Turn hectic holidays into festive, focused learning activities

Holidays are joyful, and for kids, sizzling with anticipation and excitement. However, the season can also produce stress, not just for adults but also little ones. Bedtimes, meals, and routines grow unpredictable, sugar intake amps up, and traveling produces energy to burn. Whether hitting the road or staying home, pull out a few holiday-themed puzzles to help kids carve out some quiet unwinding time, as they practice important skills.

Puzzles are more than fun. Mazes help develop problem-solving and fine motor skills. Kids can “plan” their pathways by tracing with their fingers, and once they’ve “solved” the maze, do it for real with a pencil. This multi-step process establishes the idea of thinking through a challenge and also reinforces the importance of practice and persistence in reaching a goal. With hidden picture puzzles kids practice “figure ground perception” or the ability to distinguish objects from backgrounds. These puzzles also sharpen visual discrimination, including recognizing similarities and differences.

The Jolly workbook series is just the ticket for holiday-themed puzzle fun. In Jolly Mazes, wide paths and colorful pictures make it an adventure. What child can resist helping out when “Rudolph Is Lost” or Santa is struggling “Down the Chimney”? Hidden Pictures is a 32-page workbook packed with charming, find-it puzzles that fine-tune focus and blend challenge with do-ability. With Jolly Dot-to-Dots, as they connect the dots, little ones will be learning to count from one through thirty. They will also be sharpening fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination. Jolly Try-n-Spy is filled with fun objects to find, cute characters, and silly rhymes. “Read the rhyme. Put a checkmark next to each picture you find.” For preschoolers and kindergartners this workbook develops observation and early reading skills, and picture clues and rhyming words help older kids expand their vocabularies.

Each Jolly workbook has a Certificate of Achievement, and the slim size makes them perfect for packing in totes or luggage and taking “over the river and through the woods” to grandma’s house!

For a little electronic find-it fun, try the Jolly Try-n-Spy app for Android and/or iOS. One of the 10 jolly holiday scenes will start out black and white, but spy all 6 hidden images to create holiday magic. The scene turns full-color fabulous as Santa and his reindeer sleigh blaze across the sky! Each puzzle records spy time, and the fastest times will get added to the Holiday Hall of Fame! A quick pull on the green lever will reshuffle the images for more Try-n-Spy fun.

All puzzled out? Curl up with The Christmas Wreath, a holiday storybook sure to become a family tradition. A few tired elves almost miss out on celebrating. What follows next involves a hungry polar bear, the beauty and stillness of a North Pole night, the watery world below the ice, and a Christmas wreath mysteriously transformed into a wondrous, one-of-a-kind work of nature and art to greet Santa upon his return home.

Unwrap some big learning fun in several small, delightful packages!