Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!


Alanspeak, A slide for children to play on https://openclipart.org/detail/191139/childrens-slide

Alanspeak, A slide for children to play on https://openclipart.org/detail/191139/childrens-slide

A week or two ago my good friend Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark (Navigating the uncharted waters of parenting and life) raised the issue of students having required reading over the summer holidays. Sarah recalled that when she was at school she had lists of books to read, and book reports to complete as proof of having done so. She expressed concern that no holiday reading is currently required of her school-age sons.

The basis for Sarah’s concern is what is known as “the summer slide”, the loss of skills, especially reading, if not practised over the long summer holidays.  Studies show what teachers observe: that students start a new school year with skills at lower levels than just a few months earlier. Revision and review of the previous year’s work must be factored in before new work can be commenced.

Sarah wasn’t so much concerned for her sons who are avid readers and will read regardless of whether it is required or not. Knowing Sarah, her sons will also benefit from an environment enriched with a variety of other learning experiences. All children could benefit from the types of support and encouragement Sarah provides for her sons.

Sarah’s concern was for children who don’t choose reading as a holiday activity. She believes children should continue to learn over the holidays, and does not understand why learning can’t be fun. I agree with Sarah. However I am a bit ambivalent about the requirement that particular books be read, and probably am not in favour of asking that book reports be submitted.


There was never any set reading to be done over the holidays when I went to school, or when my children went to school, and I am not aware of any such requirement of children attending school currently in Australia. The fact that it is not a requirement doesn’t make it either right or wrong. It is simply a new concept to me.

I would be reluctant to set homework for completion over the holiday period, especially the summer holidays for a number of reasons, including:

  • students will be moving to a new class and teacher, some even to a new school, after the holidays and that teacher may not view the set work in the same way
  • students have spent the school year reading, writing and performing other activities required of them, activities that may have little relevance or interest to them
  • students may spend the holiday period in alternate activities and then rush or “fudge” required tasks, seeing them simply as work that must completed, rather than something they want to do
  • I think children need time to follow their own pursuits and interests without having to fill in a worksheet to say what they have done
  • I think children and their families need some time together without the stress of completing set tasks
  • I think it is important for children to have time to wonder, imagine and create, to be comfortable in their own company, devising their own plans and schedules and activities, some of which may be just down time (the ability to relax in an ever-hurried world is very desirable).


But, like Sarah, I wouldn’t always be leaving children to their own devices, allowing them to wander the bush and beach from daylight till dusk as I did during the school holidays (when I wasn’t reading a book, playing games with siblings or friends or doing household chores). I would be mindful of their activities, ready to make suggestions, provide experiences or encourage other interests; but the direction would always be theirs and never forced or “required”.

However I am equally as keen to avoid the occurrence of that “summer slide”. As my contribution towards its prevention while also promoting the notions that learning is fun and that opportunities for it abound, I link to three of my previous posts:

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

Counting on the holidays!

While I reproduce the suggestions from each post here, each set of suggestions is also available as a free downloadable PDF in my TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS store. For your convenience, I have provided a link to each in the headings below:


  1.  Read to and with your child every day – continue the practice established throughout the year with special sharing times during the day or at bed-time — or both!
  2. Demonstrate that you value reading by making time for your own reading, or setting aside a special quiet time when everyone in the family reads.
  3. Visit the library and borrow to read, read, read!
  4. Read poetry books, song books, picture books, joke and riddle books, crossword books, information books, chapter books (these can be read to younger children, or with older children – taking turns to read a page or a chapter each) — what are your favourites?
  5. Trade books no longer read for others at a second-hand book store.
  6.  When dining out, have your children read the menu and choose their own meal.
  7. Include your child in holiday cooking and have them read the recipe – ingredients and method. Perhaps they could read the recipe book to select the meal for the day.
  8. Suggest your child read the TV guide to find when favourite programs are showing and establish a timetable for viewing, rather than haphazard watching with random flicking through channels.
  9. Provide your child with bookstore catalogues and encourage them to read book descriptions to guide their next selection.
  10. Bestow upon your child the title of ‘Family weather watcher’ and have them consult weather forecasts in the newspaper or online to select the most suitable days for planned outings and activities. 
  11. Include your child in making decisions about holiday activities. Give them the guide, or read the guide together and jointly choose the activities.
  12. Make the library, museums and art galleries high on the list of must-dos. Many of these offer a wonderful assortment of free holiday entertainment for children, and reading is an essential part of getting the most from each visit! 
  13. Engage your child in some craft activities which require them to follow written instructions. The ability to understand and follow procedures is empowering and requires the ability to read written, as well as visual, instructions.
  14. Encourage your child to ask questions about every day events and phenomena. Help them to research in books at home, in the library or on the internet. 
  15. Provide eBooks as well as books in print. Good ones bring a new dimension to the reading experience.
  16. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, support your child in locating destinations on a map and in selecting an appropriate route. Engage your child in giving directions while en route. 
  17. Include your child when reading bus or train timetables.
  18. When doing the family grocery shop, give your child their own list of items to look for. 
  19. Listen to recorded books on long car journeys, or have books for listening to or reading along with in bed.
  20. Make the most of every reading opportunity that occurs throughout the day!



