Managing the winter break

We see parents and students struggle with managing the winter break.  Some parents want or give too much academic work for their children during the break, while others do not give any thought provoking work.  Neither of these approaches are necessary or useful.

I suggest, as with many things in life, we find a healthy balance between the two.  Most students, are worked hard enough during the year, so their time off should not be consumed with constant academic work.  At the same time, students should not be completely unengaged in critical thinking or problem solving.

Therefore, we should steer away from traditional worksheets, multiple choice style “busy work”.  Most students do enough of this during the school year, so they do not need more of this during the break.  Rather, the students should spend more time on application or projects, that they may not have time for during the school week.

Depending on the age of the student, parents can do a wide variety of projects with their children that involve creativity, exploration, and/or problem solving.  Examples could be:

  1. Build something together with the child reading the instructions and using appropriate tools for their age (some home improvement stores have age-appropriate “projects” for children to build bird houses, wooden cars, etc. with nails and screws)
  2. Cook something together, letting the child again read the recipe, measure ingredients, etc. (the child’s favorite meal, treat, or dessert are easy to get them interested in helping with)
  3. Instead of throwing an old appliance away, take it apart with your child and discover how it works or is put together (small appliances like blenders, dvd players, old computers are wonderful for this – discuss or if need be look up the different parts inside and then try to find them)
  4. Paint a picture, wall, or object (a new chair for his or her room).
  5. Plan a road trip and calculate miles and/or how much money is needed for gas, etc. (older children can plan the best route, and help with the budget)

These are just a few ideas, but the point is to keep them engaged, thinking, and active, and limit their time watching tv or playing on electronics.  While these may not be considered traditional academic activities, they are all vitally important to children’s cognitive development and often overlooked.  Additionally, the value of doing these activities with your child should not be overlooked, as you build a stronger bond and connection through shared experiences.

Winter break is a perfect time for all of this.