Some folks look forward to using spring break as a travel vacation. Others look forward to some quiet time at home. Time away from school can mean sleeping in, daydreaming, reading a good book or just doing “nothing.”
However, this loose schedule can lose its shine after a day or so. Here are some tips and ideas for making your week at home educational and exciting.
Kids will appreciate some fresh air and sunshine. Go to your local park or find someplace new. Create a scavenger hunt of natural items. Bring home found objects and create nature crafts. Identify plants and animals you meet along the way. There are birds galore this time of year. Can you identify them?
Hit the Trail
Most families have their favorite hiking spots. Expand your horizons by finding a new place. Visit bit.ly/1A1Txrr for a run-down of Austin’s best trails, or visit alltrails.com.
Create in the Kitchen
Cooking and baking bring many learning opportunities. Double a recipe and help your child determine the new measurements. Let him crack the eggs, set the timer and temperature on the oven. You’ll cook up some memories while learning.
Eat a Rainbow
Head to the grocery store and plan a dish. With blueberries, strawberries, kiwis and more, you can create a fruit salad from every color of the rainbow. Engage older kids by researching the vitamins and nutrients in each fruit. Create a rainbow collage using photos from magazines and grocery store circulars, print them off your computer or draw your own.
Run a Pizzeria
Plan ahead for a fun night of creating your own pizzas. Brainstorm topping ideas and help your child make a shopping list. Kids will love the together time this activity affords, along with the feeling of autonomy as they create their own meal. For younger children, make a step-by-step flow chart of the process to make a pizza. Have them list out the steps on index cards. Mix them up and make it a game.
No article about educational opportunities would be complete without recommending a trip to the library. Have your child list her favorite books and look for similar titles. Set up a reading time, and have your own book ready to go. Make reading feel like a special treat by doing it together.
Make a Day of It
There are countless day trips from Austin. You can pick from our destinations on page 12 or make your own. Taking a day trip is an economical alternative to a full-fledged vacation, and it offers the opportunity for extending the learning lesson at home.
Map It Out
Learning to read and interpret maps leads to a deeper visual literacy—the set of skills necessary to decode and interpret images—and is a great extension activity to supplement map skills learned at school. When taught in a high-interest setting, such as mapping out how to get to Brenham, the skill has more immediacy.
Kids can see first-hand how mapping is used. What about GPS? Sure, most people can find their way around these days without a map, but what better way to give your kids a sense of local geography than to map out a route? Print a map from an online application such as Mapquest or Google Maps and have your child trace the route, looking for alternatives.
Work the Floor
The other component of planning for a day trip is what to do once you get there. Going to a museum? Download a floorplan and have your kids decide which exhibit to visit first, the location of the bathrooms, stairs, cafe and gift shop.
Go to your destination’s website and look for videos or photos. This helps build anticipation and encourages the whole family to identify their “must see” spots. Going to the zoo or aquarium? They publish a daily schedule of special talks and activities. Check out the schedule with your kids and plan out which ones you will attend. Identify where the talks will be held and map out the route.
A week off from school does not need to be a week off from education. Take this opportunity to provide rich learning activities for your family. It does not need to be complicated or extensive. Those little moments can grow into big memories.
Jennifer VanBuren is a Georgetown educator and mother of three.