Winter Break: Helping Parents Keep the Learning Going at Home

By Kathy Griffin

Winter break is a time for students to relax, connect with family and friends, and have some fun. It’s also a time to take a mental break from studies and get re-charged. But a break from school shouldn’t mean a break from learning. Studies have shown that even a short time away from the classroom can result in loss of knowledge and skills gained over the school year.

How can early childhood teachers help keep the brains of their young students thinking over winter break? Call upon the help of parents.

In this article, we’ll look at how learning activities can be enjoyed by students and their entire families at home, in an airplane, when shopping—anytime and anywhere. So when children return to the classroom, they’re sharp, excited about learning, and ready to pick up where they left off. And parents make it through winter break still sane.

The ground rules

By the time winter break rolls around, young children in the early childhood classroom have already been working hard on building key skills, including phonological awareness, reading fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Keeping the learning going over the holiday doesn’t have to be difficult. Picking the right activities is the secret.

How does a parent know which activity is best? Most importantly, make it fun. The holidays can be stressful as it is. Kids don’t need the pressure of quizzes, tests, and big projects. And parents don’t need to hear moans and groans from children who resist more “school work.” The trick is to infuse into the home routine activities that are so fun, children won’t even realize they are learning.

Just as important, the activity must be easy-to-do. No prep time—there are not enough hours in the day as it is for busy parents. With a little forethought, parents easily and quickly can turn the most routine, everyday activities into teachable moments for their children—whether in the car, at the store, or standing in line.

More tips to share with parents

There are endless activities parents can use at home to keep their children learning over winter break. The best activity:

  • Carries over from everyday classroom experiences. If children are learning to read in class, have them tell a story at home recapping their day to reinforce sequencing skills.
  • Reinforces skills taught in the classroom. Are children studying summarizing? Sight words? Words with prefixes and suffixes? Build on those skills. Virtually any skills being taught can be reinforced with an activity.
  • Can be differentiated based on the child’s needs. For example, in a game of “Can You Find the Word?”, more advanced students can be challenged with the question “Can you spell the word, too?”
  • Is low prep. Use everyday materials readily available at home—around the holidays that might be gift wrapping paper, gift tags, and greeting cards.
  • Is family friendly. The easier it is for the entire family to join in the fun, the better.
  • Meets the needs of multiple grades within the family.

Winter break should be enjoyed—by students and parents. It’s a time to reflect, rejuvenate, refresh, reflect, and re-energize. It’s also a time to prepare for a smooth transition back into the routine of school come January and ensure the second half of the year is just as successful as the first.

For fun and simple learning activities that will keep students engaged over break, check out SDE’s webinar Keeping Your Students Engaged Over Break: Low-Stress Tips to Share with Parents (PreK–3) by National Board Certified Educator and early childhood specialist Kathy Griffin.

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