Winter Break Activities: “DIY Mini-Camp” Keeps Kids in Engaged in Learning

Ten Easy Learning Activities for Families – Winter Break Fun without Breaking the Bank

BALTIMORE (December 7, 2010) — It is hard to believe but students will soon be off from school and enjoying winter vacation. But a vacation from school shouldn’t mean a vacation from learning. In fact, winter break offers a terrific opportunity for students, and their families, to enjoy quality—and fun—learning time together. This year, educators from leading virtual school Connections Academy suggest adding a healthy dose of learning fun to winter break by creating your very own mini-camp filled with affordable, hands-on, entertaining, and educational experiences close to home.

All you’ll need for your DIY mini-camp is: 1) a little planning, 2) some high-fun, low-cost, educational “camp” activities and, 3) family time together.

To help get you started, here are ten great family activities from the educators at Connections Academy. Use them “out of the box” or personalize the activities to match your family’s interests. For example, you might incorporate a Harry Potter, winter sports, or music theme throughout your mini-camp. Each activity below offers an opportunity to reinforce valuable skills and educational concepts. Explore the educational concepts with your child and assess their comprehension throughout the activity. Take breaks to answer questions and explain concepts in more detail as needed.

Just remember, the key is to make your winter break mini-camp fun for your kids—they won’t even know they are learning when school is out!

“Campify” your Mini-Camp—What’s a camp without a camp song, a mascot, a T-shirt? Kids will love to customize their camp with these brain boosting activities. For your song, incorporate rhyming, alliteration, and, onomatopoeia. Have each camper write a verse. When choosing a mascot, research its meaning. And show your artistic side by making camp T-shirts (fabric paint or Sharpie markers will do the trick).

Get Cooking!—Cooking and baking offer numerous learning opportunities. Preparing a recipe uses math and fine motor skills by measuring, counting, sifting, sorting, and pouring. Want a challenge? Ask your child to double the recipe! Or, on your next shopping trip, have children compute the costs of ingredients to determine the price of a given recipe. Looking up culinary words in the dictionary targets reading, writing and vocabulary skills. Various cooking techniques, like boiling, even offer an opportunity for a science lesson.

We are Family… Tree—Here’s a wonderful and personal project that incorporates research, writing, storytelling and history – record your family tree! Start with your immediate family and research the answers to questions like, “what were the top news stories when grandfather was born… who was the president… where did they live and how did they live?” Chronicle your family’s story on paper or on the computer.

A Spoonful of Science—Conduct exciting, safe, science experiments in your own kitchen like the students enrolled in Connections Academy’s Science in the Kitchen Club. Check out experiments like “Balloon Blast Off”, “Goop Galore” and “Hot Air Aircraft”. Visit the Connections Academy Web site for details and instructions.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered—Holiday cards and letters offer a great opportunity to practice writing skills. Talk about the parts of a letter including the salutation, body, and closing. And, P.S., talk about what “postscript” means. Give a nod to geography and explore a map to identify where your card recipients live – who lives the farthest away? Who lives north or south of your home? How many different states or countries are you mailing to?

Wrap it Up—When wrapping gifts, build math and measuring skills by asking kids to measure gifts with a tape measure or ruler to determine the correct amount of wrapping paper needed. Or get creative (and green) and ask kids to design their own wrapping paper out of reused brown paper grocery bags.

Homemade Museum—Everyone in the family has items that they treasure. Whether it is a special doll or photograph or found object like a feather or crystal, showcase treasured objects in your family museum (aka living room). Designate a curator to direct the exhibit and gather and write detailed descriptions of the objects. Encourage public speaking by having children conduct “tours”. Business-savvy kids will be waiting for visitors in their homemade museum gift shop.

Road Trip!—Escape camp life for a day with a road trip. When traveling in the car, test geography knowledge by trying to name all 50 states and their capitals. Play the 'license plate game' and take along trivia questions like those from Connections Academy’s Quiz Bowl Challenge. Have fun developing and asking questions like, “how much will it cost for 10 gallons of gasoline if the gallon price is (fill in the blank)?” Or, “if we drive 60 miles per hour, how long will it take us to go 10 miles, 100 miles, 139 miles?”

Recess—Get out and play! In addition to the countless health benefits of physical activity, active games and sports can help strengthen social skills, memory, and analytic abilities. From Red Rover, Red Rover, and Red Light. Green Light to Touch Football and Soccer, kids will enjoy a game that all can play and feel successful playing. Younger children enjoy making their own games. Why not suggest that they invent their own game and then play as a family. You’re sure to be amazed at their creativity. If you live in colder climates, enjoy what the weather offers – go sledding and ice skating and talk about the science behind snow formation, and the properties of ice.

And! Stock up on “camp reads” and use vacation time to immerse yourselves in good books. Visit your local library as a family and spend the afternoon exploring the shelves and selecting books. Read with your children everyday. This is one habit you’ll want to keep and one of the most valuable educational gifts you can give to your children.

About Connections Academy
Connections Academy (CA) is a leading, fully accredited provider of high-quality, highly accountable virtual education solutions for students in grades K–12. With an innovative educational model that combines highly personalized learning, certified teachers, a rigorous, proven curriculum, 21st century technology tools, and rich community experiences, CA creates supportive and successful online learning experiences for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. CA serves educators, students and families with a range of education solutions, including: tuition-free public schools; full-time and part-time private school programs; hybrid and ‘blended’ programs that combine the best of online instruction with the best of face-to-face classroom teaching; and turnkey online courses. CA programs deliver superior, personalized educations for students, with the freedom and flexibility to learn anytime, anywhere. CA expects to serve approximately 30,000 students in the 2010-2011 school year.