he Christmas holidays is a great time to meet up with family and friends and to spend some quality time together, but what about keeping up some educational content too? We’ve come up with some fun and educational games to play with the whole family over this festive season.

  1. Festive treasure hunt

    Everyone loves a treasure hunt, and you can make them as fun or as educational as you like, for all ages. You can make the clues simple things like easy anagrams (e.g. kisn = sink), make rhyming riddles, or just get early years children to say the letters or blend simple words. They will be so excited at finding the next clue that they will not notice the English or maths practice you’re using.

  2. Board games

    Many traditional board games have a hidden educational content that can help pre-school children to learn more about the world or practice different skills. Rolling a dice, recalling what the ‘squiggle’ on it actually means, or counting the dots on one or two dice will have your little ones practicing their maths skills in no time. Ludo and Snakes and Ladders are simple games that are suitable for little ones (usually for ages 3+ due to having small pieces), but there are many more dice-based games on the market that can be used as well. For older children and adults, Scrabble, Cluedo and Connect Four can also test English skills and/or reasoning, and there are also the quiz-based games such as Trivial Pursuit or other similar question-games for different ages. You can often get giant or garden versions that many younger children like, and this can also help them with their motor skills too since the pieces are large and need to be manipulated around the board.

  3. Online learning games and apps

    If you want to get the children to practice some of their IT skills as well as their academic ones, you could go to one of the many sites that now provide free educational games. These can be sites such as BBC Bitesize or Topmarks online games (www.topmarks.co.uk). They usually have different levels so you can start simply and move up. They offer different ways to let the child move through the game such as answering questions, or manipulating something online to help with fine motor and concentration skills. There are some new apps and learning tools on the market as well that are good for creative skills such as Toca Nature, (a bit like Minecraft for pre-schoolers) with relaxing music and an eco-friendly message. You can check out reviews and information for online games at websites such as https://www.educationalappstore.com.

  4. Jigsaws

    Jigsaws may have gone out of fashion when tablets came in, but they are great at teaching early years children many different skills. For a start they help children begin to recognise patterns and put things together with their hands, (fine motor skills), and they need visual reasoning and spatial awareness too. If you don’t have any jigsaws in your house or setting, they are easy to make. Simply print out 2 copies of a picture you like and stick one on to some strong card. Use the other for reference. Cut up the card picture into different pieces depending on the age of the child. You can use simple squares or cut more complex shapes. Why not get the children to make the jigsaw with you for a creative craft experience too?

  5. Storytelling

    Storytelling is an ancient art that humans have used for millennia to pass on information about life and the human condition and it is a great way to get your children to learn more about themselves, what they think, and how they fit into the world around them. You can start by telling different stories or reading from a book, but it’s also great to take turns with your family to tell your own stories. You can make it fun by having random objects that people have to put into the story such as a broom, hairdryer or a favourite toy. Remember to let the child’s imagination go free – don’t be too quick to say that teddies can’t fly or that trees are always green – sometimes they’re red!

  6. Nature walks and natural art

    One of the best things that you can do at this time of year as a family is to go on a nature walk and introduce your children to the natural world. You could have rain and jump in muddy puddles, or you could have snow and make a snowman or snow angels, or you could just collect some fallen leaves and acorns and make some wild art.

  7. Twenty Questions with Christmas characters

    In this game, everyone is given a character and has to answer questions about them, so it’s a good way to develop conversations, thinking and vocabulary. Give each person a character – you can have festive characters such as Father Christmas, Rudolph, Jack Frost or religious character such as Mary, the Innkeeper or one of the Wise Men, or even just fun characters from your favourite books or TV show . They should not let anyone else know who they are. You may need to work in pairs with younger children. Other players then ask questions to which the person can only answer “Yes” or “No”, such as “Do you have grey hair?”, “Are you still alive?”. You usually have 20 questions to guess who it is.

  8. Put Santa on the chimney

    This is a version of ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’ where someone is blindfolded (safely) and has to attach an object to a picture that they can’t see. You can use sticky tack instead of pins for safety. You could vary it by having Santa and a chimney, or a nose or tail for Rudolph or even a fairy on a Christmas tree. It’s fun and you can make it more educational by getting your children to draw the main picture first. You could also make it different for slightly older children by getting them to work in pairs. One person wears the blindfold and the other has to give instructions as to how to get to the picture and where to pin it, so saying “left 2 steps”, “forward one step” etc.

More ideas can be found here:

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