Many children attend day programs when school is off for holidays or teacher work days. These days should be a bit different than standard school day programs, offering more leisurely or recreational activities.

Here are some tips on how to set up a good holiday program.


Holiday programs aren’t bound by an academic curriculum schedule, which leaves longer blocks of time for fun activities, projects, and field trips. Those activities don’t always have to be directed; including a Free Choice Time allows children to choose what projects they work on, creating a more relaxed atmosphere like they would have if they were spending the holiday at home. Outdoor play and recreation time can also be extended on holiday stays, which adds another beneficial activity to build into the day: quiet time, a block of time where children can do quiet activities like puzzles, read, or rest. Quiet time lets kids relax and rest up after strenuous outdoor play. For longer periods, like summer or Christmas break, classes in karate, dance, or swimming can be added to the daily schedule.


In addition to lunch, two snacks should be added to all-day holiday programs. If kids are playing outside, the extra snack will help them get their energy up. Aside from that, an additional snack time just reinforces the fact that it’s a holiday! The extra time available on atypical days can be used to do a cooking activity where children get to make their own snack. If it’s a particularly special holiday, throw a party and encourage students to bring goodies to share with the rest of the group. Food is a big part of holidays, as well as a great conduit for fun and learning!


For preschool programs, themes help connect every lesson and activity. Long term programs in particular can benefit from themes that tie the whole span of time together. For example, a program may have an overarching theme of “World of Water” where one day may be dedicated to rain, one to oceans, one to snow and ice, etc. Be careful not to utilize overdone themes. Kids in out of school programs are used to classroom themes, and it’s important to separate their time in a summer or winter program from that of school. It is a special time after all!


Source: School-Age Ideas and Activities for After-School Programs by Karen Haas-Foletta, Michele Cogley, and Lori Ottolini Geno