Just because students are out of the classroom doesn’t mean they have to stop learning. But learning doesn’t have to be boring… or break the bank! Here are ten fun ways to keep students sharp over school break. Teachers, share this list with parents or use it with your own children. Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to try some of these activities too!
1. Board Games
A classic for good reason! Board games are more than just a way to connect as a family on a weekend night. Children of all ages can benefit from playing board games. Playing a board game can enhance children’s problem-solving skills and cooperation—essential for all aspects of learning.
Board games can broaden a child’s exposure to different curriculum areas as well. The classic family game Masterpiece educates children about famous art and the strategy of auctions. Children can learn about the history of the railroad in the United States with Ticket to Ride. In the cooperative board game Pandemic, children can learn about science as they are tasked with working with the CDC to track down and eradicate diseases.
2. Free Museums or Local History Sites
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Be a tourist in your hometown for a day! Think of what your local area has to offer in terms of educational attractions like zoos, science centers, museums, and more. Explore the attraction’s website to find out if they offer free or discounted days. Your local library may also offer free or discounted tickets to locations in your area.
Any colleges in your area? Some colleges may have their own museums with ticket prices for a fraction of the price of a big-city museum. Children can check out their town’s Wikipedia page to learn about local attractions or historical sites they might not have known about. There may be some history hiding right under their noses!
3. Go Geocaching
Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? If the weather is nice, try Geocaching! Geocaching is a modern scavenger hunt where players can use their phones to track down a hidden treasure (a “geocache”). The Geocaching app connects people from all over the world—from people who hide the treasures to those who seek them out. Geocaching teaches children (and adults) the skills of orienteering and navigation. Plus, players get exercise as they wander around looking under leaves and rocks for hidden treasure.
4. Wikipedia Scavenger Hunt
Too much rain (or snow) for an outdoor adventure? Try a Wikipedia scavenger hunt! It’s simple: think of two seemingly unrelated things or people—anything that has its own Wikipedia page. Now, try to get from one page to the other simply by clicking links within the Wikipedia page. You can race against someone else to see who can get to your destination the fastest, or you can race against yourself to see if you can get there in the fewest number of clicks.
For example, I chose the Trombone page as my starting point and the Poodle page as my destination. I scrolled through the trombone page looking for a link that might get me a little closer to poodles. I clicked a link for “Volume,” thinking it might be general enough to get me on the right track. I then clicked a few more links that led me through pages about the ear until I found one for “Mammals.” It was then a quick hop to “Dogs,” and from there I found myself (finally) at the “Poodle” page. Phew! (Think you can beat me? It took me 7 clicks to get to Poodle!)
Kids will have to think of unconventional ways that their two topics could be related. What do these two things have in common? They’ll also be reading about new topics they might not have heard of before. (Having trouble thinking of a page? Try using the Random Article link on Wikipedia’s left sidebar to get started!)
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Exercise can help children learn to work on a team, let off excess energy, and improve memory and thinking skills. Plus it’s just plain fun! Encourage children to think outside the box when it comes to sports and exercise. They can jump rope, play a sport from a different culture, hold their own Olympic Games, or bike to a new destination. Anything that gets their hearts pumping.
Here’s a hint: Students can try out a sport or game they read about in Reading Plus! In the Reading component, students can click on the soccer ball icon to read texts in the “Get in the Game” interest category.
6. Have an International Theme Day
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The next best thing to taking a trip to a new country! Have your child pick a country for a theme day. Maybe it’s one she has always wanted to visit or one that he learned about at school. Have students do some research into that country’s culture to find some activities to do to celebrate it. See how many activities they can find, such as trying out the cuisine, listening to local music, and learning some phrases in the language, Look into learning a dance or a craft from that country. Top off the day with an international movie night with a movie from that country or in its language.
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Reading just 20 minutes a day can help students make significant progress in their education. Not only is reading an essential skill for any academic area, but reading can also be fun! Children can learn about people around the world, explore fantastic lands, and get lost in a nail-biting mystery. Your local library is a great place to start. Youth librarians are excellent resources and can help children find exactly what they want. If your child is a reluctant reader, try to help them find a book that connects to a topic they already love. Consider if you or your family have any books to recommend to the young reader in your life.
Did you know that students can work on Reading Plus over break? Reading Plus can be accessed anywhere with access to the Internet—whether from home, the library, a cafe, or an airport! School break is a great time for students to make up missed work or to make progress toward that next level award. Don’t forget that kids can choose from one of our many varied interest categories to find just what they want to read.
8. Learn a New Skill
Have your kids ever dreamed of being a famous baker or guitar player? What better time to learn a new skill than during school break! The Internet has resources and guides for almost anything students can think of. Want to try your hand at knitting? There’s a YouTube video for that. Want to learn a new language or try coding? Try a free program online or at your local library. Speaking of your local library, many libraries also rent out instruments the same way they rent out books. Borrow a ukulele and start learning a few tunes! Or maybe your children would rather be magicians than musicians. Well, they can grab some coins or playing cards and teach themselves some tricks from a book or website.
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Volunteering doesn’t have to be complicated! If you know of any organizations in your area, those are a great place to start. Some kids might also be interested in starting their own initiatives. Have them get together with some friends and clean up litter in the neighborhood, walk dogs, or start a fundraiser for a cause that is important to them.
Helping those in need can start without even leaving the house. Have kids donate unwanted clothes or toys. To get them excited about the process, make it a competition. If you have multiple kids, see who can donate the most clothing or toys. Or have a challenge for who can find the weirdest thing in their bedroom. (Just be warned that it might be even weirder than you’d expect!)
10. Listen to podcasts
Taking a car ride to visit some relatives over break? Try mixing up your driving entertainment by playing a podcast. Podcasts are a modernized version of a radio show that have exploded in recent years with topics as varied as your kids’ interests. Kid-friendly podcasts explore subjects that will interest any curious listener.
For the science kid in your family, try listening to the science and technology show, “WOW in the World.” If your kids are always asking questions, try listening to the “But Why?” podcast to satisfy their curiosity. To learn about cultures around the world, “Circle Round” tells folktales and stories that will intrigue the whole family. For older kids, staples like “This American Life” and “RadioLab” are always crowd pleasers.