holiday study test prep

Fun Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning Over the Holiday Break

Originally published on the Ridgewood Moms website

Holiday season is a festive time filled with relaxation, family dinners, and celebration. It’s also a time when many kids take a break from reading, writing, math, and essentially all school work. Yet holidays can also serve as an opportune time to remediate core academic skills – without the regular flow of homework – while still having fun and enjoying the festivities.


For kids who struggle with reading, holidays are a great time to work on foundational skills. ‎Young kids may have difficulty with consonant and short vowel letters and sounds, and how to blend those sounds together form words. During the holidays, build some reading work into baking! When making gingerbread cookies, for instance, spread out some flour or sugar onto a large cookie tray and ask your child to trace the letter p by saying “down, up, and around,” then say the sound /p/ like pizza. Likewise, she can trace a (“around, up, and down”) and say the sound /a/ like apple, or t (“down and across”) and say the sound /t/ like table. Then create separate flashcards with those letters on them (i.e. p, a, t) and use your spatula to show her how she can combine those sounds to form the word “pat.” Do the same type of blending exercises with different consonants and short vowels.

You can even roll out thin logs of cookie dough and have her form letters with the dough – then try to blend those sounds together to form words. The idea is to make the activities fun, holiday-like, and engaging. For more formal teaching, a tutor can use a structured multi-sensory approach using an organized lesson structure to work on foundational reading skills – including decoding, fluency, and comprehension.


Many kids struggle to understand basic math concepts. What does it mean to add objects? Which number is bigger or smaller? ‎How many apples would I have left if I started with three and ate one? To help your child build core math skills, in the spirit of the holidays, purchase a bag of multi-color gumdrops. Start by making piles with different quantities of gumdrops, like a pile of 3 and a pile of 5, and ask your child which pile (and therefore number) is bigger. Then make piles of, say, 9 and 6 gumballs and ask which one is smaller, and so on.

To practice addition, start with 2 gumdrops and tell your child that his friend was in a jolly mood and decided to give him 1 more gumdrop. Ask your child how many total gumdrops he now has, and tell him to count up to the number 3. Then using a mini white board or sheet of paper, write the problem: 2 + 1 = 3 (and explain that two gumdrops plus one gumdrop equals three gumdrops). Practice several of these types of problems with addition, gradually increasing the number values, and always writing the math problem on the board after your child counts up the total. Later, try these same types of problems with subtraction. Start with, say, 6 gumdrops and tell your child he lost 2 of the gumdrops. How many does he have left? Then write the problem 6 – 2 = 4 on the board. If your child continues to struggle to grasp these basic math concepts, having a tutor utilize a structured multi-sensory approach to math with him may be very beneficial, and during the holidays, when there is little or no school, is a great time to do so.


We all know that most kids receive some type of gift(s) during the holidays. Why not use this break from school to practice writing skills while writing thank you notes? Start by reviewing the structure of a basic sentence with your child, which consists of a subject and predicate (I saw. He ran. Dad swam.). Then challenge her to expand her sentences with questions like Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? For instance, rather than just writing “Thank you for the gift” in her letter, perhaps she can write, “Thank you so much for the colorful sweatshirt with swirls that looks great with my new black shoes!” Then ask her to expand upon the number of elaborate sentences she includes and the overall length of her letter. You can also tie in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar lessons – all within the context of holiday letters. As with the other skills above, if you child is showing significant struggle with her writing skills, consider having a tutor work with her during the holidays to solidify her written expression abilities in a more structured format.

Holidays are certainly a time for family fun and cheer. Yet why not integrate continued learning into this time off from school? In doing so, your child will feel more confident and skilled, and ready to ‎swing back into school once classes resume.

Dear Dr. Levy, My son received an excellent report card. I can’t say enough good things about his EBL tutor. She has done a tremendous job helping him improve his reading and writing skills. Most importantly, she is wise and kind. She is always patient with him. Because of his tutor, my son writes with much more ease.
– Parent