For kids, summer holidays usually go hand in hand with outings, play dates and lazy days by the pool or at the beach.
While January fun offers welcome relief from the structure of a busy school year, teachers agree that some children struggle to get back into the routine of learning when school begins again.
Twenty minutes spent writing a postcard or email to a friend is a useful way to encourage kids to keep writing.
Primary school teacher and literacy specialist, Tracey Nicholls, has more than 20 years of classroom experience. She says that encouraging kids to keep learning during the school holidays is vital to their success at school.
‘Teachers want kids to enjoy their break and make the most of their childhood freedom, but we also want them to remember what they have learnt so that they can begin the new school year with confidence,” she said.
Ms Nicholls believes that the simplest way to keep kids on track during the holidays is to encourage them to read regularly.
“Most children aged between 5 and 12 have become used to the nightly routine of home reading during the school year. For some reason, this habit of reading to our kids and encouraging them to read to us is often forgotten in the holidays.”
“This is a shame, because two months is a long time for a child to go without having a book in their hand and the break can make it harder for that child to pick up where they left off when the new school year begins.”
Tracey suggests that holiday visits to the library can reignite children’s interest in reading.
“It’s important that kids be allowed to choose the books, magazines, comics and other reading materials that they are interested in. Librarians are a great resource and usually know all of the best and most popular books that will encourage even the most reluctant readers,” she said.
“The main thing to remember is that there are no rights or wrongs with reading, especially in the holidays.”
Ms Nicholls said that the school holidays also offer great opportunities for children to continue to write, count and discover.
“By the middle of January, the novelty of being at home has worn off for many kids and they are looking for something to do,” she said
“Twenty minutes spent writing a postcard or email to a friend is a useful way to encourage kids to keep writing. Time spent playing Monopoly, Ludo or Battleships will consolidate their numeracy. A box of simple art and craft resources like paint, sticky tape and toilet rolls can stimulate hours of fun. Holiday workshops that focus on things like science and magic workshops can also enthuse and involve active kids who like to experiment and keep busy.”
“All parents need to do is put a little bit of thought into how their children will spend their day.”
Tracey commented that there should always be room for Play Station, Wii and the odd afternoon on the lounge with a DVD, but she recommended that parents take a sensible and subtle approach to keeping their kids on track in the holidays.
“Summer days are long and most kids have plenty of time to have holiday fun. Ten to twenty minutes of reading, counting or learning spread out across each day is not a lot, but it can make a big difference to the skills that children retain and the confidence with which they will return to the classroom in a few weeks’ time.”
This article was written by Sonja Walker, a qualified teacher and busy mum. Sonja leads a team of highly experienced, specialist teachers and children's health professionals at Kids First Children's Services a unique integrated children's education and health centre in Sydney's Northern Beaches.
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