Wake up spring break with a new take (or two) on learning

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”-- Doug Larsen. In other words, it’s all good and getting even better! Whether flying or driving to visit family and friends for spring break, exploring an adventure destination, or just chilling at home, a rest from school (and slush!) can still include big learning.

For starters, help give kids context for the season. The first day of spring, which this year is March 20, is also called the vernal equinox, when daylight and nighttime are about equal (12 hours each). Days then grow longer, reaching max daylight on June 21--summer solstice.

Of course, in many parts of the U.S. much of the outdoor world is still sleeping and/or frozen in March. For example, according to NOVA, wood frogs “have a special adaptation—they are able to freeze solid without damaging their cells. Sugar acts like a natural antifreeze in their bodies, allowing them to spend the winter frozen and then resume function in the spring.” The Los Angeles Times notes in an article by Deborah Netburn  that in Alaska these frogs “freeze for seven months, thaw, and hop away” and that “two-thirds of their body water turns to ice.”

Bears have a different approach. KidZone posted "A Long Winter’s Nap," saying about the hibernation habits of bears in colder climates, “since food is scarce in the winter bears figure that if you can’t eat you might as well sleep.” You can bet they are really hungry when they wake up, though!

For the pancake lovers in your family, it might make the “kind of cold, kind of warm” early days of spring easier to tolerate if they keep in mind that this kind of in-betweenness helps make maple syrup! Several years back The Why Files—the Science Behind the News, reported that “Good weather for sap production are night temperatures in the 20s F and sunny days with temperatures in the 40s F.”

Besides making spring itself the lesson du jour, time away from the classroom, along with a slightly more flexible schedule, also create a great an opportunity to slip in some “book learning” on the fly. Consider this 320-page Big Third and Fourth Grade Workbook, which has amusing illustrations with quippy, relatable captions that offer real-life context—even rather spring break-themed! For example, “Today, Mom, Dad, Jack, and Peter are packing up their minivan, the Blue Torpedo.” Fun facts add charm to math problems: “The largest reptile is the saltwater crocodile. A saltwater crocodile weights about 1,500 pounds. How much would half a dozen of them weigh?” Social studies and geography lessons, and the occasional knock-knock joke add to the fun. Work on sentences and parts of speech. Develop critical thinking and creativity with an analogy test. Practice multiplication and division, complete spelling puzzles, word problems, and more! Plus, the last few pages and inside back cover offer parents creative ideas for Activities to Share that reinforce and extend the learning. 

Similar big workbooks, geared toward a variety of ages and skill concentrations, make great take-alongs for car trips and air travel.

For preschoolers, kindergartners, and first graders, Little Busy books, are a super size for tucking into tote bags and luggage. Waiting for a flight? A restaurant order? Or the dentist? Hand fidgety little ones this Learn the Alphabet! Little Get Ready! Book or maybe My First Word Searches Little Busy Book, a cute book that contains 48 word search puzzles on a pad small enough to fit in any bag. Hunting for the themed list of words on each page reinforces concentration, spelling and vocabulary skills, and the themes help with classifying.

When it’s time to close the book, just getting kids moving, doing, and creating also produces important learning. For ideas, Active for Life, a site dedicated to “raising physically literate kids,” recently posted “20 Ways to Keep Kids Busy at Home During Spring Break,” by Susan Scandiffio. The fun suggestions include scavenger hunts, living room picnics, rock painting, and puppet shows.

Whether hitting the beach or hunkering down at home, think of spring break as a time for new learning vs. no learning.