While many of us spend the month of December day-dreaming about long lazy days spent binge-watching favorite shows, eating tasty holiday treats, and spending time with family and friends, there is one group that faces the holiday break with a bit more trepidation: our students’ parents.

Knowing how to plan activities to stimulate and encourage learning while keeping kids focused is no easy task. It is a skill set that teachers hone day after day in the classroom. Even for parents with the best intentions, it’s hard to incorporate learning into vacation time, particularly when children have access to electronic distractions such as video games, televisions, iPads, and cell phones. While it is easy to say, “Hey, it’s a short break, why not just let students completely disengage?” research shows that keeping students mentally engaged over breaks supports a smoother transition back into an academic setting.

But it’s more than that. Many parents want to support their student’s learning, but they may lack the time or knowledge or resources to be able to do this in a fruitful way. So for this holiday season, instead of creating a specific assignment for students to complete on their own, outline an adventure and a reflection that parents and children can do, together.

  1. The Adventure: If kids are home over break, so are their parents or another caregiver. Provide an idea for an adventure that they can go on together. While some of your students may be traveling for a destination holiday, that won’t be the case for all of them. Think of local excursions they could go on that are budget-friendly: trips to museums or zoos, readings at the local library, documentaries on Netflix, or visits to state parks. Most towns have specific events they host only in December, and many are discounted for students. Pop on Google, find a few that relate to your subject, and put them on a quick newsfeed post to your families. For families that may have a hard time finding transportation, many museums and parks create electronic field trips for student, such as this video about African American Experiences in World War Two.
  1. The Reflection: For your students to get a little something more out of their adventure, have them creatively craft a response to their trip. It could be directed towards an interesting fact they learned, a new perspective on a topic, or an emotion they felt while on the excursion. But remember, keep those parents involved! If they love to cook, they could create a food-based diorama of the experience with their child. They could write a song together, create a comic strip of their adventure, design a sports-team style jersey for an important figure they learned about, anything that excites them and gives them an opportunity to work together.

Positive parent engagement with school is one of the strongest indicators of student success. Not only will creating an opportunity like this for your students give your parents an easy, structured activity that they can do with their child, but it will also show to your parents that you believe their involvement is valuable. Use SchoolCNXT to share information about these ideas. You can even forward publish posts to be published during break! Once your back, you can post pictures of families’ adventures on SchoolCNXT, which will also make them feel more directly connected and appreciated by you. Your parents are an important part of your child’s academic success team. This holiday season, ensure they know it!

Chelsy Gentry, SchoolCNXT Editorial Team and former teacher