The holidays are coming up and we all know what that means: crowded parking lots, busy shopping malls, blinking decorations, and antsy kids sitting at home bored in front of the TV. So how do you keep the dreaded summer brain drain from creeping in to your child’s holiday season? Here are some tips on how to help your child keep the learning going during those couple of weeks before second semester starts back up and to keep you sane so you can have a pleasant holiday.
- Find Opportunities to Practice Math—Especially at young ages, children need to practice their math skills constantly until these skills become second nature. Drill and practice exercises have gotten a bad reputation over the last few years, but they are one of the tried and true ways of instilling these skills in your child. Now, no one is suggesting that you spend your holidays with your children doing math flashcard drills. But the same skills can be practiced with an added “fun” component by letting your child do online drill and practice games. Math Nook (www.mathnook.com) features a variety of games that help teach your child these math abilities such as their new games geared towards teaching rounding skills.
- Find a Holiday Book—The holidays provide a great time for children to practice their reading skills with holiday themed books. Younger children will delight in reading classics like Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (a.k.a. “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) or Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” For older children, what better choice than a Christmas classic like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? If your child is still learning to read, audio recordings of these are available so that they can listen and read along. (Look for the soundtrack to the Dr. Seuss television show to find the story narrated by Boris Karloff or seek out the Dickens’ story featuring Sir Patrick Stewart acting out all of the parts from Ebenezer Scrooge to Tiny Tim.)
- Write a Christmas Letter—Have your child practice his or her writing skills with a thoughtful letter. Either a letter to Santa or a thank you letter (not just a quick note) to the grandparents can be a great way to practice writing, grammar, spelling, and handwriting. In addition, the American Red Cross sponsors Holiday Mail for Heroes in which your child can write a letter to a veteran serving in the United States or overseas. This is a learning experience that will also make someone feel appreciated for serving in the military.
- Spend Time in the Kitchen—Most schools have slashed their home economics budgets. But cooking is a lifelong skill that all children need to learn and it can teach many other skills in addition. Math standards such as fractions, percentages, measurements and addition are all handled by following a recipe. And the holidays are a perfect chance to spend some time bonding with your child in the kitchen. Make some cookies for Santa or encourage your child’s artistic expression by decorating a gingerbread cookie house.
Holidays don’t have to be downtime. You can encourage your child to find learning experiences every day and prevent the brain drain that may set in otherwise.