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Keeping kids’ minds sharp over winter break | Families

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Keeping kids’ minds sharp over winter break
Keeping kids’ minds sharp over winter break

By Megan Nellen, Lower School Principal at The Walker School

1. Community Service: Use the break to plan community service ideas for the coming year. Kids can write flyers and notes asking neighbors to save and donate any holiday décor they plan on tossing out to be used next year for a family without a tree or decorations. Children of all ages can help make and deliver sandwiches for a homeless mission or shelter or make cards and pictures for a local nursing home.

2. Reuse, Recycle, Entertain: Collect leftover boxes, ribbons and paper and have your kids use them to build a robot or make a game. Each year at The Walker School second graders use cardboard to make arcade games.

3. Family Book Club: We all know the benefits of reading, but too often, our kids may not see us actually reading anything other than our emails. Research some age-appropriate books, let the entire group make the decision on what to read and set a deadline for your book club meeting. If the ages of your children vary, consider pairing up similar ages with near-by cousins or friends, or select a book that the older ones can read on their own and the younger ones with a bit of help. Be sure to follow through and discuss the book allowing for everyone’s opinions and feedback.

4. Learn to Code: For the tech savvy -- and those that prefer computers to books -- channel that screen time toward learning to code.

5. Picture-A-Day Blog: This is ideal for families who will be traveling this holiday season, but can be just as effective for those staying local. Work with your children to start a blog. Any number of free sites such as Blogger or WordPress make this very easy. Post a daily photo and summary, including what happened, why the photo was selected and a quick reflection.

6. Spend time outside: Giving kids unstructured playtime in the outdoors is invaluable, but it can be tough to find the time while school is in session. Allow your kids to make up their own games, find animals or tracks, do a scavenger hunt (list common items such as finding a stick shaped like a Y, something red, a beautiful leaf, or a white rock). Take a family hike.

7. Challenging Games: Board games and game tournaments are a great way to entertain varying ages and generations as well as large groups of people. Consider using competitive brackets for both winners and losers for competitive two-person games like chess and Chinese checkers.