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How to Keep Your Child Learning During Winter Break

As winter break quickly approaches, it seems everyone’s mind is on presents, parties and people. But, just the same way that kids lose knowledge over the summer that they’ve worked hard to cement during the school year, a bit of “brain drain” also occurs during the end-of-year time off. It’s a good idea to sneak in a bit of knowledge practice during the holiday break, just to keep those neural pathways active.

Holiday knowledge practice doesn’t have to be ho-ho-hum, though. Your child can enroll in a variety of winter break camps, or you can work your kids’ mind muscles with game-based learning and practice through play. Different personality types enjoy game-based learning for different reasons, so be sure to key into these aspects of the experience to maximize the learning fun for your kiddos until they head back to school in January.

Not sure what personality types each of your kids are? You can find out for free on kidzmet.com.

These kids enjoy focusing on the big picture and what “could be”
Create a die with a different subject you’d like to practice on each side. (In our house, there’s one side for spelling, one for math, one for Spanish, one for writing, one for music and one “you choose.”) Once the die is rolled, have your child come up with the game-based idea for how they’d like to practice that subject and the rules for the game.

These kids prefer step-by-step instructions and repeating/reproducing things they’ve done before
Take your game-based lead from board games your kids already know how to play, then give it a little twist. Here are two familiar games you can adapt:
Uno – Pick a number you want to practice and the function (add, subtract, multiply, divide, exponents, etc.). On his turn, each person must say the equation and correct result. (Say you selected “19” and “subtraction” at the beginning of the game. If your child puts down a “5,” he would say, “19 minus 5 equal 4.”) A wrong answer means picking up two cards instead of putting one down. All other rules remain the same. Extra credit: a wild can change the function and/or the number.
Trivial Pursuit – Substitute your own questions tailored to what your kids are learning. Each color could represent a different school subject. Use this template to print your questions.
You can also find new ways to play Twister and Sorry.

These kids relish black-and-white rules and competition

Create a holiday game Olympics. Put the different subjects you want each of your kids to practice on a display board, along with exactly what you’ll be practicing over the break. Establish a recall “baseline” for each subject before the holiday begins, then do time trials every few days in each of the subjects. Wrap up winter break with trophies, medals or certificates for most improved times in each area, most accurate answers in each area, and all-around improvement. Make sure you clearly define the rules for each reward, as Thinkers prefer to have a black-and-white choice for each winner.

These kids enjoy interaction, consensus and activities like cheerleading

Key into “everybody wins” games where you can tie the new knowledge to an emotion at every opportunity. One idea is vocabulary charades. One family member acts out the vocabulary word and everyone has to guess what it is. If the family comes up with the vocabulary word, the actor scores a point for the family. Once the family earns a certain number of points, everyone wins. Make the game even more exciting by adding rewards; for example, earning a certain number of points means family movie night, a favorite dinner, or bedtime extended by an extra half hour.

Before the last day of school, be sure to connect with each of your kids’ teachers to find out what (if any) subjects your child is struggling with in class and what’s coming up just after winter break to give them a leg up in January. You probably got a good sense of this at your most recent parent-teacher conference, but it doesn’t hurt to just reconfirm the most important areas to practice. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to go crazy with this practice – one game a day should do the trick.


This article was first published in the December 2012 issues of DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild, and was updated on Dec. 10, 2018.