School holiday activities

Stop the summertime brain drain! We have some fun strategies for making sure children don’t forget all that useful stuff they learnt at school or pre-school last term.


Six weeks’ holiday: no school run, packed lunches or homework to worry about. But according to educational research, your children could potentially lose much of what they have learned if they do no reading, writing or numeracy for six weeks.

Children at the end of Reception Year are particularly susceptible to this ‘brain drain’ because they have just started formal learning. So how to prevent this, while at the same time keeping learning fun?

Try to include activities which reinforce your child’s literacy and numeracy learning, as well as encouraging independence.

Read on for some practical ideas.


Shop together and buy your child an inexpensive scrapbook, pencils and crayons, plus some wrapping paper, to create a holiday diary. It’s easy for them to collect postcards, tickets or leaflets and add them to their scrapbook. Your child can practise scissor control by cutting out parts of leaflets and pages from magazines. As well as sticking these into the book, they can practise reading some of the words. Children can reinforce their numeracy by working out the price of two tickets, for example.


This is a great way of getting children to learn in everyday situations, when they don’t even realise they’re doing it! You can ask your child to count the coins you’re given when shopping, or ask them to work out how long until it’s time to go out, or until their friend arrives. Even if your child doesn’t understand time completely, it’s a good way to help introduce the idea of using a clock.

When it comes to reading, try asking your child to read some words on cereal packets as well as shop, street and road signs. The level depends on your child.


Include learning in everyday activities like supermarket shopping. You can cover a lot of numeracy whilst shopping, rather than ploughing through books of sums. The level depends on how much your child can already do. If you choose some items that cost whole numbers rather than pounds and pence, adding up can be fun. You could ask your child to work out three items at £1 each, for instance. If they can do more than this, rank up your questions.

Giving children some money to spend themselves is a great way to teach number values. A £1 or 50p coin is a good starting point and you can ring the changes with 10p coins one day and 20p coins another.


Making cakes or cookies is a great way to practise numeracy. If you make biscuits or cupcakes, ask your child to count them. Get them to count the spoonfuls of flour, or the number of eggs that you’re putting in. Ask them to measure something for you, using a ruler or tape measure. Perhaps they could check you have the right size tin?


Many libraries have storytime sessions and reading challenges over the summer. You could ask children to draw a picture of one or more of the characters they have been drawn to in a story they have heard. Collect them in a folder. If they are able, suggest they write a line about each character underneath.


The big bonus of the summer holidays is being able to get outdoors. You can still incorporate learning into whatever you do. Playing with balls and bats will improve your child’s gross motor skills and coordination. Beach or countryside can provide opportunities to classify and research:

On the beach

  • Collect shells or stones. Count and sort them.
  • Draw shapes in the sand: triangles, circles, rectangles – and name them.
  • Write words in the sand.

In the countryside

  • Collect wild flowers and find out what they are at home in books or on the internet.
  • Take photographs of birds, flowers or animals and research them.
  • Draw pictures of anything you have seen.


  • Track your route. Ask children how many white houses they see en route, or red cars, or traffic lights.
  • Play I-spy. A great way to keep children occupied on long car or train journeys and it helps their phonics.

Stop the brain drain!

Try to introduce fun activities that involve the following skills on a regular basis:

  • Numbers
  • Art
  • Writing

Easy ideas wherever you are:

  • Shopping – reading and counting
  • In a cafe – reading and observing
  • Travelling – time, signs, fares
  • At home – painting, cooking, reading, writing a diary, sticking in scrap book
  • Outdoors – collecting, sorting, writing postcards


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