Kids can keep learning during winter break

There’s no reason for children to stop learning during school break, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. In fact, break can present fun ways to practice skills and make sure students don’t miss a beat when they return to school.

• Visit the library. A great way to foster reading over break is to take a family trip to the local library. If children do not already have their own library cards, sign them up for one and encourage them to check out both fiction and non-fiction books.

Parents should encourage children to read every day for at least 30 minutes. Younger children should be read to for at least 15 minutes. Children will be more inclined to read if it is a family endeavor, so set aside daily quiet reading time for the entire family.

• Learn family history. Pam Reilly, the Illinois Teacher of the Year, suggests visiting with grandparents or other older relatives to receive a mini history lesson.

“Ask relatives how Christmas has changed or stayed the same since they were small children,” Reilly said. Children can then compare and contrast their relatives’ experiences to their own.  

• Apply math and science to the real world. For children in kindergarten and first grade, “number talks” and “number stories” are a simple way to practice math daily. Encourage young children to create stories where they practice addition and subtraction. For children in third grade and above, baking can be a means of incorporating fractions into holiday activities. Reading a recipe in a cookbook or from the back of a box allows children to see how math and reading work together in the real world. 

For middle school children, use holiday shopping as practice in using percentages. If items are on sale, have children determine their new prices based on the percentage by which they are discounted.

Cold and clear winter nights can be especially great for stargazing. Children can attempt to locate Polaris, the North Star, in the night sky. Stargazing can also demonstrate the earth’s rotation. Note the position of a star in relation to an immobile landmark and return in one hour to see how the star’s position has changed. 

Children can also practice reading a thermometer and keep a log of each day’s temperatures. They can calculate the difference in temperatures between days and make educated predictions about the next day’s temperature.

• Investigate animals. If children are drawn to wildlife,  they might enjoy identifying animal tracks in the snow. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has activity sheets on mammals and other species native to the state at http://dnr.state.il.us/education/mammals/index.htm.

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