How to Help Kids Learn on Holiday
Holidays - a great time for learning
There has been a lot in the news over recent months about the fines imposed on parents who take their children on holiday during term time. As a teacher I can understand some of the thoughts behind this however I am also firm in the view that learning, whilst perhaps of a more informal nature, can take place anywhere, it is really about the mind-set of the adults who are with the child.
In fact the role the family plays with learning is so acknowledged that significant funding has been given to support the role of families with learning.
The quality time that children can have with parents is valuable and whether on sight-seeing trip or a simple beach holiday the possibilities for learning are almost endless.
Children are naturally curious and often it doesn’t even take the adult to ‘find’ opportunities where the child may learn as children will often find these for themselves.
The best approach is simply to be guided by the interests and questions of the child, though obviously parents with small children will usually embark on a holiday equipped with a few distractions in the way of toys or books, or even games consoles or tablets.
Families Play a Vital Role in Learning
Especially if the weather is nice it is great to have the chance to have lots of outdoor time, playing and relaxing. If you are on a beach holiday this is likely to involve some seaside time but also some time when parents can engage fully with quite simple physical games. Ball games where children can throw and catch are great for developing motor skills. Beaches are great laces for these but also an unfamiliar play area can present a challenge, a slightly higher slide or an unusual climbing frame can present opportunities for children to extend their physical skills. Races in and out of the waves of a or simply along the beach can be great fun, can wear children out and can encourage new skills, trying a hopping, skipping or jumping race. Of course with anything even vaguely competitive there is also the learning about winning and losing and taking turns and managing the emotions that go with these situations.
Science and Geography
If you are spending your holiday in another country, though the same applies to holidays in the UK, then there are lots of opportunities to extend children’s learning about science, without any books or formal lessons. Looking at different bugs, or perhaps lizards or geckos and discussing why there are some types of bugs that we don’t have in the UK because the climate and conditions aren’t suited to those bugs, is a great place to start. I had an interesting discussion with my grandson aged 4 years about eating snails. Not very common in the UK but on offer in every restaurant in the Algarve. If air travel has been involved then there are usually a lot of questions about flying and even for those of us who maybe don’t feel comfortable with lengthy explanations of aerodynamics it can be something that can be investigated together later. Most planes have maps of the routes the airline flies and this can be a great way of showing children where countries are in relation to each other. In our global society this is something that is not only interesting to most children but valuable too.
But in addition there can be many happy hours can be spent digging in sand, filling containers then emptying them, or watching water sink into the sand. It is definitely play, definitely fun and children can definitely be learning simply by discussing the size of buckets or spades used, or seeing which objects float or sink in a pool can help children with their learning.
Many happy hours can be spent collecting shells or stones, counting them or ordering them according to their size, shape or some other feature. Certainly for children just learning to count it is great to have concrete objects to count. From there it is a simple step to remove one or add one and count again, this will engage a young child and give them a learning boost.
Lots of people have timers on their phones and timing activities can also be great fun – and a great way of reinforcing some basics, like the number of seconds in a minute or minutes in an hour. For older children it can be fun to work out the difference between time taken for certain different activities.
Maths Can Be Fun
Although I rarely travel anywhere without books, either for myself or, irritatingly no doubt, for other family members, holidays are a great time for stories. Even without books young children love listening to stories. Telling a story about what has happened in the day, but changing details and perhaps making it more ‘fantastic’ will be great fun. At a zoo we visited we had to walk over a wobbly wooden bridge which became the focus for many retellings of the three billy goats gruff and troll story but in this version the grandson was the hero with his ‘magical’ powers. If holidaying abroad it is also worth getting children to notice the different language, even very young children will be able to pick up that it is different from English or their own language, and if you know any words of that language it’s a great way to introduce concept of language if children have not been used to hearing other languages.
Try telling stories about shells collected that have come to life for example.
As always with children remember safety is important especially in unfamiliar environments so be particularly aware of the following
- Be safe around water – even when children can swim they should always be supervised carefully
- Balconies and high places are always a threat and even though gaps may look small they can be dangerous for small children
- The sun is great and often it is why we travel abroad BUT make sure a sun block is used to avoid damage to young skins
- When it’s hot and children, and their parents, are having fun it’s easy to become dehydrated so make sure children and adults drink plenty of water.
For me one of the greatest privileges of family holidays is simply time spent with loved ones. Time to chat at mealtimes, to really listen to children and extend conversations that sometimes at home people are simply too busy and rushed to have. As an adult, never underestimate how important this is, it is probably the most valuable gift you can give to your children. Holidays are a time when phones can be switched off, when TV isn’t the centre of a room, where work is on the back burner and time together is really valued.