School Notes

Holiday activities can be educational as well

2012-12-10T00:00:00Z 2012-12-10T16:57:04Z Holiday activities can be educational as wellChristine Bryant Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
December 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

No boredom allowed! That’s right – two weeks off from school means days filled with fun and creating family memories.

Holiday break doesn’t mean kids have to take a break from learning, however. Many of the activities families already do over the holidays are the ideal occasions to incorporate lessons taught during the school year and keep kids’ minds sharp while out of the classroom.

“It’s not as difficult as people might make it out,” said Dr. Sherri Mitchell, director of curriculum and instruction at School Town of Highland. “It’s often very easy to integrate math and reading.”

Parents can turn activities such as baking, traveling and playing games into learning moments, she said.

“I think you are going to get the kids into it if you can make them think it’s part of a holiday activity,” Mitchell said.

Here are some ideas of activities you can do over the holidays to keep your kids’ minds engaged while on break:

Keep kids in the kitchen with you. Baking is a great opportunity to refine children’s math and reading skills, Mitchell said.

“For instance, if you’re in the kitchen making candy, talk about measurements,” she said. “Or have your child read the ingredients with the recipe.”

Take it one step further with older children who are learning to multiply and add fractions by enlisting their help with doubling recipes, she said.

Bring out the board games. Kids today enjoy playing on their Xbox or with the Wii, but old-fashioned board games not only provide quality family time, but help children with their critical thinking skills as well.

“Children need to be able to read, do math and problem solve to play many board games,” said Maureen Stafford, director of instructional programs and assessment at School Town of Munster.

Enlist their help with shopping. Kids love the toy advertisements, so when they see a toy they want, ask a question such as, “If you have $10, how many can you buy?”

Or, ask for kids’ help in buying presents for relatives, Mitchell says. Tell them how much you have to spend and figure out together what you can buy for that amount.

“You can make a math and reading game almost out of anything you do over the holidays,” she said. “That’s how you engage kids without letting them think they are doing math over the holidays.”

Encourage reading anything. The holiday break is the perfect time to encourage students to read what they want to read, whether that’s fiction, a book on video games or a magazine.

“Kids need to keep reading – and this is a time they can read what they want to read,” Stafford said.

Embrace technology. Many families travel over the holidays, whether it’s long-distance or across town to grandma’s. Bring out a hard copy of a map or pull up a navigation website online and have your child figure out different routes to take on the trip. Older kids may enjoy the challenges of figuring out which route will cost the least amount of gas or which route provides the most sights to see, Mitchell said.

Go places. School’s out, but that doesn’t mean the classroom is closed. Museums, parks and historic sites are classrooms themselves, Stafford said.

“It’s extremely important to build background knowledge that they can take back to the classroom with them,” she said. “Even a trip to the circus will give them background information. A fun day out could involve historical locations or just going to the dunes and looking at eco systems for science.”

Stafford recommends checking out visitors bureau websites or chambers of commerce nearby to find attractions that could provide learning experiences.

Overall, educators say it’s important to keep their kids engaged over the holiday break.

“You’re getting some quality time with your kid and you’re making sure they retain what they know,” Mitchell said.

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