Holiday activities

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Tips on how to make holidays and days out with your child educational as well as fun.

Tips for educational days out together

A mum and her children doing arts and craft together © Jandrie Lombard @ Fotolia.com

School holidays don’t have to mean that your child puts their learning on hold while they’re away from the classroom. In fact, educational days out can be the most fun way to learn - plus it gives you the chance to explore new places and subjects with your kids, and spend quality time together.

The keys to successful days out are:

  • To plan them in advance – go online and check out the attraction’s website (including the teachers’ notes if they’re available) to find out when it opens and closes, if there is an admission price and what is on offer for children.
  • To have activities planned come rain or shine. Make sure that there are things to do at the attraction, whatever the weather.
  • Not to overload the day. An outing to an art gallery, for example, can be far more educational and enjoyable if you focus on just one artist or on paintings which have a particular theme.

Follow your child’s lead

At school, learning is mapped out by the National Curriculum and teachers’ lesson plans.

Holiday learning can and should be very different. Before you plan where you’ll go and what you’ll do, find out what your child would like to do. Ask what’s been enjoyable during the school year - what subjects have been exciting and inspiring? What would they like to discover more about?

Next, find a place to visit that offers learning opportunities around the interests you have come up with. Don’t worry about your child learning ‘more’ about a subject, or being ‘pushed further’. If you find a day out that your child engages with, the learning will come naturally.

Another good way forward is to ‘theme’ the school holiday. Often, there are too many options for where to go and what to do during school breaks. To help you focus, decide to concentrate on, say, nature or the Vikings or on a particular author for the week/weeks ahead.

You might like to borrow library books that tie into your theme and provide you with activities ahead of your day out. For example, you might decide to theme a half-term holiday around sea creatures, so you might borrow books on fish from the library ahead of a day out at an aquarium.

Record where you’ve been

Your child will retain a lot more information from a day out if it’s recorded, either at the time or afterwards.

Think of a way to do this that’s fun and that your child is enthusiastic about. It could be by taking some photographs together, or maybe your child could fill in a kid’s activity sheet (these are often handed out at attractions). Or perhaps your child would rather sit down the next day and draw a picture of their favourite part of the outing.

Your child could also write a fictional story that springs from a day out. For example, you might visit a Tudor castle, hear accounts of what life was like there from a guide, and your child could then write a story imagining what it would have been like for a child growing up there 500 years ago.

With a bit of planning, one day out can provide several ideas for educational activities that stretch across a couple of days – and if you hit upon something that really sparks their imagination and interest, it could shape their learning for weeks, months or years to come!

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