Don’t stop thinking over Christmas! 12 fun activities to stretch young minds during the festive season

Are you dreaming of a 1950s-style Christmas with your children playing board games, helping round the house and prepping for the next school term? The bad news is that your kids probably have something rather different in mind. How can you ensure that the dreaded ‘holiday slide’ doesn’t occur in your household? This is when the gap in the learning cycle over the school holidays allows students to fall further behind their peers. But help is at hand: the good people at Thinking Matters have come up with some great activities to stretch young minds and develop their thinking skills for all 12 days of Christmas.

Dr Dave Walters, Director of Research at Thinking Matters, and a former Secondary School Deputy Head, says: ‘We work with Thinking Schools, where children learn a ‘thinking language’ that helps to develop intelligent learning behaviours such as resilience and growth mindset. A Thinking School serves to create questioning, thinking, independent learners who have a true understanding of their own learning (metacognition).

‘Developing independent learners capable of fulfilling their potential and succeeding among the rise of AI must be our goal in the 21st century. After all, the machines are our creation. The key is to develop the intelligences and skills to get them to work for us. These problems will help to develop the thinking skills our children need.’

On the first day of Christmas
Think of one original thing you can do with all the wrapping paper your presents will be wrapped in.

On the second day of Christmas
Put an imaginary line down the middle of your Christmas lunch table so it is split into two groups. Appoint a referee who sits at the head of the table. Those sitting on one side of the table have to argue the case for serving Brussel sprouts, those on the other against. The side that the referee decides has argued a better case gets to choose which team does the washing up.

On the third day of Christmas
Ask each member of the family to think of three ways they could each help to make Christmas run more easily for the organiser of the big meal on Christmas Day.

On the fourth day of Christmas
Compare and contrast the advantages of four hand-made gifts you could give to show your love for your family.

On the fifth day of Christmas
After discussion with your family, come up with your five golden rules that will create a happy Christmas for everyone at your home?

On the sixth day of Christmas
Can you name or describe six types of intelligence? There are more than you might think.

On the seventh day of Christmas
If the seven swans in the Twelve Days of Christmas could talk, what do you think they would say?

On the eighth day of Christmas
Name eight qualities of Christmas: four should be positive qualities (things you like, such as presents) and four negative (things you may not like, such as being expected to kiss elderly relatives).

On the ninth day of Christmas
Define the spirit of Christmas in just nine words. Not ten or eight – nine exactly. And every word counts.

On the tenth day of Christmas
How would you spend £10m to improve the lives of those less fortunate than you?

On the eleventh day of Christmas
Thinking of all your senses, list 11 ways to describe a mince pie.

On the twelfth day of Christmas
Create 12 questions to which the answer is "Christmas".

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