Parents often ask teachers for suggestions of holiday activities that will maintain learning before children return to school. While we neither expect nor want children to spend hours at a desk engaged in school-type lessons, there is plenty that parents can do with their children to keep them curious and motivated to learn. This post includes suggestions teachers can provide to parents.
Some of the best things parents can do to maintain children’s learning are:
- Encourage their questions and help them find, rather than simply provide, the answers.
- Engage children in experiments to discover what happens. Don’t rely exclusively on books or internet searches.
- Take them on outings and adventures to natural as well as constructed points of interest; such as rainforests, beaches, national parks, marine parks, libraries, museums and art galleries.
- Talk with them about anything and everything including feelings, dreams, goals, desires for the future, fears, how things work and what happens if.
- Read to them, with them and beside them. Show them you value reading for a range of purposes including for information and enjoyment.
- Play games with them—indoor and outdoor games, board games and games you create or construct.
- Most of all, spend time being with them, enjoying their company, getting to know them, in the present moment. Childhood is fleeting and each moment, precious.
Free handouts of holiday activities that maintain school learning
There are three free handouts of holiday suggestions available for teachers to distribute to parents, or indeed for parents to access for themselves.
There are also six suggestions for Fine motor Christmas activities that could be copied for parents if you wished.
Five holiday activities to maintain reading momentum
- Continue to read to and with your child every day with special sharing times during the day or at bed-time — or both!
2. Demonstrate that you value reading by making time for your own reading or setting aside a special quiet time when everyone in the family reads.
3. Visit the library and borrow to read, read, read!
4. When dining out, have your children read the menu and choose their own meal.
5. Include your children in holiday cooking and have them read the recipe – ingredients and method. Perhaps they could read the recipe book to select a meal for the day.
Five holiday activities that encourage children to write
- Encourage children to write letters or emails, cards or postcards to grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. These can be to inform them of the holiday or the year’s activities or to thank them for a gift.
2. Demonstrate that you value writing by making time for your own writing, e.g. keeping a diary, writing letters and cards to family or friends, writing a shopping list.
3. Display a message board prominently in the home and list important events, reminders and messages. Encourage your child to add their own messages to the board.
4. Encourage your child to keep a diary in which they record important events and feelings.
5. Invite your child to create lists, e.g. activities they would like to do over the holidays, movies they would like to see, friends they would like to invite to a sleepover.
Five holiday activities that involve mathematics learning and practice
- Count items, e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, cutlery required, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
2. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
- Recognise the coins and notes
- Count the value of coins and notes
- Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
- Tender the money in payment for an item.
3. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
- Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
- Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
- Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them.
4. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down, or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting
5. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
- measure the ingredients
- set the temperature on the oven
- work out the cooking finish time.
Five additional holiday activities to maintain learning
1. Outings and adventures
- Make libraries, museums and art galleries high on the list of must-dos. Many of these offer a wonderful assortment of free holiday entertainment for children, and reading is an essential part of getting the most from each visit!
- When going out for the day, or journeying further away on holiday, support your children in locating destinations on a map and in selecting an appropriate route. Engage them in giving directions while en route or including them when reading bus or train timetables.
- When doing the family grocery shop, give your children their own list of items to locate and add to the trolley.
- Listen to recorded books on long car journeys, or provide books for listening to or reading along with in bed.
- Take photos of events during the day and use them to make a photo book. This can be done instantly on a computer with photos taken using a phone or tablet and emailed with accompanying text.
2. Craft activities
Engage your children in craft activities which require them to follow written instructions. The ability to understand and follow procedures is empowering and requires the ability to read written, as well as visual, instructions.
Read the suggestions in the blog post Six fine motor Christmas activities for the classroom and home or other readilearn craft suggestions.
3. Play board games
Play word games e.g. Scrabble and other crossword games; Boggle or ‘hangman’. (If you don’t like the connotation of ‘hangman’, give each player ten counters to start with. Each time an incorrect guess is made, they give away a counter. If all counters are used they forfeit the word.)
4. Follow up on children’s interests
Encourage your children to ask questions about everyday events and phenomena. Help them to research in books at home, in the library or on the internet.
5. Give books as gifts
Provide eBooks as well as print books about a range of topics and in a range of genres: narrative, non-fiction, poetry, plays, jokes and riddles, graphic novels and comics. You never know which may unlock some hidden potential.
These are but a few suggestions to get the ideas flowing. Please follow the links for additional suggestions.
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For another ten fun Christmas activities for the classroom or home, check out this post by Kathleen Morris.
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