Do This Not That

Keep minds active over Christmas break

Remember these six easy tips to keep kids thinking even while they’re on school vacation. Even slight changes to activities you’d be doing anyway can make them more educational.

With Christmas stories
    DON’T: Most kids have some favorite Christmas movies they like to pull out at this time of year. While “Elf” and “Home Alone” make for a fun family movie night, don’t limit Christmas stories to the TV screen.
    DO: Look for Christmas-themed books during break. Regardless of age or reading level, there are plenty of books to choose from to get in the holiday spirit. Consider pairing a book and movie, such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” to get the best of both options.

Playing video games
    DON’T: Any time there’s a break from school, the video games inevitably come out. Though they can be fun, don’t spend too much mindless time on games that don’t make the player think.
     DO: Switch between games, sometimes choosing video games that feature puzzles or an emphasis on strategizing and logic. It’s an easy way to let kids enjoy a relaxing pastime during their vacation while still stimulating their minds.

For thank-yous
    DON’T: After the presents are all opened, it’s time to show gratitude. Don’t just say “thank you” in person or over the phone this year.
    DO: Sit down and write a thank-you note. Most kids won’t do much writing at all during Christmas vacation. By replacing or supplementing verbal thank-yous with a written note, they’ll keep those skills sharp for their return to school. Kids who need typing practice could also benefit from writing an email to say thanks.

In the kitchen
    DON’T: Time off of school and cold weather make Christmas break an ideal time to get in the kitchen. For gingerbread houses, skip the premade kits. Don’t buy packaged cookie dough when it’s time to bake cookies or other treats.
    DO: Accept the challenge to design and construct those gingerbread houses. They’ll require kids to think ahead, make a plan and probably use some math along with their creativity. Baking from scratch will have them measuring and possibly doubling a recipe.

On the road
    DON’T: Christmas vacation is a popular time to travel for many families. This year, don’t just watch a movie to pass the time in the car.
    DO: Encourage kids to grab an atlas or road map. It’s a good opportunity to brush up on some geography. As an added bonus, when they want to know, “Are we there yet?” they can consider time as a function of rate and distance to answer that question on their own.

On YouTube
    DON’T: Chances are kids will spend some time on YouTube anyway this Christmas break. Don’t waste all that time on videos that don’t engage the brain.
    DO: Make a point of finding an educational video or two to throw into the mix. This is an opportunity to learn more about a topic kids find truly interesting but wouldn’t necessarily see in school. Whether it’s how an engine works or how muscles move, educational videos can help kids learn without feeling like school.

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