The Transylvania Times -

By Crystal Whitman
Everyday Education 

The Education Benefits Of Holiday Activities


December 26, 2016

The winter holiday break for Transylvania County students is currently underway. There are lots of things families can do to have fun with their children while at the same time sprinkling in some academics.

Including children in holiday baking provides a great opportunity to practice a number of mathematical skills. Measurement, fractions, elapsed time, and problem solving are “biggies” but basic math skills are also required while cooking.

To incorporate writing, a holiday diary could be made from simple materials. The cover could be cut from an old cereal box with the blank side facing out to allow for decorating.

Another writing opportunity could be to have children write thank you notes for the gifts they received from family and friends. Santa is used to getting notes documenting great behavior throughout the year and a wish list, but wouldn’t he be super excited to receive a thank you note after completing his annual journey?

Bird feeding also lends itself to academics while making it to the list of fun things to do with bored kids. Recycling toilet paper rolls or pinecones, covering the outside with peanut butter and then sprinkling bird seed is the basic procedure for a tried and true bird feeder. Measuring strings to attach the new feeders to nearby trees adds a finishing touch and a bit of measuring.

Keeping a record of the birds (and other creatures) observed would add some science as well as an opportunity to practice telling time and recording data. Changing up the type of seeds would also be an interesting and simple twist to the original plan.

A science journal could be made and questions such as the following could be posed/journaled: “Are the animals more active in the morning or evening?” “Do colder temperatures result in more action at the feeder?”

Visiting shut-ins and local nursing homes will cost the price of the gas to drive there, but will add so much to a person’s day. There are a number of things children can do to be active participants in such a visit. For those not bashful, singing holiday songs learned at school or at home would allow for the child to practice important presentation skills.

Another idea would be for children to plan a very simple craft idea to be completed with the shut-in. Having your child write a basic list of steps in the activity would help with sequencing the steps. (Sequencing officially begins in first grade standards and continues on through the grades.) Making a list of needed materials and checking them off would be important. Guiding the adult through the steps would address speaking and listening skills as well.

For those not so crafty, a basic interview with the adult could be conducted by the child. Focusing on a certain topic such as childhood or how the world has changed or even favorite memories would be manageable. The child could take notes or audio record the interview. If this is with a special adult in the child’s life, the information gained may be considered a treasure some day.

Having the child write a “year in review” for his/her life or for the family would be a great project. As a child, I remember receiving such a review from family members in the mail.

These writings could be combined with real photos or hand drawn illustrations to be displayed on a poster board or could become a handmade calendar for the upcoming year. These could prove fun for students, but from an educational perspective there are many important skills being covered.

At my home, a favorite holiday break activity is the playing of board and card games. Depending on what game(s) you are playing, many important things are being practiced while lots of laughs and memories are being made. Taking turns, developing strategies, thinking “on your feet,” and practicing vocabulary are all important. I know in our family, we have a number of on-going giggles due to things that have been done or said during these special game times over the years.

And of course as an educator (with my ultimate goal being to help children realize the importance of reading and to develop a love reading), I can’t close without suggesting that families read together every day. Having students read independently is so important, but reading a book together as a family is an activity which will prove to be helpful in an academic stance and be a family bonding perspective. At my home this holiday season, we are reading “Crenshaw” by Katherine Applegate. Not only is it a wonderful book, but it has helped us to realize that when times are a bit tough, friends and family matter.

Here’s to hoping your holiday season has been and continues to be memorable!

(Whitman is the lead teacher/instructional coach at Rosman Elementary School.)


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