Ah. The much needed mid-winter break. Who doesn’t need a little rest from the hectic day to day of the school schedule right now?
I know that teachers worry that reading and writing skills will slip over break and kids will return to school at the end of the week two steps behind.
If you have the same concern for your kids, or have been assigned “vacation homework” like logging a certain amount of reading and writing time each day (ew!!), or are simply looking for something fun to do this week, here are some cool ideas that will keep kids blissfully unaware that they are actually practicing reading and writing skills.
Put on a play
This is awesome because the possibilities are so endless! The kids can do a short or a long play, they can make backdrops and sets, or not, they can do a soliloquy, or involve the whole neighborhood.
Creative kids can make their own scripts, or to simplify you can print one off of the many amazing web sites that offer free scripts for just this kind of thing. Available online are scripts of pirate stories, classic fairy tales, historical events – you name it. Even little kids can get in on the act, especially if everyone is okay with a little improvisation.
Create a theme for the week
This works if you are home or away. Come up with a theme for the week, like pirates, skiing, football, or ancient Greece, and then immerse yourself in that theme.
Read fiction and non-fiction books, articles, or websites about your theme. Eat food based on your theme. Get out of the house and pursue it! Visit a museum, see a movie, eat at a restaurant, go to a ball game – whatever works for your theme.
Using your theme as a base, make a mural, collage or craft, write something about it… You get the idea.
If it is a family pursuit, it is so much more fun. You can do this even if Mom and Dad are still at work this week and the kids are home with a sitter. Just be sure to come home from your work day with at least one fact, story or object related to your theme.
To find books by theme, Amazon is great, but obviously not vetted. Two great sites for this are No Time For Flashcards.com, which has a long list of book reviews by theme, or the American Library Association site.
Make a mural based on a book or a whole bunch of books
My daughter’s kindergarten class has done two of these lately and they were so much fun. Each time the kids read a book, or a few books on the same topic, they illustrated a mural to go along with the story. Afterward, the teacher had each of the kids use their creative spelling skills to write a caption for their illustrations, i.e. “ths is mie dog runig bcuz he is skard.” Obviously older kids can do a much more sophisticated job.
***Fun fact: Newspapers give away the ends of the rolls of newsprint when they get too small for the printing machinery. In Burlington, VT you just knock on the back door of the Burlington Free Press office and they hand them over. We can’t get enough of these!
Do a scavenger hunt
There are many variations of this. One woman I met keeps a jar full of scavenger hunt directives in the kitchen. Any time her kids need inspiration she sends them off with one or two of these. In this case it might be fun to log them in a list on the side of the fridge so each kid can keep track of his “accomplishments.”
It’s also fun to hide something – a stuffed animal, a piece of candy, or a book – and then have the kids follow clues to the end. Even better if they can make these for each other! The clues can be simple: “Look for me between the cushions,” or “Look for me next to something metal,” or make them more complicated: “The next clue is inside a book that tells the story of a cat who makes all kinds of trouble for two children whose mother is not at home.”
For a ready made scavenger hunt see our recent Too Cold to Play Outside Scavenger Hunt post.
Make a scrapbook of your week
This is a great option if you are traveling, but works even if you are at home for the week. The scrapbook can be physical, using real photos, pen and ink, scissors, and glue, or digital, using Microsoft Word, Pinterest, or the scrapbooking pages from an on-line photo management site. I use Shutterfly and upload pictures right from my phone via an app. Once the photos are there, kids can arrange them on pages and create captions to go with them. I guarantee the things your kids will note about your week will be very different than if you had done it yourself!
Find the right book for the right kid
This is much harder for some than it is for others. When we were kids, my brother couldn’t get out of school fast enough each day to pursue his myriad outdoor interests, while I couldn’t wait to curl up in the big chair in our living room with a Judy Bloom book. For my brother to read it had to be just the right book, mainly non-fiction like the Golden Guide series or the Guinness Book of World Records. If you find the right book, your kid will read.
For age appropriate suggestions see the book lists published by the American Library Association.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but my kids are a lot more likely to do something if it was their idea. If I said to them, “How about you put on a play?” no one would want to. But if I acted like I was looking at a play script for a summer camp activity or something, they would insist that they had to do it right away. And if I acted like I didn’t really want them to, it would become even more urgent. Hee hee. I obviously think being a little bit devious is okay in parenting.
Of course there are a million ways to get your kids reading and so many good books to enjoy. The important thing is to make it fun and interesting.
Wishing you all a happy and relaxing break!