Monday, December 19, 2011

Blast away the 'Mom, I'm bored' winter break blues

6:00 AM

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(ARA) - Winter break from school used to mean a few lazy weeks spent indoors until boredom hit. This holiday season, parents can transform their family's winter break blues into excitement by offering children what they crave - fun and engaging activities that will keep their minds active (and they won't even know it).

As crazy as the holiday season can be, there are simple solutions for families who want to continue to exercise their children's minds and bodies during the winter break and beyond with age-appropriate, fun activities.

Be a camper
Seasonal camps, such as summer or winter camps, are specifically designed to offer a balance of fun and continued learning during transitional periods from school. While engaging children in activities they love, seasonal camps provide a simple solution for families who may need to work or simply catch up on holiday shopping and errands.

KinderCare, for example, offers a winter camp for both preschool and school-age children during the last two weeks in December. Children can explore the science of chemical reactions and learn about the magic of flight through educational and hands-on themed activities, including "Bubble Trouble," "Volcano Blast,"  "Helicopter Propellers," and "Balloon Rockets."  KinderCare's winter camp activities also reinforce core learning areas such as language arts, math, science and creative expression.

Capture holiday memories through reading and writing
The holidays are a time to capture special memories when families spend more time together. Nothing is better than snuggling up to a great book with your child. Creating a holiday journal is another excellent way to preserve memories while participating in a creative, family-friendly activity.  Studies have shown that even younger children enjoy exploring writing and that their scribbles and scrawls have meaning to them. This type of writing is called prewriting and it helps children develop language and literacy skills.

There are simple ways to foster children's creativity and inspire them to write during the holidays.

* Encourage "writing for a reason." Make writing a part of daily life whether writing holiday shopping lists together, writing brief descriptions of holiday pictures or photos, or planning holiday food menus together.

* Invite your child to dictate his or her story into a tape recorder, then write the story down and read it back to your child.

* Inspire an art book by encouraging your child to draw holiday memories. Then ask your child to describe his or her pictures and help him or her write the story that goes with the pictures.

"Focus on the intended meaning of what your child is trying to write instead of the appearance of the writing," explains Megan Riede, senior director of education programs for KinderCare. "Not only does this create bonding opportunities, but it also allows for new ways to support your child's learning during the holiday season."

Turn holiday chores into holiday cheer
Believe it or not, it's easy to turn seemingly daunting holiday tasks like cooking, decorating and wrapping gifts into family fun time.  Think about creating kid-friendly games and activities out of your seasonal chores so that you can spend quality time together while checking off your to-do list. Each of these activities introduces children to more than just the task at hand.

1. Cooking and baking exposes children to measurements, mixing, and the properties of solids and liquids which help them learn about math and science. For example, you could ask your child to measure a cup of flour or show him or her how water and oil separate when in a bowl.

2. Wrapping packages can be an opportunity to discover and identify different shapes, sizes and patterns, as well as practice eye-hand coordination. For example, ask, "Which package is the biggest?" or "Which box is round in shape and which one is square in shape?"  Have your child practice wrapping a gift for someone in the family with a pre-cut piece of wrapping paper.

The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to bond and make memories with loved ones while learning together. Whatever families choose to do this winter break, look for ways to expose your children to a myriad of age-appropriate activities that allow them to imagine, explore, have fun and keep learning while sharing in the holidays.

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