Learning at Home Over Winter Break

by on September 25th, 2010
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Winter break for children will be here soon and keeping their minds sharp over the holidays can be challenging. As a parent, keeping my children busy and learning while school is out of session has always been a priority.

The following five activities are favorites in my household and each activity fosters a different aspect of learning.

Create a Cartoon/Movie Reel
(Ages 5-Teen)
My children love this activity. You’ll need two rolling pins, paper, tape, a box, and crayons or markers. Tape between 20-30 sheets of paper together lengthwise to begin the activity. Pick a topic that you would like to discuss with your children. It can be anything from the French Revolution to Peer Pressure. Begin with a title and color a scene on each piece of paper in sequence of events. I always help my children with the coloring and discuss whatever we are learning about as we have fun. When you’ve finished coloring, simply roll the paper onto the rolling pins, taping the bottom and top, cut holes for the rolling pin handles in the box, and watch your cartoon by turning the handles of the pins. Over the years, my children and I have saved our cartoon reels and love watching them together. This is a wonderful way to teach your children about any subject and spend quality time together.

Space Station
(Ages 8-13)
This is a favorite in our household. It fosters creativity and thinking outside of the box. You’ll need a box, paper, pencils, and various items such as cue-tips, cotton balls, and craft wire. The purpose of this activity is to create a space station out of whatever materials you choose to use. Parents can pick materials that they have on hand. Make sure and let your children know that the space station must be functional and have everything needed for human survival. Normally, I give my children 3 materials and let them go to work. It is amazing how creative they are. Make sure and have your child explain all aspects of the space station to you and how it works. This is also a great time to read to your children about space or incorporate a lesson about the universe into the fun.

(Ages 5-10)
It is important for children to learn about economics at an early age. One creative way to do this is to have children make a store at home. Make paper money, price tags, and bills for this activity. Have your children price items and you can act as the consumer, landlord, and supplier. After you have purchased items, submit bills to your children and have them restock using their profits. This will help your children understand profit and loss, buying power, and being in debt.

Survivor Man
(Ages 7-14)
This is a wonderful activity that fosters creative thinking and being proactive rather than reactive. Normally, we do this in our backyard. Create a scenario for your children such as a ship wreck, being lost in the forest, or a plane crash. Pack a small bag for your children (depending on age) with supplies such as a first aid kit, pocketknife, water, chocolate bar, sandwich, and matches for older children. The children must use only what they have in their bag and items in the area to create shelter, a rescue message, and help an injured survivor: played my mom or dad. You can teach children skills for emergency situations and let them use their imagination.

Cultural Awareness
(Any Age)
As a parent, I want my children to be aware of and respectful of different cultures. This educational activity is informative for parents as well as children. Choose any culture and do a little research about traditions, values, folklore, food, and roles in society. Cook a traditional meal and enjoy it together as a family while discussing the similarities and differences of the culture with your own. I normally find photos and magazine clippings for my children to look at while we cook to help them picture living somewhere else. This activity will help children be respectful of others at school, want to learn more about the world at large, and feel a sense of belonging.

All of these learning activities are relatively easy and inexpensive to create. They all allow your children to feel independent and creative while learning something new.

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