WHILE school holidays are a great time for kids to switch off and have some fun, they can easily fall behind on their reading, writing and maths.
But there are some fun, and free, ways to help keep them up to scratch and help them settle back into the classroom with ease.
Here Richard Evans, education expert at The Profs and Kathryn Lord, childcare expert at More to Books, share their expertise with Fabulous, so your kids won’t fall behind.
Richard says: “Reading is one of the hardest activities to get children to do in their free time, as it requires them to be still and focused for an extended period.”
But there are some fun ways to help.
1. Make the discovery process exciting
Many quality bookstores and libraries have a reading section for kids – often with beanbags and other exciting additions.
And the best part is, ” it’s a fun free trip out” Kathryn explains.
Richards says: “Guide your child through the shelves and let them pick out 3-4 books which interest them.
“By giving your child some autonomy in choosing what they read, they are more likely to invest the time into reading the book/s they choose.”
2. Make reading fun
To help get kids wanting to read themselves at home, you can try making a game of it.
Kathryn says: “Give them a ‘Reading bear’ who they read a book to or let them video themselves reading a book as though they are a tv presenter.”
3. Bingo Challenge
Kathryn says a bingo challenge can be a great way to make reading fun for kids, just choose six things and away you go.
“For example, [choose a] book with an elephant, a book that’s blue, a non-fiction book, a book from an author with [your child’s] first name, a book with twins in it, a book with characters from a different culture,” she explains, then give them a sticker for each one they read.
4. Make reading time a ritual
“Instead of making reading feel like a chore, make reading time a regular ritual that’s part of their everyday routine,” explains Richard.
“Help your kids to create a reading nook (think pillow fort or pulling the cushions off the sofa) and turn off all screens for half an hour in the evening, for example.”
You could even try playing some relaxing background music to create a special atmosphere.
“The aim is to make reading time feel different from every other time of the day,” Richard says.
Meanwhile, Kathryn suggests adding reading into your daily schedule wherever it fits.
For example, on the bus, at the park or when kids are in the bath.
5. Lead by example
Kathryn says: “Children learn by copying, if you want them to want to read, they need to see you doing it too!”
Richard agrees and suggests picking a book out for yourself and making a point of sitting with them during reading time.
“This shows that it’s not just something they have to do, but something that is enjoyed by the people they look up to the most,” he says.
Richards says: “Writing is another valuable skill which is important for children to practice over the summer, as it’s required in every subject at school and in other areas of life.”
Try these easy tips at home to help them stay up to date.
1. Use baking and cooking
Kathryn reckons cooking and baking can help kids “hit all goals” when it comes to learning.
Not only are they learning to cook from a young age, but it teaches them a lot of reading, writing and maths too.
She suggests: “Let them choose a recipe, ask them to write a shopping list, go to the shop and add up the cost of each item while you are in the shop.”
“Then make a book of recipes they love and they can write what they like and how they can make it better next time.”
2. Turn it into a game
Richard suggests getting involved with your children’s learning and making it fun for both of you.
“A great game I use with my students is to write 3-4 lines setting a scene – it could be their favorite planet from Star Wars, or an evocative landscape from a nature show,” Richard explains, saying parents should do it too.
“The trick is that you both have 1-2 minutes to write your descriptions and encourage them to be as creative as they can.
“Then you read them to each other and talk about what you liked the most.”
Richard says this is great for building vocabulary and helping your child put their imagination to good use.
3. Have a penpal
Kathryn says: “Writing postcards to a friend and receiving them is a great way to get children reading and writing in the holidays.”
If you’re traveling somewhere, you can provide them with questions about the place you’ve been to.
Then have them do some research and write down the answers in a letter or postcard back to you, or another family member or friend.
4. Suggest starting a ‘secret’ journal
“Just like making reading time a daily ritual, journaling is a great way to incorporate routine writing practice into children’s everydays,” Richard explains.
“The idea of journaling is often more successful if you suggest a ‘secret’ journal or buy kids a journal with a passcode.”
Making the writing secret adds a lot of value and so they are more likely to remember to add to it regularly.
“It also has the added benefit of being a great way to release stress and manage mental health – a perfect one for older children or kids preparing for exams,” he says.
Another way to do it is to print pictures of their summer adventures and get them to write captions for each, creating a journal detailing their holidays.
Richards says: “Maths can be a hard thing to teach without the structure of a school lesson or textbook.
“However, it’s still possible to help kids develop their maths skills at home.” Here’s how.
1. Go through the daily paper’s puzzle section
Richard says: “There are loads of brain teasers to go through with your child in the daily newspapers, such as sudoku.
“Teach them the rules of each game and challenge them to see if they can do it faster each day.
“Over time, reduce the input you add until they are able to complete the puzzles on their own.”
2. Find maths in everyday life
There are many mathematical skills that are needed in everyday life, such as working out how much money you have and how much you need to buy something.
Richards says: “Use these everyday activities as an opportunity to develop your child’s mathematical skills and help them see the practical use of maths.
“This will also help your child to enjoy maths as a fun and simple activity, rather than seeing it as something boring or unnecessary.”
3. Use meal times
Kathryn suggests using meal times as an opportunity to help encourage maths.
She says: “Talk about fractions when cutting your pizza or cake or practise division by sharing the strawberries between all the family members.”
You can also talk about the different shapes using your cucumbers, carrots and peas.
Something to remember…
Ultimately, whatever you are helping your children practise over the summer break, there’s one thing to remember, Richard says.
“The trick is always to make learning fun by offering your child what they most want – your complete and undivided attention.”
He adds: “Turn off your phone, and all screens in the house, and join them in their activities for 15 minutes a day.
“You might even build lifelong habits together and find yourself doing sudokus or reading together for decades to come.”