The Holiday Curriculum

Aanavi completed her first term at school two weeks ago which culminated with an end of term art exhibition, showcasing all the fantastic learning the students had participated in. From colours, shapes, body parts, movement, swimming and music – she did it all, not to mention the maturity and holistic growth as well.

There’s definitely no replacing school in a child’s life, but for those who consider holiday ‘down-time’ or a time when children don’t learn as much, you couldn’t be more wrong. Holidays, especially travel, can provide an entirely different, play-based and practical curriculum if you’re actually observing your child.

We just spent 5 days in Malawi and here are my top ten things that she learnt in this short time:

1. Language: This expounded here. She now knows the difference between a sail boat, motor boat and canoe, for example. She knows a lake is different to the sea and she can even say Hello and Thank You in the local language.

2. Sensory development: Playing in the sand with stones and water ALL day… Need I say more?

3. Physical and motor skills, balance and COURAGE: Before this holiday, Aanavi was too afraid to climb rocks or stand on a stool, she needed to be held or just wouldn’t do it at all. Now she enjoys the tumbles of physical play, trusts herself to balance as she climbs and stands up on things and has the courage to do so without needing me to hold her… but of course Mummy still has to watch and applaud. 🙂    

4. Swimming: Hours worth of practice over these few days means she’s not only more confident but also a more skilled swimmer. She jumped off a boat straight into the depths of the lake and learnt to kick backwards and forwards like never before.

5. Creativity: Aanavi played with sticks and bits of fabric to make boats at a textile workshop, made up songs, used her imagination to think about plausible (and implausible) situations along the lake, such as egrets turning into frogs and stories about how Daddy Crow and Aanavi Crow were searching for food but Mummy Crow couldn’t come because she was busy at REWA school! Oops that’s some insight into her mind. 🙈

6. Exposure to a different world and experiences: We visited a primary school on Likoma Island where I did a reading of my book, An Elephant’s Tale. Aanavi came with me and, for the first time, understood that I really am a teacher when she saw me up in front of the whole class reading. She sat as part of the class, with other children, making friends with anyone who would smile at her.


7. Curiosity: Boat rides, cessna trips and bumpy drives sparked curious questions from her like, why does this plane make so much noise? Why does this boat not have a sail? Where’s the roof in this car? Will I see a rhino? (Associating the 4×4 to her recent experience on a game drive!) 😄

8. Cognitive development: With lots of time on our hands, we practiced our shapes by drawing them in the sand, sang every song in the songbook and tested that we have correct colour recognition for almost everything we saw. This reinforced all her learning at school this term. We did lots of puzzles and read many, many books.

9. Friendliness: Engaging in many interactions with various different people all along our journey meant that Aanavi grew more and more willing to express herself to strangers. She was happy to ask waiters for things she wanted, she found joy in two children on the beach with whom she could build sand castles and run around with, exclaiming to me, “Mummy these are my guys!” 😂

10. Numeracy: Aanavi has learnt to count up to 3 concrete objects correctly. However, this skills seems to be limited to things she finds outdoors – shells, pebbles and flowers. If you hand her three pieces of pasta, she counts out loud, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10! Mummy I have seven pieces of pasta!” as she shows me the three she’s stuffing in her mouth. Proving that you learn best when you’re engaged and involved, when it’s something you love and and are interested in, nature has helped Aanavi learn how to count.

And here’s my greatest learning about parenting this holiday – if you exhaust your toddler with enough play, activity and sunshine during the day (and not fly away to REWA school apparently), separation anxiety is a thing of the civilised world. She will just turn herself into bed with the wonderful words, “Good night Mumma, I love you.”

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