How to Keep Your Children Occupied Over the Christmas Holidays

We’re sure you’ll agree with us when we say, “How fast did this year go?” because Christmas holidays are upon us, which also means 2024 is peeking around the corner, too.

The Christmas holidays always bring a bounty of festivities and fun, but they can also leave parents scratching their heads when it comes to thinking up ways to occupy their children.

Luckily, we’ve got some sure-fire ways to keep kids engaged and excited over the winter break, as well as some tips on how to make sure they’re on top of schoolwork, and ready for a brand-new Spring term in January.


1. What are the end-of-winter term dates for UK schools?
2. Fun things for kids to do during the winter break
3. How to stay on top of schoolwork during the winter break

What are the end-of-winter term dates for UK schools?

Diaries (and phones) at the ready — here are the key UK school holiday dates for the winter break:

  • England
    Start date: 18/12/2023
    End date: 01/01/2024

  • Scotland
    Start date: 25/12/2023
    End date: 05/01/2024

  • Wales
    Start date: 25/12/2023
    End date: 05/01/2024

  • Northern Ireland
    Start date: 22/12/2023
    End date: 02/01/2024

Fun things for kids to do during the winter break

While many children become overjoyed about school holidays, they can also run out of steam once the novelty wears off and need ways of being entertained and keep up their learning. Keep reading to discover some fun things for your kids to do during the winter break.

  1. Christmas crafting

Most of the schools in the UK break up for the winter holidays at least two days before Christmas Day, so why not get your kids into arts and crafts? Not only does this allow your children to tap into their creativity, but it’s a low-cost way for them to decorate the home — plus, arts and crafts can boost intelligence.

If they’re budding artists, your children might like to take part in a drawing challenge — we’ve even got some colouring templates here for you to download and print off. Or maybe they’re more into crafts than art; if so, DIY decorations can be made from low-cost bits and bobs, or things that can be found at home. For more creative inspiration, our Christmas arts and crafts guide has all you need to keep arty hands occupied.   

And once Christmas is over? Implementing arts and crafts into a child’s learning can be an excellent way of helping them engage and understand in their studies all year round. Developing artistic skills can help children hone their problem-solving skills, a knack that’s important across all school subjects. Problem-solving skills are something our tutors can help with; you can browse our expansive range of tutors right here.

2. Cooking

Depending on how old your children are, you might want to let them develop some culinary skills. If they’re on the younger side, let them sit in the kitchen with you while you cook or bake as a fun learning activity. 

Cooking and baking are helpful to learning in many ways; not only do they require knowledge of small, large and decimal-point numbers, but practicing the use of measurements, such as millilitres, grams, cups, and ounces, is a great way of improving maths skills. Plus, a good grasp of food groups could be helpful for understanding nutrition. 

If you’re feeling brave, assign them a small, safe task to make them feel involved, like stirring a mixture with a wooden spoon or measuring out ingredients on a scale. 

Older children might want to get their chef hats at the ready and make something from scratch. Browse the BBC recipes for kids for delicious ideas or, if they want to try something different and more challenging, we’ve got some European Christmas recipes for treats you’ve never heard of that should go down a storm during the holidays. Learning about different foods can help children appreciate different cultures and their history better — Polish poppy seed cake anyone?    

  1. Reading

The benefits of reading for children — and adults — are vast: it expands vocabulary, improves focus, develops problem-solving skills, uses brain power, provides therapeutic relief and, it’s free (if you go to the library)!

You could head down to your nearest library and help your children choose some books that will last them through the winter break. If they’re not a fan of fiction, encourage them to explore their interests through non-fiction. Need some ideas? Here are our top three picks:

  • Outside: A Guide to Discovering Nature by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Ines Teixeira do Rosario (reading age: 8+). This is great for young nature detectives and animals fans!
  • Space Kids: An Introduction for Young Explorers by Steve Parker (reading age: 7+). Space lovers will adore this illustrated book that covers an array of space-related topics. 
  • A Time Traveller's Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything by Ian Flitcroft (reading age: 10+). Some of life’s biggest and most baffling questions are answered in this book — perfect for inquisitive minds. 

