School holidays can sneak up on parents, leaving us scrounging for activities for our kids that won’t break the bank or the windows in our homes. Here’s a simple checklist you can start planning for now so that you can face down any school break without breaking a sweat.
Write a Plan Together
Spend 30 minutes on the first day of the break writing a plan with your child that includes daily activities, alternative activities (like a bad weather jar), chores, goals, and rewards. Make sure you plan for plenty of down time to allow kids the chance to learn how to entertain themselves without electronic devices or micromanagement. Put the plan into action on day one, and stick with it. Creating some homemade chore checklists can get kids engaged and keep them accountable, as well.
Start With a Clean Slate (or Room)
Teaching a child how to organize and sort is one of those lessons that falls to parents. Grouping like items and sorting them by category teaches spatial reasoning, and starting summer with a clean and organized room can help avoid some of those fruitless searches for lost toys or favorite shirts.
Plan a Dinner Party
Combine multiple lessons by planning a dinner party or picnic with your child. Challenge their math and nutrition knowledge with grocery shopping and food prep, and invite guests to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Make it a fancy affair to teach table setting and manners, and involve the whole family in cleaning the house before guests arrive. Bonus project: Have your kids design their own placemats that depict where each dish and utensil should be placed when setting the table. Use contact paper to make their custom placemats easily cleanable.
Study the Universe
Kids enjoy hands-on lessons, so buy a solar system model kit or use what you have at home to make a model to decorate their newly clean room. Make one planet a day as you study its size, placement, and atmosphere, and talk about what it would be like to visit that planet. Wrap up the project with a big installation in the room, and then study the stars in your backyard on a blanket or trampoline. You’ll find all the information you need for this project (and when to plan it to coincide with some astronomical events) through StarDate.org.
Keep Them Social
Kids tend to lose touch with friends over breaks, so plan a couple of playdates or sleepovers before school lets out, but take it a step further during longer breaks. Teach your kids about snail mail by having them pen letters to a pal from school. This project will keep up their writing skills. Also, teaching children to write and mail letters is becoming a novel idea, but it’s one that will help them learn about the postal system they’ll have to navigate at some point. To make it a geography lesson, find a distant pen pal your child’s age through a local church, school, or other organization, and help them find the pal’s location on a map or globe.
Build and Run a Lemonade (or Hot Chocolate) Stand
Whether it’s a more elaborate front-yard lemonade stand, a prime location selling bottled water out of a cooler at a garage sale, or a hot chocolate venture at a local big-box store during shopping season, budding entrepreneurs can learn a lot about business and sales with a little startup capital and a business plan. They need help putting the plan together and hauling heavy supplies. For an enterprising lesson in frugality, challenge your child to build their beverage stand out of discarded pallets or other recyclable materials.