With chestnuts roasting on the fire, and the eyes of tiny tots all aglow, the winter holidays bring a much needed respite from the rigors of school, especially in 2020. But according to the US Department of Education, the holiday break can also result in the “opportunity for significant learning loss.” Learning loss is a concept virtually all students experience, and unfortunately, the more a student is challenged by a subject, the more likely he or she may lose ground before returning to school in the new year.

Luckily, there are many things parents and educators can do over the holiday break to alleviate learning loss while still having fun.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Here are 12 fun ways to help avoid learning loss over the upcoming holidays. This list is inspired by a 2018 blog post on the Ed.gov website.

  1. Give kids educational gifts, such as board games, science projects, building tasks, scrapbooking kits, and painting kits.
  2. Read stories together. Whether just before bed or around the campfire, reading a fun book or play out loud, even taking turns reading the dialogue of different characters, can be very entertaining.
  3. Begin a contest for your students to see who can finish the most lessons in a fun, musical online learning program like Let’s Go Learn’s Edge series for math or reading. Check where your students are in their school year, by having them do a Let’s Go Learn reading or math assessment.
  4. Listen to music or concerts together. Many musicians, local and international, are streaming their music over the holidays. Billboard Magazine’s website and others list the big artists who are live streaming for the holidays.
  5. Complete a cooking craft together, creating cookies or gingerbread houses, or whatever sounds fun for your family. Try a recipe from a different culture. For a little extra math you can use foreign recipes, which use metric measurements and require translations.
  6. Write greeting cards to friends and family that tell a little story, going beyond a simple “Happy Holidays!” Bonus points if students create their own cards to send to their teachers out of gratitude.
  7. Film interviews with family members for posterity, or edit your own holiday movie using all the decorations of the season.
  8. Find a local nature walk and practice identifying plants and animals you see along the way; learn about how the natural world copes with winter.
  9. Get out those musical instruments you have lying around and see if your family can pick out “Jingle Bells.” If you don’t have any instruments, make some…there are many websites to show you how, using household items.
  10. Build a group project where every family member contributes a part of the goal. It could be a building model or item from a favorite book, a giant volcano, a house of cards, a group creative writing story with different endings, or even a remodeled bathroom with new fixtures and a fresh coat of paint. Kids love group projects!
  11. Play a fun family game that helps reinforce reading and vocabulary, like Scattergories (check out an online version at https://swellgarfo.com/scattergories/), Balderdash, Taboo, Boggle, or Scrabble.
  12. Visit a historical landmark in your area, learning facts about it that your kids might find interesting.

There’s a reason we sing “And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again” in the traditional holiday song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”! The holidays provide a much needed break from the stress and rigors of the school year, but they don’t mean we have to put our brains on hold and watch TV for weeks on end. With a little effort, you can weave a bit of education into almost anything.