Although area schools are in the midst of spring vacation, students don’t have to take a break from their daily routines and learning.

There are many ways for parents to keep their children’s minds active over the break, while still having fun as a family. Anything that gets students to recognize numbers will help to strengthen math skills, according to Denise Pusateri, coordinator of mathematics for Jamestown Public Schools.

Annette Miller, curriculum coordinator of ELA for kindergarten through eighth grades and reading for Jamestown Public Schools, emphasizes the impact that simple conversation can have on children’s language arts skills. Students at every grade level are accustomed to a daily routine that they follow throughout the school day. When classes aren’t in session, it is still important to keep a routine in place, according to Ms. Miller. Both Ms. Miller and Ms. Pusateri agree that there are a variety of ways to encourage students to stay active.


There are a variety of board, card and word games that promote literacy in both English and mathematics and also encourage family bonding time.

For example, parents can play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders with their children. While they’re playing an everyday game, according to Ms. Pusateri, children are still learning shapes and numbers, and are able to easily recognize them in the future. Games such as Connect Four and Battleship also get children thinking about numbers, while connecting with their parents at the same time. Children are also able to play Memory with a deck of cards, which many people already have in their house. According to Ms. Pusateri, even young children are able to look at face-up cards and match the two like amounts.

Additionally, cards can be used for games such as Go Fish, which promotes number recognition. Or, children can add cards together to make a number.

Parents can ask their kids to make the number ten, so they might pull out a three and a seven,” Ms. Pusateri said.

Parents can also create their own flashcards, according to their child’s level, and use them to help with maintaining a routine.

They can have breakfast, and then do flashcards for 10 minutes. It can be a daily routine,” Ms. Pusateri said.

There are also several word games that parents can play with their children. Ms. Miller recommends playing Scrabble, Boggle or Bananagrams as a family.

“All of these games require creative ways of putting words together,” Ms. Miller said.


Many websites are educational and fun for children and adults alike. Ms. Miller warns that parents should always be cautious about websites that their children visit, and supervise online time. is a website that helps younger children learn phonics. The website features four main sections, such as ABCs, Learn to Read, It’s Fun to Read and I’m Reading, based at the performance level of each child. There are also several activities geared toward helping children become proficient at reading.

There are several websites that provide children with news items that they would be interested in, and that are appropriate as well. Ms. Miller recommends websites such as National Geographic Kids,,, and, which all provide news items, as well as other activities that families can do together.

Finally, offers a variety of popular children’s books online. The twist is that children and their parents are able to select a story that they would like to read, and have it read to them via video by either the book’s author or a celebrity. Children can also follow along, because there is an option to add subtitles. The website also goes a step further in offering related activities and talking points for parents and their children once the story has been read.


“Time is often a struggle for kids to learn,” said Ms. Pusateri.

According to Ms. Pusateri, children often associate time with the length of a television show, such as bedtime being after Spongebob Squarepants, or dinnertime following Drake & Josh.

Instead of watching television, children can learn time in other ways. Ms. Pusateri said that parents can ask their younger children what time it is to the nearest hour. Likewise, parents can ask questions such as, “Dinner will be ready in 20 minutes, what time will dinner be ready?” or “We’ve been playing this game since three o’clock, how long have we been playing?”

“When children are watching TV, they’re not really doing their own thinking. They’re being told what is funny,” Ms. Miller said.

Ms. Miller encourages parents to help their children develop their thinking skills. Parents can introduce their children to new vocabulary, especially through holiday terms.

“Instead of saying cold, teach the word blustery. Bright could also be said as vibrant. Some parents aren’t comfortable teaching vocabulary, but they know more than they think that they do,” Ms. Miller said.

Parents can also use reading to get their child thinking. Instead of reading for the story, Ms. Miller said, parents should encourage their children to read for information, by guiding, prompting and asking questions of their children.

Both Ms. Miller and Ms. Pusateri agree that baking with children provides a great opportunity for parents to not only spend time with their children, but an opportunity to read a recipe and learn measurements.


Playing games and keeping children engaged doesn’t have to be expensive. With a little bit of creativity, parents can help their children learn English and math. Ms. Pusateri recommends simple games such as I Spy to help students recognize shapes. Parents may also ask children to count the number of presents under the tree. With older children, parents can ask that they help figure out what they can buy using a gift card and factoring in sales or taxes.

Parents can also use time in the car to their advantage in teaching their children. According to Ms. Miller, parents can put a cookie tray in the car, along with magnetic letters and have children spell out words of the things that they see along the car ride. Coloring a picture can also be used as a chance to learn, as parents can ask questions such as “Why did you use that color?” They can also ask their children to tell a story about the picture.

Common carols can also be used as an opportunity to discuss the language in the songs.

“A child may not know what a meadow is, or what parson means,” Ms. Miller said about Frosty the Snowman.

Even simple things such as working together to create a scrapbook, journal entries or holiday cards encourages students to think critically, according to Ms. Miller.


Ms. Miller and Ms. Pusateri both agree that the simplest way for both parents and students to learn is to simply have conversation with one another.

“You can learn a lot about your kids just by asking them to do certain tasks,” Ms. Pusateri said.

By asking children to do sort by characteristics, such as sort M&Ms by color, Ms. Pusateri said that parents are able to see if their children are struggling. Ms. Miller recommends having a conversation in the car instead of turning the music up, with parents asking specific questions of their children, rather than simple yes or no answers. Children can learn a lot over the holidays, according to Ms. Miller, as they’re typically seeing extended family members. By having a conversation with grandparents, children will be able to learn family history that they may not have otherwise known.

According to Ms. Pusateri, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” referring to what children have been learning inside of the classroom. If they are not keeping fresh on ideas over their break, they will be more likely to forget the information by the time that they have returned to school.

Have fun with your child. Really, just have fun with them while they’re home,” Ms. Miller said.

By Liz Skoczylas

Source: Jamestown Post Journal –