  1. Use adhesive notepaper to write messages to your child and encourage your child to write a message back.
  2. Encourage children to write letters or emails, cards or postcards to grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. These can be to inform them of the holiday or the year’s activities, or to thank them for a visit or gift.
  3. Demonstrate that you value writing by making time for your own writing, e.g. keeping a diary, writing letters and cards to family or friends, writing a shopping list.
  4. Display a message board prominently in the home and list important events, reminders and messages. Encourage your child to add their own messages to the board.
  5. Provide a calendar or diary and ask your child to note family birthdays, holidays and events for future reference.
  6. Encourage your child to keep a diary in which important events and feelings are noted.
  7. Play word games e.g. Scrabble and other crossword games; Boggle or ‘hangman’. (If you don’t like the connotation of ‘hangman’, give each player ten counters to start with. Each time an incorrect guess is made, they give away a counter. If all counters are used then they miss that word.)
  8. Write poems and songs together.
  9. Encourage children to write and perform ‘plays’ for the family.
  10. Take photos of events during the day and use them to make a photo book. This can be done instantly on a computer with photos taken using a phone or tablet and emailed with accompanying text.
  11. Insert photos from a phone, digital camera or tablet into a slideshow program such as PowerPoint, then add text to create a digital story or record. With one click these can be saved as an automatic show or MP 4 video.
  12. Involve children in planning the weekly meals by selecting recipes for a menu they write, and for which they create a shopping list of required ingredients.
  13. Write rebus messages to your children and ask them to write a rebus message back, e.g.                 I think you are great
  14. Invite your child to create lists e.g. activities they would like to do over the holidays, movies they would like to see or friends they would like to invite to a sleep over.
  15. Encourage your children to write the step-by-step instructions for making a craft item they have just designed, or to write down the rules for a game so that everybody is sure how to play.
  16. Suggest that your child write down questions they would like answered, and then write the information discovered during research (by interviewing or asking people, reading books or internet search).
  17. Suggest to children that they make a storybook for a younger sibling or friend.
  18. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, children could be asked to write directions for the journey as discovered by consulting paper or online maps.
  19. Help children to set up and maintain a blog to create a record of activities and events to be shared with family and friends. The posts could be regular e.g. daily or weekly, or follow particular activities.
  20. Make the most of every writing opportunity that occurs throughout the day!


Number and place value

  1. Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  2. Count out the cutlery required for each person at dinner
  3. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
  • Recognise the coins and notes
  • Count the value of coins and notes
  • Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
  • Tender the money in payment for an item

4. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:

  • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
  • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
  • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them

5. Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size

6. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting

7. Make up number stories e.g. “We had five apples in the bowl. I ate one, and you ate one, how many are left?”

8. Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle Rooster’s off to see the world  or Kim Michelle Toft One Less Fish

Patterns and algebra

  1. Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach, building blocks or toy cars
  2. Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
  3. Decorate cards and drawings with a patterned frame
  4. Make gift wrapping paper by decorating with potato prints or stamp patterns

