School breaks give kids the opportunity to shift gears, slow down and just be kids. Studies show, however, that extended time off from school can erode math and reading skills, unless those muscles are kept flexed. Finding the balance between work and play can be a challenge, but there are strategies that can help your child enjoy their time off without losing the proficiency they’ve already worked so hard to earn.
Read for Pleasure – Many libraries and book stores promote spring break and summer reading programs which kids can actively participate in, often featuring earned points, give-away books and read-aloud presentations. Break time presents a terrific opportunity for kids to explore books, magazines and even comics based on their own interests. No reading is bad reading, so don’t worry if your child’s library is comprised of nothing but joke books or Japanese science fiction. No matter what type of book has them under the covers with a flashlight at night, they’ll be acquiring vocabulary and a love of the written word. If your child is not yet reading on their own, make sure you continue to read to them over break time to help get them ready for the next grade.
Acquire Math Skills – If your child is old enough to start running unsupervised errands, let them begin going to the grocery store for you so they can learn about money and counting change. If your child is too young to leave the house unattended, make grocery store shopping a math adventure you share by talking to them about what things cost and working with them to guess what you will owe at the check-out counter. You can also measure fruits and vegetables together so they can learn about weights. Take some children’s cookbooks out of the library and buy ingredients for recipes you cook at home together, which will not only satisfy everyone’s taste buds but also solidify measuring and reading skills.
Get Hands On – Not all learning is about math and letters. Break time can help your child pursue other interests and passions which could present career opportunities in the future. Acting camp, art and pottery classes all present valuable learning opportunities for kids. You can also invest in an inexpensive camera and let your child explore the world through its lens, or download nature apps that help identify birds and plants to use on hikes and nature walks.
Plan an Educational Vacation or Staycation – Find out what’s up next in your child’s curriculum and plan a vacation that can provide fun, hands-on learning as well as family downtime. If the curriculum or your finances do not lend themselves readily to a trip away from home, explore some of the many historical sites located nearby and try to fold new educational experiences into your favorite trips. Many local area beaches have visitor centers that offer up information on marine life and often amusement parks are built in areas rich with cultural history. A little digging may uncover a lot of learning.
Become a Culture Junky – New York City has literally hundreds of museums and historical sites. Exploring a museum can be as rich an experience as visiting a foreign country. Check museum calendars to learn about special exhibits ranging from film to art to fashion or even Legos. Many museums offer weekday or weekend learning-based programs for children which often have a do-it-yourself crafts component they can enjoy while they soak up culture.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.