Avoiding ‘Brain Drain’ in the Christmas Holidays

Most parents would agree that their kids need a break from the usual routine to unwind and have fun during the Christmas holidays.

But, given the evidence that some pupils will experience setbacks in their maths and reading ability after just one week away from school, it stands to reason to consider ways of keeping progress on course over the festive period.

It’s not being suggested that formal lessons should continue over Christmas-it’s more about taking advantage of ‘teachable moments’ so that kids become involved in informal learning opportunities-without even necessarily realising they are benefitting.


Grandparents come equipped with a multitude of skills and experience making them a wonderful educational resource.

Children love hearing about the ‘olden days’ and will enjoy stories about what Christmas was like back then for example, including which aspects were different from now and which were the same. Having lived through various decades, grandparents are well-placed to recount episodes from recent history which will enhance kids’ understanding of the context in a more meaningful way. And listening to story-telling can in turn improve children’s own story-telling ability as well as their grammar.

If Nana is a knitter, she could be helping the next generation of scientists, engineers and surgeons as well as makers and designers, by passing on the skill to the more junior members of her family. Craft aids cognitive development in children, helping them to develop an understanding of materials and processes as well as increasing their ability to make informed judgements about abstract concepts.

Winter Walks

Walking in a natural environment provides kids with a whole host of benefits.

Venturing into the woods for example, can become a wildlife tracking mission as foxes, badgers, deer and otters are all out and about in winter. This is a fantastic opportunity for learning how to track animals. The Woodland Trust has created an app for this very purpose as well as a blog for additional tips. Get the kids to look out for migratory birds like the redwing and fieldfare who fly here to escape the bitter winters of Iceland and Scandinavia as well as swans, ducks and geese who migrate to the UK in winter too.

The Woodland Trust has also produced a downloadable Winter Tree Identification activity sheet which encourages children to seek out different types of trees ultimately fostering a deeper level of engagement with their surroundings.

In addition, there is compelling evidence of the beneficial effects of physical activity on children’s cognitive development and brain health. Children who are more physically active tend to perform better in mathematics, spelling and reading.  Physical activity is associated with stronger connections between the regions of the brain and more effective activation of regions involved in cognitive tasks.


Even if your child is shaping up as a contender for Junior Masterchef, they’re probably not quite ready to take responsibility for cooking Christmas Dinner singlehandedly just yet.

But encouraging an interest cooking is a chance for them to develop their knowledge and skills. So, once they know how long the roast potatoes have left in the oven, they can work out what time to put the sprouts on, effectively revising their maths skills and sequencing.

Cooking also involves chemistry and science, the need to make predictions and an appreciation of how food changes during the cooking process.

It incorporates geography, such as where different foods grow-and why they grow best there- which can lead into a conversation around the number of air miles our food travels before reaching us.

Museum or Art Gallery Visit

A visit to a museum or art gallery makes a memorable day out, filled as they are with information designed to enlighten and educate the curious mind.  They introduce children to unknown worlds, spark their imagination and provide them with valuable learning experiences. Not only do museums help fuel academic education, they help broaden horizons and provide knowledge regarding all spheres of life.

And there’s no shortage of museums in the North West and nearby, from the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to Eureka in Halifax, providing ample opportunities for informal learning.

Journal Writing

Encouraging your child to keep a journal will help them learn to communicate ideas through writing. They will have to draw from their vocabulary bank to select precise words to communicate their thinking- in this way journaling builds writing skills.

Spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary, and grammar can all be enhanced through a regular writing habit.

Writing in journals can offer a sense of freedom compared to writing exercises for school work.  It enables your child to feel in control of the content they choose to write about and the length of their writing pieces. The elements of control and choice may well make writing more appealing to your child.

The trick then is to promote learning through fun.

Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head when he said; “I always like to learn but don’t always like to be taught”.