By Laura Reagan-Porras
If the homework is done and kids have overdosed on video games and television is restricted, parents may hear, “Mom, I’m bored,” or “Dad, let’s do something!” As snow days occur or the weekend weather changes, afternoon boredom may set in. Children can create their own imaginative ideas for snow day fun, but parents can help too and re-enforce learning on the weekend. Project based learning and service learning are two ways kids can benefit from snow days at home.
Project Based Learning
John Dewey, inventor of the Dewey Decimal System for libraries suggested, “we learn by doing.” Teachers may see project based learning as a formal method of inquiry. Montessori teachers have touted the value of “discovery learning” which is child-centered.
Parents may use some of these ideas for informal project based learning and simply facilitate learning and problem solving around real world examples for fun! Here are a few ideas that incorporate the ideas of project based learning in a relaxed, natural way.
1. Kids meal night! Children usually eat what they have a hand in cooking. Kids meal night means the children in the family are responsible for planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up after the meal(s). Or parents may feel generous and do the clean-up. Kids can make the grocery list and do the shopping for the meal themselves. The shopping may also involve some budgeting which is a terrific applied math lesson. Measuring may be involved with the cooking, requiring another applied math lesson.
2. For older kids – organize old family photos into albums or start a scrapbook of a beloved family vacation. Talking about the memories can help kids re-live the experience and draw you closer. Telling stories can also help children with higher order thinking skills by re-telling the vacation story which has a beginning, middle and end.
3. For younger children – keep a snow day fun box and pull it out on rainy days. Fill it with new markers, glitter-glue, old magazine pictures, scissors and cardstock, then let the kids loose to create a work of art. Encourage children to tell stories about their art or present it to the rest of the family.
4. Children can “re-decorate” their rooms with a new homemade poster. The poster can highlight their hobbies and interests. All it takes is a trip to the store for poster board, markers, paints and more. You may encourage them to cut out pictures of their favorite topic from old magazines and newspapers to make a theme collage.
Children can also find fun with meaning by volunteering. Service learning can build character in children. Volunteering as a family can create lasting memories. Teaching service is most effective when children give something meaningful to them. An example of an age appropriate, meaningful service project for first and second graders is a teddy bear drive for abused children of domestic violence in shelters or hospitals. Children can be encouraged to give a stuffed animal of their own that is in good shape or earn the money by doing household chores to make a purchase themselves. Children can also travel to the shelter to drop off the stuffed animals so that the “giving” is concrete. Some service ideas are the following.
5. Collect new or like new books for the children’s wing of the hospital. To make the service personally impactful, children can deliver the books to the hospital auxiliary to distribute. Start at home on the snow day. Help kids make a simple online flyer and ask them to email it to their friends.
6. Organize a neighborhood garage sale to buy extra school supplies for children who cannot afford them. Use the rainy day to organize their own garage sale items and make the posters and flyers so advertise the garage sale.
7. Volunteer to bathe or walk dogs at the local humane society shelter. Some shelters require kids to take an orientation or train before handling dogs. Use your snow day to research it and visit the shelter website. Call and ask if there is a volunteer registration or training process. Kids can practice telephone script writing or email writing in a professional manner to make contact with the shelter to learn the process involved in volunteering.
8. Older children can write letters thanking soldiers for their service. Local church groups or county veteran groups may have access to service personnel with a local connection. Use the day to write and research.
These lists are meant to serve as suggestions only. You and your children will have many more ideas for creative project based learning or service learning. There is literally no end to the fun and meaning you and your children can have while keeping young minds engaged on your next snow day.
Laura Reagan-Porras is a parenting journalist, family sociologist and parenting coach. She can be reached to schedule coaching session at www.heart2heartparents.com.