Children-painting

13 clever (and cheap) ways to keep teaching your child throughout the school holidays

From discovering nature to scrapbooking and park hopping.

By Amy Lewis, 03 August 2016
13 clever (and cheap) ways to keep teaching your child throughout the school holidays

School’s out for the summer! But that doesn’t mean all the teaching and learning has to come to a grinding halt during the school holidays.

Experts agree that it’s a good idea to keep the brains of your little ones ticking over

In fact, experts agree that it’s a good idea to keep the brains of your little ones ticking over and suitably challenged - even when they’re not in the classroom - to encourage learning in all different kinds of environment.

So, to help you weave in a little home schooling brilliantly disguised as fun and games, we’ve rounded up some clever and crafty ideas that won't break the bank. Get the kids involved in these and you’ll have their minds hard at work without them even knowing.

Ready, set, go!

Explore art galleries

Plenty of art galleries around the UK are free, and even put on crafty workshops that the kids can take part in. To get them really engaged in what’s hanging on the wall, it’s a good idea to focus on just one artist or theme for the day, to avoid overloading. Hit the internet to do a little swotting up yourself the night before if you’re no art buff, or pick up an exhibition guide at the gallery.

Theme the holiday

Outer space? Sea creatures? Local wildlife? Pick a theme for the school holiday, and explore it from all angles. You could take a trip to the library and borrow some books to read together, before popping along to a nature reserve or designated wildlife spotting point.

Hit nature trails

With so much open green space around the UK, you’ll be spoilt for choice as to where to explore first. Find out what kinds of animals and plants your kids are most interested in, and set off armed with notebooks to see what you can find. Helping them to take some snaps of what they discover along the way is a great idea too, and an easy way to keep a record of treasures without bringing them all home.

Keep a journal

Kids tend to retain more information if you help them document it in some way. At the start of the holiday, begin a journal together by decorating the cover of a notebook. Then each day, set aside some time for them to note down the fun things they’ve seen or experienced, and anything they’ve learnt or discovered.

Plant vegetables

You’ll need to invest in some seeds, but then it’s all down to water, air and sunlight. Planting vegetables in the garden or indoor window boxes is a great way to help your child learn about where food comes from. They’ll get to monitor the progress of the plant, take responsibility for caring for it each day and hopefully, get to eat the finished product too.

Make a puppet theatre

Whether the puppets are made from the fingers of old gloves, paper and card or something else entirely, the learning lies in your child picking a story - or making up their own - and then retelling it within the puppet theatre. It’ll help to boost their imagination as well as communication skills, and the crafty bit is plenty of fun.

Get scrapbooking

Scrapbooking is a brilliant way to turn learning about new subjects into a fun project, while the arts and crafts element makes it far more enjoyable for busy little minds that struggle to stay engaged. It’s also a rainy day saviour! Choose a topic together, and then let them run with it. Borrow books from the library that they can either copy or trace pictures from, and encourage them to write out a few facts to add in too.

Cook together

Whether it’s fairy cakes, cookies or even a fruit smoothie, whipping something up in the kitchen together will help teach your children how to read and follow instructions. Get them to take control of the recipe, reading out what needs to happen next, and help them follow the steps in the right order.

Build a treasure hunt

This might take some planning, but is great fun. Hide the ‘treasure’ and then draw up a map or set of directions which require your child to think about left and right, compass points and the need to follow steps in the correct order. You could even get siblings to take it in turns to create treasure hunts for each other over the holidays, so they can experience both sides of using these planning skills.

Plan a trip

Whether you’re visiting a theme park or heading out for a walk, get them to research your destination via books or websites, and make notes about what things you can do or see when you get there. Hold a family meeting where they can tell you all about what they’ve discovered, and agree on an itinerary as a team.

Take on museum missions

Museums can be big and at times daunting - especially for little ones with short attention spans. Instead of trying to cover everything in one day, pick just one section, area, exhibit or artefact, and turn finding it into a family mission. Grab a map or guide, and have the kids lead the way.

Go park hopping

If your kids love playgrounds, draw up a list of all the different parks and playgrounds in your surrounding area, and aim to tick them all off together. You can try to do a few in one day, or spread them out over the holiday. Ask them to rate each one after the visit, and talk about what they like or dislike about the park, what they’d change or improve, and which was their favourite at the end of the mission.

Pocket money budgeting

If you give your child pocket money, let them know at the start of the holiday what their pocket money budget for the coming weeks will be. You could even give it to them in a lump sum on the first day of the holidays. Help them manage how they spend it over the coming weeks - whether it’s buying an ice cream in the park or a trinket in a gift shop - getting them to work out how much they’ll have left if they buy a certain item, or how much they should save each week to stretch their money further. As well as maths skills, you’ll get them thinking about the real cost of things, and boost their sense of responsibility too.