Have fun learning this Christmas Season!

Covid-friendly activities for you and your family

This Christmas Holiday looks much different from previous ones, but there are still opportunities for families to connect by enjoying a variety of leisurely learning experiences together.

Curiosity is best developed through hands on, interactive learning experiences with friends, family and the world. Many of our children learn more by doing and investigating than seeing and hearing. While tablets, smart phones and computers are useful tools and supplements for learning, they only represent reality and will never replace the benefits of physical and social activity.

Here are a small number of practical activities you can do with your children over the next two weeks to develop curiosity, resilience, investigation and discovery (and yes, it may even mean we re-discover the joy of unplugging from the devices that often compete with our loved ones for our attention):

Hit the trails and get some exercise!

Don your festive apparel, lace up those hiking boots, and wrap up in a scarf to hit the hills and other local trails. A good old-fashioned walk will do your soul a lot of good! Physical exercise releases “feel-good chemicals” called endorphins which can lift our mood. According to the NHS (UK), a child between the ages of 5-18 should get at least 60-minutes of physical exercise every day. This can include walking, cycling, swimming, rock climbing, playing a sport, running around a playground or walking the dog. These types of activities keep our muscles, heart and lungs going strong!

Start your holiday by making a list of at least three different physical activities to do over the next two weeks. Every time you complete one of them, cross it off your list and talk about what you did to reinforce speaking and listening skills. But remember: this is winter, so don’t forget your anorak when you go out!

Take a Fake-cation!

If you are staying local for Christmas, strap on your mask and head into town to buy a few postcards that highlight some of the sights in your local community. Next, take time to visit the locations and/or discuss them with your children. Discuss the history of the town, the types of plants, people, trees, industry, or whatever images you see on the postcards. Afterwards, you and your children can write a post card together and send them off to friends and family.

If you really want to “fake” it, just buy the post cards and, with your child, use your imaginations to make up a story to write and send to friends and family!

Board games

Dust off the board games and get the playing cards out! These develop social skills, reasoning, speaking and listening, and foster a sense of community and belonging. Matching pairs (Memory) engages our working memory and short-term memory skills, which have been shown to be important for literacy development and using and applying math skills!

If you don’t own many board games or card games, head into town on Boxing Day (December 26th for the Americans) for some post-Christmas sales. You can also find these types of games at Goodwill and other charity shops. Just don’t let the rivalries get out of hand!

Rollercoaster Reading

This strategy focuses on reading with expression by modelling what fluent, expressive reading sounds like (vocal fluctuation with intonation/pitch that goes up and down- like a rollercoaster). Expression in reading is important for practicing fluency (reading speed and accuracy) and comprehension (understanding). You will need a voice recorder, a book, and to follow these steps:

1. Choose a sentence or two from a book and record your child reading it. If they do not know a word, quickly tell them what it is and keep reading.

2. Pause the recording when they have read the sentence or two.

3. You model for them how to read the sentence using A LOT of expression (up and down like a rollercoaster)

4. Tell your child you want them to read it just like you

5. Record them reading it again

6. Play both recordings out loud and back to back. Ask them which reading sounded more “exciting” to listen to and why.

The point of this is to be “over the top” and show children that reading is more than simply saying the words on a page. When read with a lot of expression, even the most lackluster stories can be fun!

Be safe, have fun, and have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year!