Five ways to engage kids in learning over winter break
Every parent has heard it. The dreaded exclamation of “I’m bored!” coming from their children. There may only be two weeks without school this winter break, but that won’t stop youth all over Arizona from relapsing to summer habits, such as too much screen time and staying up too late. But by engaging you children in common winter activities, you can help them be engaged in learning. Here are five suggestions for boosting kids’ brainpower this holiday break:
- Capitalize on things you’re already doing. While concocting your favorite family recipe, invite your child to help. They can practice fractions by increasing or decreasing the size of the batch, and older kids could even explore the chemistry of baked goods. On trips to the grocery store, discuss nutritional value and encourage your child to practice reading on food labels. Counting or sorting items in your cart is great for younger kids, who could also find colors and shapes around the store. If you plan to put up holiday decorations, ask your child to measure around the house to figure out what items could fit into various locations.
- Make the most of family outings. Instead of heading off to see the latest blockbuster, consider fining a more interactive, educational venue to visit. For instance, a local museum or historical site could be engaging. Even a local city park is a good place to get your kids physically active, which is beneficial for brain development. If you need an idea of where to go, here are a few ideas.
- Make the most of screen time and boost literacy skills. Over the holiday vacation, many kids will indulge in extra screen time. While they’re doing that, mix in some educational programming. PBS has great content for kids, including everything from Nature and NOVA to the PBS Kids interactive website. Even watching sports can become a learning opportunity. Can your child calculate a player’s stats on their own? Can they predict the final score or the distance needed to complete a touchdown in feet, instead of yards? The break from school is also an opportunity to read more and engage your kids in literature that excites them. An outing to the local library is the perfect time for kids to pick whatever sort of books intrigue them, whether it’s a Fancy Nancy novel or a close-up look at bugs. Aim for at least 30 minutes of book time per day, since a child’s reading skills will impact their ability to learn everything else.
- Do a science experiment. A quick online search will yield thousands of results to pique the interest of your budding scientist. Many of these visual and educational activities can be accomplished with things you already have in the home, while others might require a trip to the store. If you need inspiration, consider making oobleck or super-cooling water.
- Make good use of family time. It’s never too early to help children start learning about the many careers available to them, as well as what they’ll need to do to get there. In fact, it’s estimated that by the year 2020, 68 percent of jobs will require some form of education beyond high school, whether that is a traditional university experience, community college, vocational training, or otherwise. Take the time to have conversations with your child about what they would enjoy doing, what they might excel at, and the educational path they’ll need to take to get there.
Expect More Arizona is a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan education advocacy organization working to build a movement of Arizonans in support of world-class education for every child. For more information visit ExpectMoreArizona.org.