Keeping Kids Motivated over Winter Break

by Cori Stern
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School’s out for the holidays and the kids are home for two full weeks. This can go one of two ways: you are either the type of parent that counts down the days until school’s out and the kids are home or the type of parent that dreads this time off because you just aren’t sure how to keep your kids busy and motivated over the break. As a Learning Specialist, I always try to find ways to keep kids learning without them really knowing it. The secret here is to give them fun and motivating activities to do that incorporate goals and skills they are working on in school. Go ahead and create a calendar for yourself to plan out different activities, spacing them throughout the holidays. Here are five great activities that you can try out. Each of these activities can be tailored to suit any child’s age and abilities.

  1. Baking– Pull out that favourite cookbook of yours or go online with your kids and find a recipe that seems to be a crowd pleaser. Not only is baking a fun activity for the family, it incorporates a bunch of different learning skills across different curriculum areas. Baking integrates math (measuring ingredients), decoding and reading comprehension (reading and understanding the recipe), skills for following directions (following instructions) and health and safety concepts. If you have kids that are not reading yet, you can find many resources that have visual recipes instead of written recipes. The best part about this activity is that you end up with something really yummy in the end!
  2. Find A New Hobby– Sit down with your kids and brainstorm a list of hobbies that are not currently a part of your daily life. The holidays are a great time to try something new! These hobbies can range from crafting, playing sports, scrapbooking, cooking, photography, board games, DIY projects, gardening, card games, painting, yoga and the list goes on…. Challenge yourself and your kids to dive into a new hobby that is likely out of your comfort zone. Picking up a new hobby means learning new skills. What better way to keep your kids motivated while learning at the same time?
  3. Library Scavenger Hunt- When’s the last time you were at the library? A lot of families might not frequent the library as much as they used to in the past now that reading resources are so easily accessible online. The library is a wonderful place for tactile learning experiences. Why not take advantage of this and send your kiddies off on a scavenger hunt throughout the library? Start off by creating a list of things for them to search for in different books. I would advise creating a list that is broken down by people, places and things. For example, on your people list might be a princess, a dog, a mother and a baby. On your places list might be a farm, a school, a park and a shopping mall. Lastly, on your things list might be a bicycle, a sandbox and a tree. Once again, if your kids are at the stage where they are not reading yet, you can create a visual list for them by finding images online and pasting them into a word processing document. Print it off and you are ready to go! The person that find the most items from the list in a given amount of time wins a prize.
  4. Make a Movie or Documentary- Nowadays kids seem to be quite motivated by technology. There is a lot of great value that technology brings to the world of education and learning. The best part about this is that there’s a lot of technology out there that makes it easy for kids to participate. This activity is great because you can stretch it over a few days. Have your kids create a script. You can provide them with guidelines for the script based on the writing skills they are working on in school. If they are too young to be physically writing stories, have them create them orally and jot them down as they share them with you.  Give them the option to exercise their imagination by either writing a non-fiction story or a documentary. Once they have written the story, they can put together their cast and sets and get filming. Filming can be done on any smartphone, tablet or a good old video camcorder. Once they have created their masterpiece, it’s time to call in the troops for the big screening. Pop some popcorn and sit back as your kids present their feature film. You are guaranteed to have very happy and proud kiddos once they complete this project.
  5. Be a Tourist- One last activity that I highly recommend trying out is being a tourist in your own city. As parents, our lives are often so busy with day-to-day stuff that we sometimes don’t get much opportunity to burst out of our bubble. Touring your own city can provide a great geography and history lesson for your kids. Do a walking city tour, visit historical sites, get on the ‘hop-on, hop-off bus’ (if your city offers one). Check out a local museum, art gallery or science center. If you live in a multicultural city, you can consider visiting different restaurants or markets that represent those different cultures in your city. Go online and see if your city is hosting any special events for the holiday season that are family friendly. If you live in a very small city or town, you can always consider a road trip to a neighbouring city. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
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