Saturday, December 20, 2014

5 Ways To Keep Your Kids Learning During a School Break

Before my husband worked in public relations, he was a middle school teacher. He always lamented going back to school after Christmas every year because he was going to have reteach and reinforce things the students had been taught before the break. He was always amazed how much information they lost over the break. We didn't want this to happen to our daughter, so we have set aside a small chunk of time, about a half hour a day, to practice the skills she was working on before the break. Here are some of the things we are doing.

1. Reading out loud. There is something magical about reading with your kids, no matter their ages. My mom read out loud with us until we left the house. She started with books like The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks and eventually graduated to reading us Great Expectations and Tarzan. I read Great Expectations much earlier in life than I ever would have since we were reading it all together.

2. Puzzles and Memory. We love picking up puzzles at the dollar store to do together. Since my daughter is 6, we try to keep them to less than 100 pieces and we work on them together. We also love to play Memory. We have a classic literature set that we love to play with, and a Strawberry Shortcake set. I don't think it matters what your set looks like as long as it is working your child's brain.

3. Playing I Spy. If your child is working on shapes, make them point out shapes. If they are working on multiplication, make them count things while you are out and about and then multiply them. I Spy can be adapted to just about any elementary grade. For my daughter, we make her sound out words and spell signs to us.

4. Salt or Sand Tracing. Writing, reading and math all become a lot more fun when you are drawing them in sand. I buy my sand in small bags at the dollar store and keep it in a long disposable tupperware container. We draw math problems and sight words in the sand for practice.

5. Osmo. Osmo pairs with your iPad to create learning games that work all different parts of your child's brain. My 6-year-old absolutely loves it because she is getting to play with the iPad and I love it because she is learning.

Each Osmo comes with word tiles to play word games and Tangram tiles. There are all sorts of different settings with each game. With our six year old, we love to play the game where she has to sound out the beginning of the word and place the correct beginning letter on the table in front of the Osmo.

My daughter's favorite game is Tangram, where the app shows her something she needs to make out of the tiles and she has to make the tiles resemble a swan or a cat. I was afraid it would be too advanced for her, but there are different levels and as she gets better she just moves up the levels. The video below shows her playing a Tangram level by herself. You simply set the iPad in the base, clip the mirror onto the camera of your iPad and load up one of the apps to play a game. In Tangram the app will show you the picture of an object and you recreate it with the Tangram pieces.

Sometimes I feel like we have all of this wonderful technology and we use it for mind-numbing videos and other things that just eat up our time. I love that useful learning tools, like Osmo, allow her to see technology as a wonderful tool that can be fun AND educational. We limit technology in our house, but I will pretty much let her play with the Osmo any time she wants and it will occupy her for hours.

Osmo is really easy to set up. You just need to download the different game apps onto your iPad and attach the little mirror clip to the top of your iPad and it is pretty much ready to go. The base is adjustable so it will fit any generation of iPad or the Mini, like I have.

We have loved Osmo in our house and I would recommend it to anybody with kids who wants to help turn technology time into learning time.

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