For most American students, winter break represents roughly two weeks of freedom from school, holiday celebrations, play and then suddenly, boredom. Parents can ward off this seemingly inevitable boredom with an arsenal of fun — and educational — activities to try with their students. Here are five to experiment with this winter break.
1. Build a winter sensory table
Sensory tables — or sensory buckets — are an engaging winter break option for young children, especially those in preschool or kindergarten. Create a winter theme by stocking your sensory table with animal figurines (like penguins and polar bears), cotton balls, glitter snowflakes, snow and so on. While your snow can be homemade or real, exercise caution with real snow to prevent cold fingers — or worse, potential frostbite! Questions like, “How does the snow feel?” and “Where does the polar bear live?” can exercise your student’s imagination, sense of perception and critical thinking skills.
2. Design a snowflake garland
Paper snowflakes are a staple of the winter season. They are also wonderfully flexible, as they can be made from coffee filters, construction paper, scrap computer paper and wrapping paper — in short, nearly any paper product! Challenge your child to design a snowflake garland from “found” or recycled materials with an eye toward the math the project may entail. How far will the garland stretch or how much string will your student need for a given space? How many snowflakes will fit on the garland? How can your child manipulate geometry to create the perfect paper snowflake?
3. Identify animal tracks
If your student enjoys nature or is passionate about animals, why not foster these interests with a winter walk? Snow — or mud in warmer climates — is a perfect medium for animal tracks. While we may be hesitant to venture outside when the temperature drops, many creatures remain active — including coyotes, deer and cold-weather birds. Download an identification app, carry a field guide or use the Internet to match any tracks that you encounter with their owners, and allow your child to act as lead researcher on these forays.
4. Visit an ice-skating rink
Like making paper snowflakes, ice-skating is a common winter activity. Many families enjoy spinning around an outdoor rink, with holiday music playing in the background and cookies and hot chocolate to conclude the experience. But is it educational? Absolutely! For younger students in particular, ice-skating is an opportunity to hone gross motor skills. It is also an opportunity to strengthen socio-emotional skills through interactions with other children at the rink, as well as through exercising the patience that is necessary when learning or polishing a skill.
5. Write an illustrated winter tale
Does your student love to tell stories? Is she an avid artist? With supplies as simple as computer or lined paper, colored pencils, crayons or markers, you and your child can create an illustrated winter tale that is unique to your family. Whether you choose to write a holiday tale or a short story about a slumbering bear, this activity is an excellent way to sharpen your student’s literacy skills. If your child has not yet learned to write, ask her to narrate her story aloud while you record it and then request that she illustrate it.
For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit Varsity Tutors.