With the holiday season here, that means one thing in addition to celebrations, food and gifts: Breaks from school and the large amount of downtime for kids that comes with it.
Of course, the breaks are a welcome time for kids to relax, recharge and enjoy leisure time, but too much can have negative impact on their physical and mental wellness.
Thasin Rahim, chief academic officer for Kido, a global early education school for children, offers advice on how parents can best ensure the holiday season is a good balance of fun and staying healthy, both physical and mentally.
What are the biggest challenges parents face over the holidays?
With all the time kids have, making sure they don’t eat every piece of junk food in sight, don’t spend every waking hour in front of a TV or computer screen and keep their brains mentally sharp are issues parents can face.
Rahim said the biggest key to solving those problems is pushing kids to remain at least somewhat active, whether it is with activities or chores around house.
“All you have to do is make sure they wake up in the morning and keep them active day to day,” she said.
Why is it so important for kids to stay in a routine over the holidays?
Kids have spent the previous month getting into a routine of getting up for school, going to bed at certain times and devoting time to sports or homework, which are all good habits.
Straying too far from that type of routine can lead to a relapse of those habits once school resumes in January.
Staying in a routine and being active with family members and friends can also be a good way to further bond with those loved ones, just as there have been bonding times with teachers and administrators at school.
“You want to make sure throughout the week you are providing chances to be creative,” Rahim said.
What are best exercises to do with kids over the holidays?
Rahim said one good thing to do with kids is to regularly make meals for them, or have them contribute to making meals, to ensure there’s some quality family time so it can be communicated what kids should be doing in a given day to be active.
In addition, doing exercises like running and stretching to keep being physically healthy, and having quiet time for things such as meditation and reading, also have a positive effect on wellness.
“If you could combine all these things, that would be a good outcome for their development,” Rahim said.
Should parents regulate what kids eat?
Rahim said there should be some steps taken to make sure that healthy items such as fruits and vegetables are consumed, in addition to fatty foods and desserts that make the dinner more enjoyable for kids.
“You have to look for the right balance,” she said.
Do kids forget what they learned during the school year over the holidays?
It is a common problem over summer vacation when kids seemingly forget a big chunk of what they learned during the school year, thus forcing teachers to spend the initial days of a school year reviewing what was learned the previous year.
Rahim said some parents believe the same is true for holiday breaks, but it’s not necessarily the case because obviously the time away from school is shorter.
Still, it’s important for parents to make sure their kids stay mentally sharp just in case that is an issue, and Rahim points out this is where having regular dinner time can also be a great tool over a break.
“Keep reminding them and use the meal time as a special time to share things,” she said.
This was first published in 2019. It has since been updated.