Add a little extra learning, giving, and growing to Spring Break fun

First, comes St. Paddy’s, then the official arrival of spring, meaning K-12 spring break is just around the corner, and kids are more than ready for it. Whether visiting family and friends, seeking sunshine in warmer places, standing in line for roaring rollercoasters, or staying home and letting everyone catch their breath, it’s a welcome change. Departure from “the usual” can also be super time for lessons that extend beyond the classroom.

For example, Rebecca Darling, “R We There Yet Mom?” blogger, Austin, TX, freelance travel writer and mom of 3, last month posted “6 Ways to Pay It Forward While Traveling.” She writes, “…I like to instill in my kids the value of doing good deeds. And while we try to do them at home, it is just as important that we do them while traveling too.” The 6 good deeds she calls out are: pick up trash when you see it (let’s add “with frequent handwashing”), take pictures of others, give to others, help with laundry (leave behind some quarters and leftover detergent at the laundromat), thank a veteran, and leave a big tip. In the “give to others” category, she writes, “When we had an extra pass to ride the Sandia Peak Tramway in New Mexico, we found a family with lots of children to give it to. And when we had a few extra Fast Passes at Disneyland, we found a service member to give them to.”

Staying home over break this year? Many parks and nature centers add free or low-cost activities to their usual calendar of events during days/ weeks kids are out of school. For example the Kalamazoo, MI, Nature Center holds “spring camp” during the first week in April, described as “a great way to ring in the warm weather and get outside!” With different themes each day, kids can attend for one day or all five.

The intent is multiple take-aways, with the description noting that “Our program aims to provide safe experiences that allow all children to grow into active and respectful community members through exploration of the natural world. We help our campers explore their potential, challenge their limitations, and learn about the natural world and each other. We want them to grow in to good-natured people – people who respect and care for nature and each other.”

Along the same theme, the Giant Science workbook is packed with fun-filled activities and simple directions. Color-coded core sections include: weather, seeds and plants, insects and spiders, reptiles and amphibians, birds, ocean life, and mammals. Travel a maze to the eye of a hurricane. Study bugs up close or look inside a seed. Label the parts of a plant or identify mammals by their tracks. Find handy definitions, supplemental reading lists, and fun facts, such as how birds repair their ruffled feathers after a rough flight.

For dozens of entertaining indoor and outdoor ideas, check out Tip Junkie blogger Laurie Turk’s “109 Fun Spring Break Activities for Children (Boredom Busters).” One of them brings to mind applying the grown-up concept of “beach reads” to kids on spring break. Turk passes along the idea of Reading Punch Card/Chart from Ashley Phipps of Simply Designing©. Turk notes that it “just may help motivate the kids and make reading homework a little easier.” Phipps suggests using card stock and choosing whether kids get a punch for a book read, or for a certain amount of time completed. She elaborates, “Because my daughter is at a beginning level, she will get to punch a box for every new book she reads by herself, out loud to me. If you have a more advanced reader though, each punch could equal 15 minutes of reading time or whatever you prefer!”

It also turns out that doing nothing is an idea—even a useful, teachable one! Back in 2013 Dr. Peggy Drexler wrote “What to Do with Kids over Spring Break: Absolutely Nothing.” She says, “Kids who have no desire to entertain themselves—or even any idea how—are increasingly common.” Drexler also notes that “For most kids, the innate tendency is to let things happen to them, to be taken care of forever,” adding that “as a parent, you can and should help alter that course.” One way is to “Let them be bored,” giving them the chance to learn that “life isn’t constantly stimulating, and that’s perfectly okay.”

Of course, if you feel that lesson has worn thin, the learning adventures in the Charlie & Company 2-DVD Set can take preschoolers all kinds of places (gym, fire station, farm, symphony and more) without ever leaving home! For kids ages 2-8 Anywhere Teacher, as both online learning destination and also available from your favorite app store, is packed with entertaining educational activities. Kids will find a huge variety of choices—books, games, videos, flash cards, music, and more. It’s a multisensory learning experience.

Whether chasing thrills or twiddling thumbs, spring break can be an outstanding opportunity to take learning of all kinds out of the classroom and into the world beyond.