No matter how much you love your kids, breaks from school can be challenging. Many families who aren’t used to their kids being home full time find themselves more than ready for the school year as summer vacation comes to an end. If you find even spring and winter breaks challenging, be careful about relying on screens to occupy your kids.
To keep your kids out of mischief while simultaneously encouraging lifelong learning, it’s important to keep their minds engaged. Here are five simple ways to keep their minds occupied while outside of school.
Pro Tip: ask a homeschool friend!
Your friends who homeschool are used to having their kids home full time. Do some of them let their kids use screens too much? Yes. But MANY of them have built a culture that does NOT rely on screens and they may have ideas for you. But notice that I used the word “culture.” This means the expectations have been built over time, so don’t expect a one day adjustment if your kids DO expect hours of screen time each day.
Similarly if they never see YOU reading a book or doing a puzzle, building that culture will be even more difficult.
Puzzle and activity books
Though they may not have homework to complete, your kids can still keep their hands and minds busy with activity books.
Coloring books are a classic, but for children who are less artistically inclined, puzzle books are another option. Word searches, mazes, and sticker books can keep kids occupied for hours. Visit https://www.pennydellpuzzles.com/fill-ins/ for a wide selection of puzzle books.
Enroll them in classes
Instead of building on the education they’re receiving in the classroom, supplement their learning with an activity that they wouldn’t normally learn in school.
Language lessons are great for cognitive development, while music lessons are a great choice for kids who are more hands-on and creative. For children who wish art was a more regular occurrence in school, enroll them in a more advanced art course. In addition to being fun, creative classes will encourage your children to think in new ways.
Is cost an issue? Here’s another pro tip from homeschoolers: TRADE! What can YOU teach? What can a homeschool friend teach? In my experience, homeschoolers exchange their expertise to benefit their kids.
Integrate learning into play
The best kind of learning is the kind that you don’t even notice. There are so many ways to apply lessons learned in the classroom into your childrens’ everyday lives. Baking and cooking are a great way to explore chemistry and math concepts, while looking at plants, bugs, and animals in nature can apply to science class lessons.
Visiting museums is another option to help your child learn about history, science, and art in a new environment. By integrating learning into play, your child will be more engaged, think critically about the subject matter, and be more likely to retain it.
Help them find books they love
Reading has virtually endless benefits for children’s development, some of which include:
- Improved literacy
- Increased focus and attention
- Expanded imagination
- Greater empathy
While some children are voracious readers naturally, many have to learn to enjoy it. Make an effort to find books that fit your child’s interests. Whether they’re into fictional fantasy novels or prefer to read nonfiction books about sports, there’s something out there for everyone. I love how easy it is to incorporate Usborne books into ANY learning topic or learning style.
Encourage them to be independent
One of the reasons many parents find summer holidays exhausting (and in need of the summer vacation survival kit!) is that they find themselves spending so much more time entertaining, cooking, cleaning, and caring for their children.
If this sounds like you, you may be taking on more than you need to be. Encouraging your child to do things for themselves will take some of the pressure off of you while also allowing them to develop important life skills. For the things they can’t do all by themselves, get them to help out. Put the responsibility on them to put away their toys while you do the vacuuming, and get their help preparing lunch and dinner. These activities will keep them from sitting in front of the TV all day and make the school breaks a little more manageable for you.
Chores. They must do chores.
There’s really no way around it. If your kids aren’t doing real, substantive chores by, say, age 5, you will have an uphill battle as they continue to grow. Chores keep their minds engaged, their bodies engaged, contribute to your home’s smooth running and teach them a wealth of skills and life lessons, not just how NOT to end up as entitled. Chores should fill a chunk of their day with meaningful work and should make YOUR life easier, though if they are not already engrained in your family culture, you will need to invest time into teaching them.
Feel free to share your ideas for keeping kids’ minds engaged outside of school!