By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
It’s holiday break and your child has several weeks ahead of no studying, no homework and no school. What can you do to keep your child occupied – and learning – this holiday season? Here are several ideas:
Read for fun – At the end of a semester, your child may appreciate being able to choose his or her own reading material, so take him or her to the library a few days before break begins to stock up. Let your child choose what he or she likes, even if that’s comic books in lieu of autobiographies. The point is not to burden your child with more reading assignments, but to get him or her reading – and excited about what he or she reads.
Visit museums – What better time to plan a few fun field trips than holiday break? Hit as many of your town’s museums as you can. Art galleries (large and small), history museums, and science and nature museums are fun for adults and kids alike, and often have special exhibits around the holidays. Don’t forget other types of museums, too: firefighter museums, flight or aviation museums, heritage museums (Jewish and African-American, for example), sports museums and botanic gardens, to name a few.
Explore your child’s interests – With some free time on your hands, holiday break is a great opportunity to foster your child’s interests. Is your child interested in medicine? Check with a hospital in your area to see if you can arrange a tour. Have a budding writer on your hands? Look into online or in-person writing workshops in your area for children or teens. Children who are less enthusiastic about school may have other hobbies worth exploring. A sports fanatic might enjoy a tour of the local football stadium or sports books specifically geared for reluctant readers.
Take a class – Your child may not jump at the idea of a U.S. history class, but what about a drawing or music class? Check out your local recreation center or community college for possibilities. If your child is interested in music, consider hiring a local college music major who will be in town for holiday break to give your child private lessons.
Offer educational television and movie ideas. Try as you might, after a long semester of working hard your child may be drawn to the couch and the remote control over anything you suggest, especially the first week or so of holiday break. Try offering educational channels or programs as alternatives to reality TV and sitcoms. Look for interesting documentaries on topics of your child’s interest, or based-on-true-events films, for example.
Use the computer for productive activities. Your child may spend more time than you’d like on the computer instant-messaging with friends and catching up with people on Facebook. But rather than forbidding the computer, try offering your child new ideas to translate his or her technological skills into educational opportunities. Help your child set up a blog on a subject about which he or she is passionate. Plan a future trip together to a foreign country and have your child do a little Internet research each day on its sights, culture and history. Loan your child the family flipcam for holiday break and tell him or her to develop a short film or silly documentary to share with the family online.
Encourage your young entrepreneur. Most children are motivated by the idea of earning money, so brainstorm with your child on different ways he or she could do so this break. If your child decides to advertise his or her services (snow shoveling, for example), help him or her come up with a compelling flier to pass around the neighborhood. Perhaps your child has a more detailed idea for an online business. Encourage him or her to research the idea, start drafting a business plan and perhaps set up a free website. Help your child get inspired by reading up on kid and teen entrepreneurs at sites like entrepreneur.com and businessinsider.com.
Holiday vacation is a good time for your child to unwind and enjoy a respite from the structure and frenzy of the school year, but with a little planning ahead and creativity, these few weeks off can also be a great opportunity for your child to explore something new and enjoy learning for learning’s sake.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at 1-201-261-8400 Ext. 515.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800-CAN-LEARN.
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