Most parents today are well-aware of the studies showing that children lose knowledge and skills over long breaks from school. The holidays are a time of fun and relaxation for most, but, with a little planning, you might just be able to halt the loss of some of those skills and engage your children in inspiring ways.

Kitchen Fun

Cooking is a common suggestion for engaging children, and with all the holiday meal preparation happening in most households, this is prime time.

  • Weights & Measures: There is a great deal of math in cooking. It is a chance to support important math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as fractions and measurements.
  • Reading: Let your child play navigator and read the recipes for you.
  • Cooking is Science: The kitchen is an everyday laboratory where a great deal of scientific discoveries can be made. Indiana Public Media’s Moment of Science includes some great short articles focusing on the science happening in your kitchen:
    • When is Water Actually Boiling?
    • How do Microwaves Heat up Food?
    • Why We Refrigerate Fruits & Vegetables
    • How Gravy Becomes a Sauce

Getting Out of the House

No matter the destination, going on a trek or even just a visit is a way to keep children engaged.

  • Mother Nature: Take a hike at one of the many local state and national parks or opt for a simple walk through your own neighborhood. Only, this time take pictures of plants, animals, and insects you happen across. When you get back home, encourage your child to engage their research skills and identify these curious specimens.
  • Exciting Exhibition: Visiting museums can prove to be eye-opening. But go one step further and ask your child questions that make him or her think about what they are seeing in a new way. Why did the museum choose to show this exhibit? If you’re at an art museum, ask what aspect of a piece of art draws his or her attention and why? It can be a great way to get kids to think of the artifacts and exhibits as more than just “things” or “old things.”
  • Book Haven: Your local library is a great community resource for getting kids thinking.
    • Something New: Check the calendar events for a program or event that might spark your child’s interests.
    • Your Own Reading Club: Let your child pick out a book for both of you to read. Whether you read it together (each taking a turn to read out loud to the other) or choose to read the book separately, having read the same book at the same time will give you and your child something more to talk about. These discussions can also be a time to encourage your child to engage with and interpret the text, which is a skill that can serve them throughout their education.

Home Bodies

You don’t have to leave home to make time for learning and reinforcing Math and English/Language Arts skills.

  • Game Time: Playing games with your child not only helps him or her learn skills and sportsmanship, it can be an equalizer, especially if you step out of your comfort zone and play a game of your child’s choice. Both board games and video games are a great way to enjoy some family fun time.
  • Jump Start: Winter break is a great time to get ahead on the work involved in the science fair. While not all schools participate in these exhibitions, if your child’s does, then take this time to encourage him or her to prepare, research, and, perhaps, even begin experimenting.

Focus on Writing

There are many ways to engage your children through writing, especially during the holidays.

  • Letter Writing: While this act is considered a dying art, you can revive it for the holidays. With all the junk mail we receive, it can be a nice treat for someone to get a piece of mail with their name on it, especially a piece from another human being. Surprise a relative, out-of-town or local, with a short note.
  • Creative Writing: Children possess vibrant imaginations. Giving your child a composition book is an economical way to encourage budding creativity. Writing stories and poems can also help a child find ways to get his/her thoughts out and onto the page (another vital test taking skill).
  • Journaling: Even if your child might not think he or she has a story inside, you can still encourage regular and thoughtful writing by giving him or her a journal. This can be a beautifully bound book with a lock or a normal notebook, perhaps with some personalization:
    • Use stickers or markers to decorate the covers
    • With a composition book, or other notebook with a thick cover, drill a hole in the front and back cover and lace a ribbon or twine through it to create a closure
    • Cover the book in shimmery or beautiful wrapping paper
  • Making the journal their own can inspire your children to want to continue personalizing it by adding their thoughts, ideas, memories, and experiences. If they struggle with ideas about what to write, consider printing out or suggesting one of the following prompts:

This winter break, help your child retain some of the important skills and knowledge they’ve learned this year, and maybe inspire a little extra achievement. This could be easier than you might think.