Updated: Apr 10
By Stephanie Bayona, MS. Ed. and Sean McCormick, M. Ed.
It’s that time of the year again! The kids will soon be off from school for the holidays and you’ll be hearing the dreaded, “I’m boooored!” exclamation over and over. Although breaks are highly beneficial (and very much needed), research has shown that extended breaks can cause learning regression in students, especially those with learning disabilities or difficulties. But, do you really want your child to spend their vacation time doing homework and not enjoying their time off?
The holidays come with their own set of stressors, but having a bored child stuck at home doesn’t have to be one of them. There are many fun and engaging activities that parents can do with their children over the holiday breaks that have learning benefits. Here are my top three:
Create a family vision board!
This is a great activity that families can do together, especially towards the end of the year when everyone is thinking of New Year’s resolutions and goal-setting. Begin with a discussion about what goals you’d like to achieve as a family for the new year. Some ideas can include planning a vacation, getting a new pet, organizing or remodeling a certain part of the house, planting a new garden, spending more time together as a family, etc. On a big poster board, create a collage of pictures, symbols, words, and phrases that represent your big goals for the next year. Another way to do this would be to have each family member create their own and then put them all together into one large collage that can be displayed in a shared space as a visual reminder.
How does this benefit my child’s learning? Goal-setting is an important lifelong skill that needs to be developed and strengthened, and it is directly tied to motivation. This activity opens the door for great discussions about why goal-setting is important and the difference between short-term and long-term goals. It also helps children reflect on what motivates them and how to use that to keep them driven and focused.
Find your favorite recipes and bake together!
Baking (or cooking!) as a family has so many benefits. Not only is it fun to do, but it can be a great bonding experience and can lead to engaging conversations about family traditions and cultures. It is also a great way to boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence. The process of baking is filled with many teachable moments, including math and reading skills (measurement, fractions, step-by-step directions) as well as opportunities for learning about life skills, such as planning ahead and time management.
To get the most out of the experience, involve your child in the entire process: from searching for the recipe, planning for it (prepping ingredients and tools needed), following the recipe directions, and finally seeing the finished product and cleaning up. This will help them understand and appreciate the time and effort that it takes to make a meal, and perhaps even inspire them to help out more in the kitchen!
Arts and crafts or STEAM projects!
Sadly, due to national education budget cuts, many school districts have had to cut arts programs from their curriculum. This is detrimental for many students, especially since many of them look forward to classes such as art, music, dance, ceramics, STEAM (science-technology-engineering-arts-math) or woodshop. These classes allow for students to creatively express themselves and sometimes serve as their only creative outlet. This is why holiday breaks would be the perfect time to engage your child in a fun arts and crafts or STEAM project of their choice!
Depending on their preference, have your child choose one project they’d like to start and finish within their break. If it’s a bigger project that requires more than one day, help them “chunk out” the action steps needed to complete the project and plan for such steps. The learning benefits of these projects can include brushing up on reading skills (reading and following directions), math skills (measuring, scaling, counting, geometric thinking), and even science skills (chemical reactions, STEAM). Completion of such projects can help boost your child’s self-esteem and help them feel more confident and happy!