It’s spring break! Congratulations, parents. You are about three quarters of the way through the school year. You and your family deserve a little down time.
What are your plans for the week off? Take a trip to the beach? Catch up on chores around the house? Perhaps go to the theme parks?
Whatever activities you plan for the family, you can still sneak in a little learning. The trick is disguising the learning. Here is an example:
Our scene opens in your kitchen…
Your son invites his two buddies to play mini golf and you are the only cool parent willing to put up with three middle school boys for a few hours in public.
You: How much does it cost to play?
Son replies in painful 12-year old agony: How should I know?
You: Is the Tahiti Island (all mini golf course names have tropical references) open during the week?
Son (same painful agony in voice): How should I know?
You (holding hands behind your back to avoid contact to son’s person): How can we find out?
Son: You can Google it.
You: No, YOU can Google it.
End of scene
Congratulations! You have just encouraged your child to use technology for a productive reason. Your son will be reading, calculating the costs of the golf, and learning about the hours of operation of a business. Looking at a website can be as challenging as some reading passages that your child is encountering in school.
Once you learn how to sneak in the learning, most any activity can be camouflaged as a fun outing but still yield some educational benefit. Engage the Brain has selected some popular spring break activities AND demonstrated how to sprinkle in a little sneaky learning.
Spring Break Activities
Bowling equals math. Even though most modern bowling alleys have automated scoring systems, it is still fun to keep your own score. Plus, each frame is based on ten pins. Your child will constantly be calculating how many more pins she needs to knock down to equal ten, all while chasing that illusive spare. Questions to sneak in while bowling can include: How far away from 100 are you? How far ahead of your sister are you? Will you and your sister’s combined score beat mine? (I actually stink at bowling but thought it was a good question to include).
Scenic Boat Tour
Packing up the family and heading out on a scenic boat tour on one of your regions’ lakes is a great way to sneak in some science and geography. Here in Florida, we are fortunate to have airboat rides that are like taking a spin around a NASCAR track on water. Before heading out on a boat tour, research what animals and vegetation you may see. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a great website. Give your kids a pad of paper and allow them to create a chart to track the animals they see. If your kids need a little encouragement, make it a contest. For example, whichever family member spots the most alligators would win a small prize. If you live in Michigan, that would be quite a contest! Or you can just make it Wolverines.
Bring the Kids to work
Depending on your occupation, and your child’s age, sex, mood, and her friends’ spring break schedules, bringing your child to work may be a good rainy day activity. Recent research has shown that children who have more general knowledge do better in school, and do particularly better in science, than those students with less general knowledge. One way to build that knowledge is through constant exposure to new material. No matter your occupation – just think if you were an airboat driver – there are plenty of learning opportunities available. Discuss how your job functions within the company as a whole, how your company functions within your industry and how your company functions in the broad economy. Taking your child out to lunch or ice cream never hurts either.
Visit your Lego Store
Legos are still an amazing toy that packs tons of learning into all that colored plastic. Legos develop fine motor skills, creative planning, engineering and persistence. During the break, take your child to your local Lego Store. On March 19 and March 26 the stores are holding a special Lego Club Meeting event. It is a great opportunity for your child to meet other Lego enthusiasts and build a fun project. Click the link for more details.
Planning a family picnic can be as much fun as actually going on a family picnic. First, you need to motivate your child by asking him his favorite picnic snacks. After he rattles off five or six disgusting, unhealthy options (that secretly sound delicious), reach a compromise by suggesting a few healthy alternatives. Prepare the foods with your child. Cooking is filled with learning: Reading the recipes, using the measuring cups and spoons and following directions. Finally, you must decide where to go on your picnic. Encourage your child to research parks and other outdoor areas in your town. Do you see that? That is your child running to the computer to read for a purpose.
Wrapping it up
Spring Break is a great time to reconnect with the family and participate in some fun activities. But just because the kids are off of school does not mean the learning must stop. On the contrary, by using subterfuge and creativity, just about any family fun outing can be tweaked to include some educational benefit. By encouraging your child to read for a purpose, apply math concepts in real-world applications and answer a few well-camouflaged questions, your spring break can be fun, relaxing and rewarding.
David Karch (Learning Specialist with Engage the Brain)