Fun Vacation Activities
The presents are all unwrapped, most of the holiday preparations and parties are over -- and school is closed for the week. Every parent knows what comes next: the dreaded cry from usually over-scheduled children with a sudden stretch of free time, "Mommy, I'm bored! What can I do now?" But don't despair. With a steady stash of ideas (that's where we come in), you can keep your kids entertained, and even teach them a few things along the way.
"It's never good for children's minds to be turned off for long periods of time," says Rick Bavaria, vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center, the national tutoring program. "The mind can be compared to a muscle in the body that you have to keep exercising. When children tell you, 'I'm bored,' you know it's time for some mental exercise."
But a school vacation is a time for a different type of learning, adds Bavaria. "It's important for parents to recognize that their children are learning all the time. You don't have to force lessons on them. Sometimes the things kids enjoy doing the most are the most educational," he says.
Kids can learn by cooking, reading, doing craft projects, visiting museums, even walking around the neighborhood. "When kids are in the kitchen measuring ingredients they have no choice but to learn fractions," says Katie Canny, a mother of four from Pottstown, PA. "When I run to the market, my kids see me using coupons and taking advantage of sales. To them that's a life lesson in organization and money management."
Everyday things you do use language arts, math and science, affirms Judsen Culbreth, editorial director of Scholastic Parent and Child magazine. "Always think: how can I enrich this activity?," she suggests. When putting away the Christmas ornaments, for example, ask your child to pick out the round shapes and the triangles; you'll be teaching shapes, sorting and categorizing. When shopping, ask your child to find the fruit and ask 'How many kinds are there? Which ones are red? Do you know the name of this red fruit?'"
Holidays are also a great time to start a scrapbook, learn about family history, enjoy family traditions and spend time reading, says Culbreth. "This is such a language-rich season. It's a time when kids learn about who they are, who their relatives are and about their traditions. It all gives them a sense of their place in the world."