a handful of simple tips to keep yourself and your kids learning, engaged, and growing over the holiday break.
This should be happening all year round, but it’s especially important to make sure reading is taking place during the holidays. Not only will it keep you and your children’s minds sharper, but it is fun! A lot of people have more downtime during the holidays than during other times of the year, so it might be the perfect time to pick up that new novel or non-fiction book you’ve been eyeing. Consider getting the kids some new books at the start of the break from school, or take a few trips to the library during the break. Find some good fiction and non-fiction books for them to read that are about some of their favorite topics or from their favorite series. You can also pick a book or series to read together as a family and take turns reading a chapter after dinner each night. If you celebrate a specific holiday this time of year, find some age-appropriate books to teach your children the true meaning of the holiday and read to them as well as let them read aloud for the family.
Go on a Trip
A lot of families travel over the holidays anyway, so why not make it educational? Maybe you can plan some learning games for the road trip or purchase a new educational app for the tablet to play on the airplane. Take every teachable moment you have to tell your kids about geography, the science of airplanes, vehicle safety, weather patterns, and more. If you’re not traveling to see family this season, consider going on some local field trips to spark your kids’ interest in a particular subject or to simply have some fun, educational time as a family. Local art, history, and science museums are always fun, as are trips to nearby state parks, playgrounds, and nature centers. Consider planning a scavenger hunt for the trip or look up some things online about how to make the most of a visit to a particular place. You could even go somewhere less educational, like a mall, movie theater, or bowling alley, and just integrate some educational games and teachable moments into your experience.
Board games and card games are excellent ways to teach your kids and keep them learning, plus you get to spend time together as a family at the same time! Consider teaching the kids a new card game or buy a new board game as a gift for the entire family. For younger kids, play games that involve counting, money, sorting, matching, and other beneficial skills. Older kids may like strategy games or card games that involve scheming against their opponents. Even if the game is a little more on the playful or funny side than being clearly educational, your children will still benefit from engaging multiple senses and spending time with loved ones.
Just about every family from every culture does a great deal of cooking and baking this time of year. Get your kids involved in the kitchen fiascos, no matter how old or young they are. Little ones can pour ingredients into bowls while school-aged children can help measure and mix. Older kids may be able to cook entire recipes on their own with minimal supervision, while teens may prefer to assist Grandma with the special family recipes or create their own new baked good. Not only does cooking teach responsibility (someone has to clean up that mess!) and togetherness, but you can also integrate science lessons and encourage helpfulness and kitchen safety at the same time.
Write Thank You Notes & Letters
Writing is a skill that is incredibly important for people of all ages, and it’s something that can always be improved upon. Have your kids write thank you notes (and write some yourself!) for the gifts you receive this time of year. Encourage your kids to personalize each one and make them honest and heartfelt so that it’s not just copying the same thing over and over. If you don’t give or receive gifts this time of year or if you’d rather go a different route in honing your writing skills, take some time to write some letters to some friends or family members. People rarely send or get snail mail these days, and you would probably make someone’s day by sending them a kind letter. Plus you’ll get the added benefit of using your brain and improving your own writing and penmanship skills in the process!
Utilize the Internet
No parents want their kids staring at a screen all day, especially over the holiday break, but the internet does have some exceptionally good things available to help your students learn and keep their brain engaged. Find some educational websites or apps and allow your students to play them for a set amount of time. You can find games that let them practice math facts, explore the scientist inside of them, practice handwriting or letter recognition, and so much more. Your child’s school may have some memberships to educational websites as well, so be sure to ask about some good resources if you’re unsure.
Being active, especially in the winter months, is good for the body and the brain. It keeps your entire body working and keeps your metabolism up, but it can also help with mental clarity and the sadness that can sometimes accompany this time of year. You may wish to make a family challenge for physical fitness goals, or you can all train together for a 5K at the end of the holiday break. Maybe it’s just about walking each night or maybe you can set up a pickup game of family touch football in the backyard each weekend. If you want to get extra educational, you can have your kids track their heart rates and do research about the most effective ways to stay healthy and active, or you can just spend time being active together and have fun with it.
Take Them Shopping
Whether you’re shopping for holiday gifts or groceries, shopping trips can be extremely educational for kids. Talk about a budget before you go out, discuss what you are looking for, and talk about what is a necessity and what is not. Depending on your kids’ ages, they can help with checking price tags, adding up the total cost, making purchasing decisions, and even paying the cashier. The quality time with your kids will be enjoyed by all, plus you’ll get to bring home some goodies and teach your kids some valuable lessons in money management while you’re at it.
Explore the Weather
Depending on where you live, the weather during the holiday season can be extremely unpredictable. Have your kids research weather patterns and learn about how meteorologists make their predictions about the weather, and have your kids track the weather throughout the holiday break. You may also have them look up average temperatures from previous years or months, as well as explore average snowfall for your area.