Measurement and geometry

  1. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
  • measure the ingredients
  • set the temperature on the oven
  • work out the cooking finish time
  1.  A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:
  • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • pour from one container into another of a different shape to compare which holds more and which holds less
  1.  Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g. compare an apple and an orange, measure the mass of butter required for a recipe
  2.  Measuring length can be included by:
  • measuring and comparing height
  • cutting a length of string to tie a package
  • measuring who is closest to the jack in a backyard game of lawn bowls
  1.  Use the calendar to
  • Learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
  • count the passing days or the number of days until an event
  1.  Identify shapes in the home and environment e.g.
  • 2D shapes: tiles on floor and walls, shapes of windows, sections of footpath
  • 3D shapes: cereal boxes (rectangular prism), balls (sphere), bottles or cans (cylinder), dice (cube)
  1.  Play games that involve shapes e.g. jigsaw puzzles, tangrams
  2.  Talk about directions e.g. left, right, forwards, backwards and follow directions on a grid
  3.  Play games that involve directions and movement in space e.g. battleship,Hokey Pokey,Simon Says, snakes and ladders, ludo
  4.  Read and discuss books that include measurement concepts e.g. Pamela Allen:Who Sank the Boat?(volume); Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week) and The Bad Tempered Ladybird (time); Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean A Year on our Farm (months and seasons); and for looking at places on a map Mem Fox Sail Away The ballad of Skip and Nell or Annette Langen & Constanza Droop Letters from Felix

Probability and statistics

  1. When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible
  2. Encourage children to collect data about family or friends by asking yes/no questions e.g. do you like swimming, or making a graph of the family’s favourite colour or meal.
  3. Play games with spinners and dice and talk about the likelihood of spinning or throwing a particular number.


I hope these activities demonstrate how easy it is to maintain learning while having fun over the holidays. I’m sure you will have many more favourites of your own.

Thank you

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

32 thoughts on “Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!

  1. noelleg44

    A very practical and useful post – wish I had kids still at home! Reading was big in our house – although my son, who has ADHD had a hard time with it. Noticed Sarah is a good buddy – I’m going to meet her in a couple of weeks in MA when I do a reading there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Noelle. I’m sure many of these suggestions were ones you already used – when you did have kids at home!
      A reading home is a happy home, I think. Sharing books together is a great way of bonding.
      Sarah is a good buddy. How exciting that you will get to meet. I look forward to hearing about it. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah Brentyn

    So glad you wrote this post! As others have commented, you have some great resources. In the U.S., students have three months off school (give or take a week due to making up snow days) and that is a LOT of time to fill. Even with activities that are “fun”, kids complain they’re bored. I hear it all the time. Then teachers spend the first month (or two) of school re-teaching basic things in various subjects that their students have forgotten.
    I love the comments here like Anne’s about “Unstructured Time” and Sacha’s about learning from nature. I agree with a good mix of fun and learning. There’s no harm in going for a bike ride and pointing out pollination or finding cool rocks with quartz or mica in them or swimming at the beach and trying to figure out what lived in that pretty shell you just found. 🙂 All the sites say reading is the key and I agree that some reading really should be done but learning about anything anywhere is better than nothing and there are always opportunities to learn wherever you are. Sorry to prattle on! Gah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      I love it when you prattle on! Particularly when your prattle is filled with so much wisdom. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂
      I can’t believe students have three full months holiday. Are there other breaks during the year as well? Our “long” summer holidays are of six weeks duration. There are another six weeks holiday during the year (40 weeks of school). We have two weeks between the semesters and two mid-semester breaks. I can see why three months off would make “entertainment” difficult for parents and why learning would easily slide. If two months of revision is required prior to new learning that leaves little more than half of the year for new learning. If some of that is lost to holidays as well (and I imagine students and teachers would need a break), then there is even less. I understand your concern.
      I love all the suggestions you have made in your comment. We just have to find a way to get all parents on board!
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sarah Brentyn

        Yes, it’s silly. They have the entire summer off from mid-June through September (10-12 weeks depending on snow days). PLUS, they have a long break (about 2 weeks) for the winter holidays in December, then another week for “winter break” in February, then another week for “Spring Break” in April. (Months vary by state.) I’m not advocating required reading over those breaks (though I think the kids could do without one of those!) but during the summer break (3 months where there is, indeed, Summer Slide). Yes, the teachers spend time in the beginning of school every year going over lost content. You’re right–not all parents are on board which is yet another reason for “required” reading during those 3 months. Parents must send their children to school with books read. Not every parent loves to learn or wants to teach. O_o I like your “semesters” better.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Norah Post author

