February 14, 2013

Gimme a Break!

We just lost a couple days of school to Blizzard Nemo, and now February vacation is right on our doorstep. How can you keep your kids mentally active with so much time off? Well, we’re not called “Engaging Minds” for nothing: here are a few ways to make fun but productive use of your kids’ time off and keep their mental motors humming.

Games People Play

In restaurants and airports, on long car trips or even waiting for the movie to start, these games can keep even the most restless traveler engaged. Many can be played with kids of all ages since they encompass a range of reading and focusing skills, and though they may seem “too babyish” for tweens and teens you might be surprised at how invested in the game your child can become. Also, these games can be played collaboratively rather than competitively so you won’t have to break up any backseat tussles. But, you know your children best so if you think they will enjoy the games more if they are playing against each other (or even you!), go for it!

Alphabetics: Players must find objects whose names begin with each letter of the alphabet, in order. You can take turns (with the option of passing) or just make it a free-for-all.

Movie Madness: While the promos and ads before the movie are running, find words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Be prepared to allow for x and q in the middle of words! For younger players or for an easier version, the letters can be found IN the words, rather than at the beginning of the words. Alternate version: Menu Madness, played using the menu at a restaurant.

R We There Yet?: While riding in the car, find all 26 letters of the alphabet in order on license plates and roadside signs. Alternate version: try to find as many numbers as you can in sequence. Note: The driver should not play these games.

Write Away

These ideas for encouraging your child to do some writing over vacation may even satisfy some teachers’ over-the-break homework assignments!

Blog It: Have your child use the computer to create a blog during his/her travels or even while just doing stuff around the ol’ homestead. For older kids, this can actually be published on the Internet or just shared with far-away family members via email. S/he can add photographs, videos, and computer-generated graphics as desired to make the blog truly multimedia.

Wish You Were Here: In the age of email, hand writing letters and postcards has really fallen by the wayside. Use your travels as an opportunity for your child to re-embrace this lost art. And if you, like some of us, often forget to buy stamps while you’re travelling, you can always mail the postcards or letters when you get home. The recipients will still appreciate the thought!

Come for the Jackson Homestead, Stay for the Fig Newtons: Even if your family isn’t going anywhere over the break, your child can still make a travel brochure for your hometown. This can be done on the computer or by hand using craft supplies as simple or elaborate as you choose. Include details and graphics about the history, geography, notable landmarks, great restaurants and even the famous people from your town (yes, this may require some research – double bonus brain exercising!). And, of course, if you are travelling out of town, your child can still do this creative project (or at least gather the information and put it to use once s/he gets home).

Read-y, Set, GO!

Of course, if your child has assigned reading over vacation, that should take precedence, but if s/he doesn’t or wants to do some additional reading, here are some ideas to promote that. And some of these ideas can also encourage kids to revisit books they have already read, thus helping them to solidify their recollection of the details of the books.

Have Info, Will Travel – Pick up a book or two about the destination you will be visiting, or go on the Internet and download and/or print some information about the location of your vacation. Let your child become the “family expert” about the destination!

Harry Potter, Meet Ramona Quimby – Using their favorite books (or any books with which they are fairly familiar), have your children create and act out a script that involves characters from a variety of novels. Or, if your child prefers non-fictional works, have him/her write a script with various figures from history or animals about which s/he can find information in books. Just keep encouraging your children to return to the source material to add as many details to their script as possible.

Big Audio Dynamite – With all of the distractions in public places like airports and restaurants (or even with the “noise” of the music playing on the car radio), it may be hard for your child to concentrate on reading. This is a terrific opportunity to utilize audio books! They can be downloaded from a variety of websites right onto a mobile device or, if you want to share a story with the whole family (and your car doesn’t have a jack for a mobile device) many books are available as CDs. It’s remarkable how much more quickly a long trip can pass when you are spending it with a whole cast of engaging characters!

Whatever your family is doing over the February break, we wish you a relaxing, fun and safe time. We will look forward to seeing you back at Engaging Minds in the weeks to come!