Take a Break from School, Not Learning


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Believe it or not, children actually like to do some schoolwork during school breaks. Engaging them in various academic topics during their time off can create excitement and knowledge about a subject they will encounter in school later. Below are some social studies topics to pique children's interest. Choose the ones that are both age-appropriate and enjoyable for your children.

Social studies on the Web
For social studies topics, a good place to start is to visit several websites with your children and bookmark ones that have appealing activities. Visit www.kids.gov, an official portal of the U.S. government that features games and activities for different age levels as well as links to other sites. Another good site is the National Parks website at www.nps.gov/learn, which has many games and activities in its Junior Rangers and Web Rangers programs. Check the Internet for more activities by searching "social studies fun for kids."

Comparing presidents
Barack Obama took the oath of office holding President Abraham Lincoln's bible. Many have written about the similarities and differences between these two presidents from Illinois. Have your children compare the two men. Make the task easier and more enjoyable by having your children read, or read to them, stories of the lives of these two presidents. Below are some suggestions of comparisons your children can make:
- Place of birth
- Who raised them
- Members of their immediate families
- Ages when they became president
- Length of service in state legislature
- Height and weight
- Service time and positions in U.S. Congress
- Speaking abilities
- Military service
- Mode of transportation to inauguration
- Criticism of inexperience during presidential campaigns
- Books that they wrote
- Titles of cabinet members
- Wars fought during their presidencies
- Places visited abroad

Working with maps
Maps are fun for children of all ages, and learning to read them is an important skill. Use maps to keep track of your family travels during school breaks. Pin up a city, state or U.S. map. Every time you take a trip, even if it is to the local grocery store, place a small sticker on that spot.

Preschool and kindergarten children can draw a map of their home or neighborhood with your help.

Children in elementary school and beyond may enjoy a beanbag game that teaches states and capitals. You'll need a large map with an outline of the states and a smaller map with the names of states and capitals. Kids can take turns throwing a beanbag on the large map and writing in the names of the states they land on. When all the states are named, they can repeat the process and write in the capitals.

Fun and games
Playing games can make social studies come alive. Try the games below as well as online simulations of historic events.

- Bingo – Create boards with well-known historic dates. Then have the caller call out events matching dates on the cards. Another version involves using states on the cards and having the caller call out capitals. Just creating the game can be a learning experience.

- Charades – Have your children draw from topics such as famous sayings, presidents, world leaders, explorers, military heroes and states. Each group of players can choose items for the other team to present.

- Puppets – Children can make puppets and use them to act out events such as the moon landing, discovering America, writing the Declaration of Independence or making famous Supreme Court decisions.

- Globe toss – You will need an inflatable globe and several players. The first player calls out a letter and tosses the globe to another player. If this player can't find a country beginning with that letter in 30 seconds, he or she is eliminated from the game, and the globe is tossed to another player to find country beginning with that letter. If a player finds a country, this player calls out another letter. The only rules are that the same country can be used only once in a game, and you can't use the letter X. Play continues until only one player remains.

Learning about inventions
Modern inventions are often explored on the program "Modern Marvels" on the History Channel. Your family might enjoy watching this program together.

You can also use your children's real-world experiences to encourage learning. One night at the supper table, make a list of items that your kids have seen or used in their lifetimes. Examples of items include cell phones, Scotch tape, tissues, cars, jet airplanes, Wii and other video-game systems, television, iPods, dishwashers, dryers, washers, TV, radio, electricity, cameras, and the Internet. Add to this list by looking for more useful inventions in your home. Enter all of these items under the heading "children."

The next night, add columns for parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Then work together to list the items that parents, grandparents and great-grandparents used in their lifetimes. This will give your children a good timeline of the inventions each generation enjoyed.

 Find more social studies activities under "Learning Activities" on www.dearteacher.com.

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