School Holiday Activities

School holidays! Do they fill you with joy or dread? It’s lovely to spend quality time together, but you might be wondering how to keep your child occupied and stimulated – especially during the long summer holidays!

The following guide outlines school holiday learning activities for children and leisure activities that are both educational and fun!

Facing facts

If children don’t keep up with their learning, they can fall behind.

"Educational research is unambiguous: a long summer break is an impediment to children's learning. Studies carried out in the US and the UK show what should be intuitively obvious: with a long break from studying maths and English, children's abilities take a dive over the summer in both areas." (Institute for Public Policy and Research)

Your child could lose several months of development in maths (equivalent to 2.6 months’ progress) and evidence shows that low-income students on average lose 2 months’ reading achievement (Entwisle, Alexander & Olson, 2000).

The temptation can be to keep up your child’s learning during the holidays. However, remember that holidays need to be breaks, too. Your child may become resentful if he/she has to do lessons every day during the holidays – so do get the right balance between learning, chilling out and fun (although learning can be fun, too, of course!).


  • Reading is a vital skill for your child to practise. Visit your local library and let them choose books that interest them. Encourage them to write reading lists of books read, using a scoring system – or book reviews
  • The holidays are a good time to do homework, revision and projects and to work on any areas causing children problems. If your child needs a personal tutor to catch up or get ahead, several agencies exist. Type the keywords, area and subjects you are looking for, like ‘Tutors, Richmond, Maths GCSE’ into a search engine
  • Summer schools are offered in a variety of areas
  • Online, the BBC has a good range of websites with games and activities, especially CBeebies for the very young, CBBC and Bitesize – which has lots of useful learning resources
  • And there’s always Education Quizzes of course!

Family outings

  • Planning a day out can be an educational holiday activity in itself!
  • Many art galleries and museums have free entry and these make pleasant educational days out for the whole family
  • English Heritage or National Trust properties such as castles, gardens and stately homes throughout the UK can provide a fun, educational day out. Many have events and activities for children during holidays
  • Spending time at a zoo or safari park can enhance learning – through identifying different species, or doing projects on animal lifestyles, behaviour, and country of origin
  • Visit local attractions such as theme parks, activity centres, farms
  • Go to family festivals for music and workshops – incorporated with camping
  • Prepare a picnic. Get cooking or shopping. Pack a basket of lovely treats and head to the nearest park!
  • Go on a family nature walk in the park or countryside, or get your bikes out and go cycling in the sunshine (or the rain…!)
  • You can make trips and shopping educational, too. Ask your child to devise their own learning activities

Organised activities

  • If your children are more active or need exercise, let them burn some energy with sports activities. Enquire at your local leisure centre for a timetable of activities and give them the opportunity to try swimming, football, dancing, karate, judo, tennis etc. Or go ice skating or bowling together for some family fun
  • Community and Youth Centres often run activities over the school holidays, so find out what might interest your children
  • Would they like to join the local Cubs/Scouts/Brownies/Guides group?
  • School holiday clubs and summer camps are great solutions for working parents, giving children the chance to make new friends and try new things
  • Local theatres and drama groups often run projects throughout the school holidays. This is an opportunity for children to make new friends, learn new skills and improve confidence. They may even put on a show for parents!

At home

  • Encourage your child to make a gift for someone, like a trinket box or greetings card. Search for ideas and instructions online
  • Anyone can get involved in cooking or preparing food (if only by tasting!). Bake some cakes or biscuits and take them to elderly relatives and neighbours
  • Reminisce. Sort through old photographs, make a scrapbook of memories, watch old home movies
  • Create a family tree. Go and visit relatives to hear interesting stories and record them or write them up, with illustrations or photographs
  • Let your child spend time with their friends on Skype or phone. Teenagers, especially, are bereft if their friends aren’t nearby
  • Encourage them to design and build a den outside, or set up an exciting treasure hunt with their own clues and home-made treasures
  • A family ‘film day’ is a great way of spending time together watching favourite movies. Your child can also write their own film reviews or draw movie posters
  • If your children like performing, help them to put on a show for the family
  • Suggest that they make a ‘School Holiday Diary’ and note down all the different things that they have done. In fact, keeping a diary or journal is a great way of encouraging writing, and also provides a creative and emotional outlet. But please respect their privacy and don’t pry if they want to keep their feelings to themselves


There are many more ideas online. Simply browse keywords and you will find sites and articles (e.g. summer holiday games and activities, Family Lives’ holiday ideas and working parents portal).

Whether your children spend time working or playing with you – or independently – school holidays give them the chance to have fun, learn and try new things.

The holidays are a great time to have a break from school, but they also provide the perfect opportunity to keep children’s minds active with added educational benefits. All ready for when they go back to school!

  1. 39 studies have found that all children perform worse in which subject after the summer break than they do before it?
    The studies showed that, regardless of social status, all children performed worse in maths. In English though, middle-class students actually performed better after the break than before it. Lower-class students abilities decreased (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay & Greathouse, 1996) - proof that what your child does during the holidays affects their academic performance
  2. School holidays are a chance for your child to catch up if they are falling behind. The best way is to hire a personal tutor. How much do tutors charge?
    Most tutors will charge between £18 - £22 per hour which places them beyond many people's means. But there are alternatives to private tutors - online resources such as BBC Bitesize can help and libraries are great sources of information
  3. Planning is a good way to ensure an enjoyable day out. Which of the following should NOT be a part of your preparation?
    If you try to do too much on your day out you may make it a bit hectic and not as enjoyable as it could be. If you visit a museum for example you might want to focus on one particular historical period. You could save other exhibits for another time
  4. Which of the following attractions is NOT an educational one?
    The first three options offer far more learning opportunities than a theme park would. Theme parks are all about having fun, and that is partly what school holidays are for!
  5. School holidays can cause childcare problems for working parents. At what age does the law say children can be left at home alone?
    Government guidelines state that "children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time, children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight and babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone". School holiday clubs offer a solution to this problem and will often have educational activities in which your child can get involved
  6. Nature walks provide which two benefits to your children?
    There are many ways to make nature walks educational - match the things you see with each letter of the alphabet, count the number of insects and flowers you can see or try to identify every plant you see for example
  7. Cooking is a great way to spend time with your children and it's educational too. Which of the following does it teach them?
    As well as all this, cooking together also boosts your child's self esteem, helps them to plan and gets them to use their imaginations. On top of all that, fussy eaters will be more likely to try something which they made themselves!
  8. Treasure hunts are great fun for the whole family. Which of the following is a suitable place to have one?
    Younger children need to be in a familiar place and must be supervised. Teens, on the other hand, will want more of an adventure and also more freedom - a whole village could be the setting for their treasure hunt
  9. Word games are a fun and educational way to spend time with your children. One word game is 'Anagrams', so let's play! Using all 9 letters, how many anagrams are there of the word 'Education'?
    They are 'auctioned' and 'cautioned'. Other word games you can play are I-spy, word association, word tennis and the alphabet game (in which you take turns to name items on a theme, for example animals, beginning with each letter of the alphabet)
  10. Writing essays is a fun and educational way for children to pass the time. Essays form a part of the 11+ exams. Which of these topics has NOT come up on past 11+ papers?
    'My father is a unicorn' has not been included yet, however, 'It was a while before I realised my cat could talk' has!


Author: Linda Innes

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