5 Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holidays

Just because the kids are home from school for the holiday break doesn’t mean that they should be glued to the TV or their iPhones. You can turn holiday days into learning fun. Even better, you don’t need to go out and buy any expensive holiday toys to keep them learning while the schools are closed. In this video, Pearson parent expert Dr. Kimberly O’Malley shares a few family-friendly suggestions to keep students learning over the holiday season—and shares five more ideas below.

Bake some cookies or your great aunt’s famous fruit cake!

Cooking and baking are easy (and tasty) ways to teach your kids about measuring, math, and even some science! Younger kids can help measure flour and sugar. Older kids can double the recipe, making it necessary to double the recipe measurements. For little ones, cookie cutters make for great lessons about shapes. The best part is that they are sure to stay motivated by the promise of some fresh baked cookies at the end of their “lesson.”

Don’t break the holiday gift budget!

Shopping with your kids offers many ways to bring learning into the holidays. Take the kids with you to the mall to buy some gifts for their siblings, family members, or friends. Have them compare prices or evaluate the quality of gifts. Or, have your kids join you at the grocery store to pick out the food for your family feast! Have them make the list with you. They can organize the list by food types or even location in the grocery story. Give them a list of a few items to purchase and a set amount of money to teach them about budgeting. For older kids, have them estimate the total, tell you how much change you are supposed to get, or calculate the tax on the purchases–without the help of the calculator on their phone! They can always use their phones to check their answers.

Let the kids help build and assemble holiday gifts.

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers are among the most in-demand, and there is no sign that the need for STEM experts will change over the next few years. It is never too early to teach the kids how to follow directions to put their new toys together, and for the older kids, use some of the tools you’ve got in the garage. Your future engineers need to know the difference between a flat head and Phillips head screwdriver. And, your curious future engineers might want to know the history of screwdrivers.

Teach the younger kids colors and shapes when hanging ornaments or decorations.

Even your youngest kids should join in on the learning fun this holiday season. As you are decorating the tree or hanging up holiday lights, ask your child to tell you the shapes of the ornaments or the colors of the ornaments or lights. Take them for a walk around the neighborhood and do the same with the decorations in your neighbor’s yards.

Learn a new holiday song or act out your favorite holiday story.

No matter what holiday you are celebrating, there are no shortage of holiday songs and stories to share with your kids. Pick your favorite from your childhood or look up a new one that you and your child can learn together. Studies show that movement increases creativity. So, why not try acting out the song or putting together a new dance to Jingle Bells?

At the end of the season, when you are packing up the holiday decorations, don’t forget to tuck the ideas that worked best this year into a box of ornaments or with the tree. Next year when you unpack the decorations, the list of ideas can help you kick off next holiday season with even more ways to turn holidays into learning fun for your kids. I’d love to hear how you engage with your children over school breaks.


Dr. Kimberly O’Malley—a public school teacher, a mother of two boys, and a Pearson researcher at the Pearson Research & Innovation Network.