Christmas is an exciting time for children and teenagers. New presents, time off school and the chance to relax and catch up with family and friends can all be part of a well-earned break.
However it’s likely that your child’s usual routine will be disrupted, which can lead to difficulties getting back into the new term when the school break is eventually over.
During the Christmas holidays, parents should aim to keep their children engaged and motivated, acting as learning ‘scaffolders’ until the time comes to go back to school.
Here are five ways parents can support their children’s development during the school break.
1. Let them self-regulate
Learning doesn’t just have to be about memorising facts or reciting times tables. Allowing children to take accountability for themselves – whether that’s with money, time or their emotions – can help them develop a sense of their own capabilities and take responsibility.
This holiday time, try setting your child a ‘budget’, which can range from how much money they’re allowed to spend or how long they’re allowed to do a certain activity. Tangible markers like sand timers or coins help even younger children manage their remaining ‘budget’.
2. Set them independent tasks
Often your child may need your help with something, and you’ll know children can achieve something bigger and more satisfying with a parent’s help.
However, sometimes you’ll realise it’s right to stand back and help your child gauge when they can achieve something independently. This Christmas, set them small tasks that allow them to take ownership and make decisions independently, such as keeping score in the family board game or deciding how to divide up some cookies between siblings.
3. Encourage reading and writing
Reading is of course so important for children’s cognitive development, and sharing stories is a great way to stimulate their imagination as well as encourage language learning.
The school break brings the opportunity to read every day – whether it’s a cosy bedtime story; a magazine or comic on a long journey or simply digging into a good novel.
Writing also has a similar effect and helps to strengthen children’s literacy skills. This Christmas, why not encourage your children to keep a diary of their thoughts and best moments, or come up with their own Christmas story?
4. Get busy with creative projects
Creativity is a chance for your child to express their personality and feelings and provides huge learning potential along the way. Arts and crafts are a great way to do this and help get children away from their screens! Why not create homemade decorations or make thank you notes for relatives?
Alternatively, getting creative doesn’t have to mean getting the paints out. Encourage your children to put on a play for visiting relatives and offer to help with the big performance by setting up a stage or reviewing lines. You could also help your child to film a video if performing isn’t their thing. Coordinate angles, sets and help your child come up with their own creative storyline. They will undoubtedly feel accomplished when the whole video is complete.
5. Explore a new place
Getting out and about in a new environment is amazing for stimulating children’s minds. Let them take control of preparing for the trip by packing snacks for the road or choosing what to put in their rucksack. Let them explore their new surroundings and if your child is old enough, use a map for helping the family get around.
Green spaces and nature bring lots of health benefits and will give your children plenty to see and think about. Spark their curiosity by asking them questions, such as how they think that landscape formed or what animals they think they’ll see on their trip.
There are lots of educational places for families open this time of year, from museums to nature reserves to scavenger hunts.