Tips and tricks to stay sharp over winter break


Winter break is a time for relaxation, not hibernation. It’s natural to let children sleep in longer and stay up later, but they’ll often fall into patterns of inactivity which prove detrimental to their studies. Their work falls by the wayside as they procrastinate, pushing school from their minds.

This remains a perennial problem for parents and teachers alike. But through some of the tips and tricks detailed below, you can ensure your child — or student — returns to class with enthusiasm, motivated to tackle their next assignment.

Tips for Parents

We’ll start with some helpful suggestions for parents. Implement any of the following three methods, and you’ll see a difference in your child’s demeanor.

1. Develop a Study Plan

Structure is the foundation of a successful study plan. Children benefit from a schedule they can reference as they work through their material, completing one assignment as they move onto the next. In developing a timeline for these assignments, you can ensure your child doesn’t fall into the trap of procrastination.

Sit down with them and discuss what their teacher expects them to complete by the end of the break. They might have readings, essays or upcoming exams to prepare for, and in learning the details, you can gradually organize a to-do list and decide which tasks to prioritize, sorting them from most to least important.

Place high-priority tasks toward the beginning of your schedule, so your child has enough leeway in completing them. You can keep low-priority tasks toward the end of the schedule. In accounting for your child’s energy and patience, you’ll ensure they make the most efficient use of their time and submit quality work.

2. Promise Incentives

Your child will likely show some resistance to the idea of using their winter break to study, and this is fair. They finally have time off, and you can’t expect them to spend it with their face in a textbook. But there are ways to make study sessions less grueling, and even fun, with a dash of creativity and a few incentives.

Tell your child you’ll take them to a new movie they’d like to see or a restaurant they enjoy, but only under certain conditions. To earn these incentives, they have to complete a specified amount of schoolwork within a particular timeframe you set while developing their initial study plan.

Incentives are perfect for the holiday season in particular. For example, you can tell your child they can open one of their presents on Christmas Eve, but only if they finish all their assignments early. It’ll motivate them to take the initiative in their studies, instilling positive habits that will carry into higher levels of education.

3. Participate in Sessions

Your child may lose enthusiasm if they’re unable to process a particularly tough problem. They can feel discouraged — like they aren’t making any significant progress — and this pessimistic attitude will reflect in the quality of their work. It leads to frustration, stress and a sense of defeat.

You should make time to supervise your child during one or two of their study sessions, ensuring they understand the problems. Ask them if they’re struggling with any subject matter, and if they are, address the issue and help where you can. Show them you’re present, and they’ll feel secure moving forward.

When you finish a difficult assignment, you can celebrate your small success together. Acknowledging their effort is integral to their growth, teaching them the value of hard work. You’ll find they’ll apply themselves with greater determination to future tasks, less daunted by the obstacles they’ll inevitably encounter.

Tips for Teachers

As a teacher, you can’t monitor a child’s habits as closely as their parents. But through either of the following two suggestions, you can still participate.

1. Encourage Extracurriculars

Children need to stay on top of their studies over winter break, but they have methods beyond a simple schedule. You should encourage your students to adopt extracurricular activities to get them out of the house and keep them active and functioning — rather than sleeping in until 11 a.m.

Indoor sports are an excellent way to exercise both the brain and body, while other extracurriculars like volunteering foster interpersonal skills. As long as your students are engaging with the world and not hiding in a dark bedroom staring at their laptop, they’ll continue to grow outside the classroom.

To pursue this option, compile a detailed list of local programs and distribute copies to your students before they leave for break. Provide the resources necessary for them to do their own research, and tell them to speak to their parents. If you have the time, you can organize a system of incentives.

2. Set Winter Break Resolutions

Winter break resolutions are similar to New Year’s resolutions but cover a shorter span of time. They work in much the same way, though, prompting your students to make adjustments to their behavior so they don’t fall back into old patterns. It’s an easy exercise to implement.

On the last day of class, have your students write down five or more small goals they can reasonably accomplish before returning to school. These are basic statements no longer than a sentence, with a clearly defined intention. Here are three examples to give you an idea:

  1. I’m going to spend less time watching television and more time outside.
  2. I’m going to visit the hockey rink to see if I can learn how to skate.
  3. I’m going to wake up at 8 a.m. and make breakfast every day.

In advising your students to set goals in a context they’re familiar with, you’ll keep them sharp and ready to return to class.

Keeping Kids Active

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, you can apply several methods to keep your kids active over winter break. Any of the five tips and tricks above will ensure they’re exercising their minds and bodies, so review some of t