If kids want to stay in the cosiness of their own homes, you can find stories for them to read online — even some Christmassy tales! Head to American Literature and search by author, genre, or school level.

Another bonus of your children reading in their free time is that it prepares them for their reading journey at school. Books, whether kids like them or not, are necessary for many aspects of academia and beyond, so it’s a good idea for them to learn that reading can be fun.

  1. Fun learning

Just because there’s no school doesn’t mean the kids need to stop stretching their minds; there are plenty of things they can do to keep their brains ticking over until January 2024, which is especially important if they have exams coming up next year. 

We’ve already talked about the joys of reading, but what if another fun way of learning was to take on a new language? A few of the many good reasons for learning a new language include accessing different cultures, making travel easier, and opening up more job opportunities. Even if you have a young child, it’s never too early to start learning words in a new tongue.

Here, we’ve shared a host of language-learning apps that can get any young mind started. And if your child is learning English as a second language, discover our top 10 learning apps for kids. Plus, we have tutors who teach French, Spanish and more, so take a look at all the subjects on offer at GoStudent.

Should learning a new language be too challenging for your children, that’s not the only word fun they can have. For example, you can head over to Twinkl and choose from an assortment of fun, themed word searches. They’re perfect for keeping young brains boosted and occupied. If you have more than one child, you could give them all the same word search and see who finishes first, and a prize goes to the winner!

  1. Day trips

Winter may bring with it some drizzly weather, but that shouldn’t stop you and your family from enjoying a day trip or two during the holidays. There’s an array of places to visit and events to enjoy at this time of year — all it takes is a little planning. Discover what’s happening in your nearest city by browsing Time Out. All you need to do is type your chosen city in the search box and browse the choices.

Need some more inspiration? We’ve got two day-drip guides for you — one for locations near Birmingham and one for the best day trips from London — as well as a cheat sheet on activities kids can do in the car when the family is embarking on a road trip.

If you need some more ideas, you can search our blog for more activities that will keep your kids entertained during half-terms, weekends, and more.

How to stay on top of schoolwork during the winter break

As well as the concern over keeping kids occupied during the winter break, there’s the added niggle of finishing holiday homework. Read on for some tips to help make sure your children go back to class with a schoolbag of completed homework.

  1. Get organised

If your child has a stack of homework from a mix of subjects to get through before the new school term kicks off, help them make a study schedule so that they plan their time efficiently while still enjoying some downtime. Allow larger slots of time for subjects that they find challenging to improve those particular skills.

  1. Choose a study space

As well as allocated study slots, it’s a good idea to find a suitable homework zone where distractions can be kept to a minimum. It might be helpful to ensure the homework zone is gadget-free to improve your child’s focus. This, along with the study schedule, will help kids keep to a routine during the holidays. Routines are important for children for a number of reasons, including teaching them new skills, making them more independent and responsible, and supporting their mental health.

  1. Offer rewards

Schoolwork may be the last thing your children want to do during half-term, but it’s also necessary, so try and make it as enjoyable as possible. Offering a reward if they complete their allotted study tasks each day may encourage them to stay engaged and enjoy the whole homework experience more. Treat them to something extra-special for particularly good work, like their favourite dinner, a family movie night, or a day trip. 

  1. Stock up on brain food

It’s normal to indulge a little during the holidays, but high-sugar snacks may lead to low-energy slumps, which can be pretty unhelpful to your child and their incomplete homework.

On study days, make sure there are healthy snacks on hand and remind children to stay hydrated for optimum focus levels. Need some food tips? Here are some of the best foods for energy along with brain foods that will help kids tick off their study tasks.  

Discover more homework hacks that will make winter break studying a breeze.  

  1. Let us help

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, especially where schoolwork’s concerned. Our excellent tutors are more than happy to assist your child catch up on homework, revise, or brush up on their study skills. To make sure your child’s needs are met, we match our students with the ideal tutor. If that sounds good, book a free trial lesson today.