Is spring break looming in your future? Mid-winter and spring break can feel like a burden to parents who are anxious to fill the time with activities and opportunities to keep the kiddos from being bored. While traditionally spring break is an opportunity for travel for college students, if you are home with a child who is middle school age or younger, it can feel difficult to know the best ways to use the time. Kids need spring break to recharge and refocus their academic efforts, just like adults do when we take a vacation. So how can you keep the learning going through the break and still make the time fun and energizing for your child?
Take Them to a Play or a Movie
Kids love movies but instead of taking them to just any animated film, consider age-appropriate plays or movies that might educate or inspire. This year, several films have been critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated, including “Boy and the World,” the tender Japanese animated melodrama, “When Marnie Was There,” or “Inside Out,” the tale of a girl who goes through a major change and her emotions help her through the life-changing event. All three films present a rich opportunity for dialog and discussion with your children afterward. Look for plays in your area at local children’s theater’s or even Broadway shows. Classic musicals such as “Annie” or “Oliver” are child-appropriate but have useful lessons contained within them.
Encourage Reward-Based Learning
If your child needs to keep refining specific core skills during break then instead of the typical school-day rigor, use worksheets from BusyTeacher.org on a wide-range of topics from vocabulary to grammar to telling time. Set up a system where each time your child completes a worksheet, he or she gets to do an activity of his or her choosing. Or set a goal that if they complete a set of worksheets, there’s a bigger reward at the end, such as a trip to a local indoor water park.
Engage Learning with an App
Just because it’s spring break doesn’t mean you don’t have your own stuff to get done. If your children are begging you to let them use your phone or tablet, introduce them to some fun apps that engage their mind and are also fun to play. For readers of any age, Epic is a great app that for a small monthly fee provides access to thousands of age-appropriate books. Or for younger kids, Brainzy is an app with more than 300 educational games plus stories songs and videos. For your math-lovers, Incredible Numbers app is an interactive math game that allows kids to delve into a multitude of mathematical concepts in a super-fun way.
Make Your Own Field Trip
Kids love field trips, so why not make your own during break? Pack some yummy sack lunches and involve your kids in the planning. How about a museum of natural history where kids can typically see fossils, dinosaurs, and relics from the past? Or, your local aquarium usually will have a variety of docent-led programs during the day for young children and the experience will allow them to see sea-life up close. If you don’t live near museums such as these, look into visiting a local pet store. Many carry exotic fish and small animals. Employees typically enjoy educating young children about the nature and habits of the various animals and will allow supervised petting and holding – almost as good as a petting zoo. Just like field trips in school, your kids will never know how much they are learning while having fun.
Let Them Do Absolutely Nothing
Creativity is born in empty space, so providing the materials and the time will allow you child to make his or her own choices. Having unplanned downtime also helps kids appreciate being bored, which is a necessary life skill. It’s important not to over-schedule activities so that your child appreciates the activities you do together.
Caroline Hampton is a teacher and concerned parent. She created OpenEducators.org to make it easier for teachers (and parents) to find reliable, engaging educational resources for the children in their care. In addition to working on the site, Caroline enjoys spending her time organizing events at her church, cycling, and of course, hanging out with her husband and two kids.