          It’s funny to me to think of snow days in summer!!!! We don’t even have snow days in winter!!! Though I keep rubbing my hands to warm them as I sit at my keyboard today. This is our coldest week in 19 years I think I heard today. I was just a young thing then – no wonder I can’t remember! LOL 🙂
          Sounds like you and I should get together and “rule the world”!!! What a fab place it would be then! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Norah Post author

              So the snow days are subtracted from the summer holidays making the summer holidays shorter, is that it?
              I noticed on another blog today that you have 160 school days. We have 200 over here. 160 isn’t even half of 365, and 200 isn’t much more! But we have 8 more weeks of school than you. Interesting. I wonder what the UK has. Anyone?
              Our days are getting longer but we are experiencing our coldest weather for decades. It even snowed in sunny Queensland this morning! 🙂


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  4. Sherri

    Exactly what Charli said Norah, as I saw her comment first when scrolling down. Yes, I used to sign my kids up to a summer reading programme which our local library ran. The summer school holidays are long in America, from mid June to late August. I loved our summers, which for us usually meant a visit back to England for about 3 weeks to visit family and then back for swimming lessons in outdoor pools but mostly for our impromptu days out at the beach, picnics where it was cooler along the coastline and days just spent doing nothing – except of course reading. Always reading 🙂 Oh I miss those days so much. I’ll share this on Facebook Norah, as a wonderful resouce for parents with school age children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Sherri. That’s very generous of you. As you know, I struggle with FB.
      Thank you for sharing your summer memories. Those lovely long summer holidays create some of childhood’s best memories, don’t they? Whether enjoyed as, or with, a child. I can’t imagine how different they would be with set work to be completed. They wouldn’t be the same. It is not surprising that, for our little group of readers and writers, summertime reading was never an issue. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sherri

        Absolutely. The best thing about summer was the absence of set work…gloriously free 🙂 Not a surprise at all about our lovely group…and you are welcome re FB! Interesting what you say about struggling with it. I have a love/hate relationship with it…will write about this when I do my ‘online friendship’ post and share more about SMAG (which I linked to in yesterday’s post as a warm up!). It is lovely to look back on summertime memories, such a special time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Norah Post author

          I was honoured to see S.M.A.G. mentioned in your post and look forward to your advice about FB in your future post about online friendships – don’t know where we’d be without them! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I appreciate your comment and support. I would love to be able to help families across the globe. What a lovely idea. 🙂


  5. stuckinscared

    Great post, Norah… there are ideas on your list that we’ve always practiced through the holidays (often without thinking about it), board games, counting, weight/measurement, shape/jigsaws to name a few…there are also lots of ideas here that we don’t, but could do, should do…will do 🙂

    I’m lucky i as much that Littlie (though significantly delayed) loves books, having them read to her, reading key word books (to the best of her ability) to us, and discussing/acting out the stories… so books are always a huge part of our holiday days 🙂

    We love nature trails too… making a list of things to look out for/collect when outdoors…feathers, leaves ect. This year we’ve bought a book that list insects, birds and other wildlife that has a tick section within…we’re looking forward to putting that to good use this Summer 🙂

    Thanks for another interesting (and useful) read, Kimmie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for popping by and reading, and adding your wonderful supportive comment, Kimmie. It sounds like you and your little one have a wonderful time together. The activities you have mentioned do so much to enrich her life and support her development.
      I love the sound of your nature trails and wait with interest to hear how you do ticking the items in your book over the summer.
      Thanks for reading and sharing. 🙂


  6. TanGental

    Neither of mine had any interest in reading so it was audio books for them, which they love and still do. What we did do was keep a family scrap book to which we all contributed. Lots of drawings and sticking in of tickets. Sometimes completing something could seem a chore but usually they wanted to put something in and now we have some fabulous memory books for them in years to come. And yes, we did suffer from the tyranny of summer ‘suggestions’ which, unless they were compulsory generally were totally ignored. Well apart from the maths quiz which I did every year – kids hated them and thought me nuts but i loved it. Until the oldest got to year 11 when I couldn’t do them any more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Your summer holiday memory books sound fabulous! Just the ticket, as “they” say!
      I’m a bit intrigued about the maths quiz though. Were they of your devising, or set by the teacher? I wasn’t sure why you couldn’t do the year 11 quiz.
      As you know I am a huge fan of audiobooks; and your children obviously didn’t suffer from lacking a love of reading. You and the Textiliste enriched their lives in many other wonderful ways. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. TanGental

