Kids may have a couple weeks off from school, but that doesn’t mean they have to take two weeks off from learning. If you’re clever, you can find numerous ways to make the holiday activities kids already enjoy a little bit more academic. In fact, if you do it just right, kids won’t even realize that they’re learning. We’ve come up with a few ways to help you encourage learning during the holidays.
#1 Take a Nature Walk
Bundle up and head outside to take a nature walk. As kids walk, talk to them about the changes nature goes through during the winter (trees losing their leaves, animals digging up food they’ve hidden). You could even make up a scavenger hunt to give kids something to look for as they walk. A few suggestions include:
- Find something red
- Find some animal tracks
- Find an animal nest
- Find an animal searching for food
#2 Play in the Snow
Even playing in the snow can be a fun learning opportunity. Talk to kids about geometry, engineering, and architecture as they build snowmen and snow forts. Learn about angles and trajectory as they attempt to throw snowballs to hit a target. Bring some snow inside and talk about the states of matter as you heat it up in a pan, watching it turn from snow to water to steam. Put the melted snow in the freezer and discover what happens when it refreezes.
#3 Do a Science Experiment
Take some time do conduct a science experiment or two in your own home. Before starting, refresh kids’ knowledge of The Scientific Method and controls and variables with Help Teaching’s worksheets. Then check out our Science Activities You Will Want to Do with Your Kids or the Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science to discover fun experiments and other activities.
#4 Make Christmas Cookies
Let kids help with the measuring when you do your annual cookie baking. If you’re willing to mess up a small batch of cookies, have kids “accidentally” add too much baking soda or butter and let them see how it affects the final outcome. For large batches of cookies, give older kids a chance to figure out the amount of ingredients needed for doubling the recipe.
#5 Go Shopping
When you do some of your Christmas shopping, take the kids along and let them do some shopping of their own. However, when you do, put them on a budget. Kids will get a good lesson in budgeting, adding up prices, and learning to control their spending as they try to buy something for everyone with the small amount of money they have.
#6 Watch a Christmas Movie
Even watching Christmas movies can be educational. After watching a favorite holiday movie with your kids, take some time to ask a few questions about it. If one of your movies of choice is the classic A Christmas Carol, use Help Teaching’s general A Christmas Carol or Characters in a Christmas Carol worksheet to give you some ideas of the kinds of questions to ask.
#7 Head to the Library
In the midst of all their holiday fun, kids could benefit from some downtime spent lounging on the couch with a good book. Head to your local library and have kids pick out a few books to enjoy during the holidays. If your kids don’t like to read, the library also likely has a large selection of magazines, graphic novels, and even educational movies for them to watch. Our Winter Holidays Reading List contains a good list of holiday stories you may want to check out.
#8 Make Your Own Christmas Gifts
Give kids a chance to express their creativity by making Christmas gifts for their friends and family. Head to your local craft store to help kids get inspired. An empty shoebox could become a jewelry box, while some colorful rubber bands could become the materials to make a trendy bracelet. Find lots of ideas and resources in our Ultimate Guide to Crafts for Kids. While creative skills may not seem academic, honing those skills can help kids keep their minds sharp and ready to do some creative problem-solving when they get back to math or science class.
#9 Enlighten their Devices
Gifting your kids with a new smartphone or tablet this holiday? Before handing it over, add the StudyLock app. In order to unlock their device, kids must answer a few questions, helping keep their brains sharp before they get lost in text messages and social networking. You’ll find more quality apps for kids and teens in our Guide to Quality Screen Time for Babies, Children, and Teens.
Learning isn’t limited to math, science, or reading activities. You can also use the holidays to teach kids valuable character lessons. During the holidays, plenty of organizations need volunteers to help with their holiday events. Donate a toy to a local toy drive, sign up to serve a meal or help clean up at a local homeless shelter, or even adopt a family in need. The lesson kids learn by helping out may be more valuable than any lesson they would learn in school.
What other strategies do you use to keep kids learning during the holidays? Share them with others in the comments below.