In just about anything that is done during the holidays there is an opportunity for learning. The key is thinking about how you can use the regular things that you will be doing to help your children to learn and grow at the same time. If done right you won’t even have to set up anything special during this wonderful time of year that already focuses on the joys of family bonding.
One of the best opportunities for learning for children of all ages is through the preparing and cooking of the family meal. It is an activity that can create an educational environment that involves math, reading and reasoning skills. It also provides children with life long skills that will help them to build a basis for when they are an adult and have a family of their own. When preparing the meat you can teach them about food safety, such as the need to wash your hands and the fact that it has to reach a certain temperature to be safe to eat. Depending on their age you can also allow them to test the temperature and control the temperature of the oven. These are skills that many people do not have and can serve them well as an adult.
When it comes to preparing recipes that call for measurements you can allow them to read the recipe and lead the way through the process, only stopping them if you need to advise them about something that they may have misunderstood. If you are going to have a large gathering and need to double the recipe it is a great way to incorporate math and allow them to work out the measurements on their own. This will help to build their ability to think in the form of fractions and again, will be something that will be useful to them as an adult.
Something that is often not considered is that baking is actually a form of science. It can be a means of learning about how the ingredients work together to create the finished product when they are introduced to heat. A prime example of this is the fact that baking soda is used as a rising agent and creates a reaction that turns the batter from a liquid to the solid cake that comes out as a result. There really are countless learning opportunities that can come from cooking together as a family and most children find it to be fun as well.
Another great activity for the holidays is learning about the history of the holiday that you will be celebratings as well as the history of ones celebrated by others around the world. There are many books that are geared towards different age groups that explain these traditions and naturally engage children into learning without even knowing that they are. Children naturally find wonder in the world around them as well as cultures they have not experienced. Reading to them from a book of this nature will teach them about differences and similarities, which is a great lesson about humanity for children of any age. Selecting books that are just above their age level is also a way to help to build their vocabulary and encourage them to ask questions along the way.
If you will be traveling to visit family members it is another opportunity for learning, as well as keeping the peace. Think of games that you can play that will engage your children depending on their age. For example, if you have preschool aged children you can play the game I spy and ask them to find the item that you have identified and give them the opportunity to do so as well. Another fun game can be for them to name the colors of the cars that pass by. For older children you can make the I spy game more challenging or you can play the states game if you are taking a long trip. This involves bringing along a map and the children check off the states as they see them. The one with the most when you reach your destination wins.
Just about anything in life is an opportunity for learning. The key is thinking about each situation and considering how you can use it to help your child to learn. Learning can be both fun and a lesson at the same time as long as you make it as such.