        The maths teachers set them and they appeared in the kids school bags. They were not interested so I’d steal them and see if I could do them. sadly by year 11 the maths memories I had weren’t sufficient for me to do them. Use or lose it, sadly proved!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Norah Post author

          That’s funny, a teacher setting the quizzes which then “appear” in the kids school bags. I bet the kids hoped they would just disappear rather.
          I understand why you wouldn’t do the year 11 quizzes now. They were probably about some obscure mathematics that no one ever uses anyway! (except to torture school students!) (and their parents!) 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Annecdotist

    I also have mixed feelings about this, thinking that children should have some unstructured time and the opportunity to be bored versus it’s such a pity for some kids to lose their skills over the summer break.
    Your lists are EXCELLENT – just proves there are so many ways of helping children to learn without it being experienced as punishing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support, Anne. “Unstructured time”! If only I had thought of those words when I was writing the post. Said beautifully. Thank you.
      I’m pleased you can see the value of the lists. 🙂


  8. macjam47

    These are great lists, Norah. I especially like #14 under writing. Well aware that summer can slip by without meeting the wishes and desires of everyone, I had my children each make a list of all the things they wanted to do over the summer months with those things that were most important to them listed first. All of them embellished their lists with descriptions of what, how, and who.
    Though they were never required by their schools to do summer reading, many teachers had suggested reading lists, but it was always voluntary. At our house, summer reading was never required, but it just happened. Our home has always been filled with books. Always a reader myself, I always encouraged my children to read. When you have great books available to your children, you don’t have to tell them to read, they will do it because they enjoy it and are eager to discover new stories. Trips to the library were part of our weekly activities and a great way to supplement the books they had at home. I would have balked at a summer assignment to read and write book reports.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Michelle. It’s lovely to see that writing a list of desired holiday activities worked well as writing practice, as well as for giving your children a voice. I appreciate that with a few in the family it would be difficult to meet everyone’s desires without a bit of forward thinking and planning.
      I think a suggested reading list is wonderful. It’s not unlike the recommendations I receive from reviewers such as yourself and Anne Goodwin. A recommendation from a friend, or other trusted person such as a teacher, can make the process of deciding what to read so much easier. There are more wonderful books out there than there is time to read so a list would always be helpful. 🙂
      Isn’t it wonderful to have a house full of books? I have always loved that part of life. I “always wanted” ceiling height and corner to corner book shelves. I didn’t quite get the shelves but I have enough books to fill them! Of course some people don’t have the luxury of owing books as we do, but many have access to books through local libraries. They are always a wonderful place to visit, not only for books but for all the other activities they, usually, have on offer.
      I’m pleased I’m not the only one who would balk at required summer reading and book reports! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bec

    Great lists, and so helpful. Like you suggest, these would be great to send home with families at the start of extended holidays. Funny how when we’re not forced to do something, we often do it of our own free will seeing it as a fun activity rather than a ‘task’!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      I never had trouble getting your to read! Or follow up interests or engage in other creative pursuits! Thanks for your comment. 🙂


  10. Sacha Black

    Oops pressed send too quick!

    To fill the summer with other types of learning – like camping under the stars, walking through forests and learning to mountain bike or go to museums etc so that IS learning, just not you traditional educational type of learning. Argh. I’m torn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      I’m in favour of learning that happens outside of a regimented forced situation. I’m certain your son, like Sarah’s, will have no trouble learning over the holidays and that the learning he does will be greatly enriched. Camping under the stars, walking through forests and going to museums beats filling in a dumb worksheet any day in my books!
      Thanks for (both) your comments. 🙂


  11. Sacha Black

    Interesting Norah, we too in the UK have required reading and the older we got the more additional work we had – essays and the like. I think I too worry about ‘summer slide’. I’m going to have to think about where I sit on this one because part of me thinks I’m with you on the need to rest and learn through play and the other part of me knows that 6 weeks off to children so young is long enough to lose skills.

    That being said when my child is of school age we will do as much as we can to fill the

    Liked by 2 people


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