These are unprecedented and scary times for all of us. With things rapidly changing every day, it is hard to “carry on” as usual because there is nothing ordinary about what is happening. Our students and children are experiencing drastic changes to their lives and normal schedules which can cause them a lot of worry and anxiety. Therefore, it is important to keep their minds engaged and busy and have some fun! A little distraction goes a long way to ease stress. Here are some learning activities that can be done at home. I hope they help you get through this stressful time.
Read Books Together
Reading with your children is one of the most important things you can do for their education. It helps to develop their language skills, imaginations, improves their listening skills, vocabulary, creativity, and helps teach them about the world.
Here are some things you can do while reading to your children to help with their learning. You don’t have to do all of them for each book, the important thing is to make it an enjoyable experience. Pick and choose which are appropriate for your child and the particular story you are reading.
- Look at the title and pictures. Ask what they think the story is about.
- Take time to pause during the story to ask questions or predict what will happen next.
- Talk about the characters and how they might have changed or felt at different parts of the story. Look at the pictures and their body language.
- Help them make connections to their world. Is the setting somewhere they have been? Do any of the characters remind them of someone? Have they been in a similar situation?
- Ask them to make up their own ending.
- Ask them to retell the story in their own words.
- Ask them to tell you what happened in the beginning, middle, and end. If possible, draw simple pictures of the beginning, middle, and ending and have your child put them in order.
- Have them create their own version of the book.
Science Experiments with Common Household Items
Nothing grabs and keeps a child’s attention like a fun, hands-on science experiment! There are a lot of simple science experiments & STEM challenges that can be done with ingredients or materials that you may have around the house.
CLICK HERE for list of year round science experiments and STEM ideas. No matter what part of the country or world you live, you are sure to find something fun to do with your children or students!
Use Materials or Toys for Learning
Play dough is a valuable learning material for so many reasons – not only do students LOVE playing with it, it also strengthens and improves fine motor skills, helps relieve stress, builds imagination and vocabulary, and makes a great learning manipulative.
If you do not have play dough, you can easily make your own. Since it is close to Easter, one of the easiest recipes is Easter Peeps Play Dough – yes, you can make beautiful pastel-colored, soft play dough with Easter Peeps!!
Children can form letters, sight words, or CVC words with play dough.
Another option is to make play dough letter mazes. Flatten play dough on a tray or in a pencil box and press a letter with your thumb in the play dough. Make sure the maze is wide enough to fit a marble.
Have students push the marble through the letter maze with their finger. See how quickly students can do it without letting the marble leave the letter maze.
Practice measurement by rolling out a play dough rope or snake. Then ask the child to create another one that is either longer or shorter.
Play dough can also be used for cutting / scissor practice! Yes, cutting play dough is great scissor skill and fine motor practice for young children!
Practice building 2D and 3D shapes with play dough and cut up straws.
Practice counting and numbers by drawing simple ten frames, either saying or showing the child a number, and having them roll the play dough into little balls (more fine motor skills practice!) and placing the correct number of balls on the ten frame.
Plastic Eggs & Jelly Beans
Since it is Easter season and you may have some plastic eggs and jelly beans around the house, here are some fun math and literacy ideas as well as free printable pages.
Playing dominoes is great for practicing matching skills, visual discrimination, and subitizing ( the ability to quickly identify the number of items in a small set without counting).
They are also wonderful math manipulatives for number bonds, addition practice.
Shaving Cream, Salt, Sand
A great way to get children to WANT to practice letters or sight words is to let them write their answers in a number of different and fun ways.
Either say a letter or sight word and have them write the letter or show them a picture and have them write the beginning letter sound.
Spread shaving cream on a cookie sheet and let them write the letters or words with their fingers.
You can create a simple salt or sand tray by pouring some salt or sand on a cookie sheet, on a plate, or in a pencil box. Have children write the letter in the salt or sand with their finger or a Q-Tip.
Sticky Notes & Flashlight
This is a very fun way for children to practice just about any skill (letters, letter sounds, sight words, numbers, addition, subtraction, rhymes, etc.) using sticky notes and a flashlight.
Write either letters, sight words, numbers, addition problems, rhymes, etc. on sticky notes and tape them to a wall in a dark corner or under a table. Give children a flashlight. Tell them they are going on a hunt. Say a letter, sight word, number, rhyme, etc. and have children “hunt” for the correct sticky note with the flashlight by shining the light on the correct one.
Egg Carton Learning Game
Make a simple math game with an egg carton and two marbles (or you can use pom-poms for a quieter version). This game could be used to review or practice a number of skills (letters, letter sounds, sight words, numbers, addition, subtraction, etc.). We are working on addition so that is what I used it for in this post. Write numbers, sight words, or letters in the bottom of the egg carton.
Place two marbles (or pom-poms) in the egg carton. Children close the lid and shake the egg carton. They then open the egg carton and add the two numbers together where the marbles landed. For example, in the picture below the student would add 10 + 5.
If working on recognizing letters, have them name the letters or tell you a word that begins with the letters. If practicing sight words, they read and say the sight words.
Draw a parking lot on a piece of paper and write sight words, letters, numbers, addition or subtraction problems, etc. in the spaces. Say a sight word, number, etc. and have your child park the car in the correct space.
You can also practice reading and building sentences. Write a simple sentence that uses words your child can read. Cut it apart. First, have your child unscramble the sentence to make a “road”. Then, have them push the toy car as they read each word in the sentence. They can practice reading fluency by going faster each time.
Sidewalk Chalk, Water, Squirt Bottle, Paintbrushes, Plastic Cups
Take learning outside! Have children use sidewalk chalk to practice their writing or give them paintbrushes and allow them to paint letters with water. An added activity to do is to have students guess how long they think their letters will last in the sun.
Water Squirting Activity – For this activity you need sidewalk chalk and squirt bottles or squirt guns.
Choose what you wish to practice (letters, sight words, numbers, etc.) and write them with the sidewalk chalk.
Say a sight word, letter, number, etc. and have children squirt it. You can choose to have them race against each other or just do individual practice.
Squirt Gun Learning Races – For this activity you need plastic cups, a permanent marker, squirt bottles or squirt guns, and an outdoor table.
Choose what you wish to practice (letters, sight words, numbers, etc.) and write them on the cups with the permanent marker.
You can choose to have children race against each other or just do individual practice.
Stack the cups on the edge of the table in a pyramid shape (3 on the bottom, then 2, then 1) for each child.
You can either call out the letters, numbers, sight words, etc. for the students to squirt OR have students say what is on each cup that they squirt. You can also practice counting skills by instructing the children to shoot a certain number of cups off of the table.
Children stand back a few feet from the table and use the squirt bottle/gun to squirt the cups off of the table (each child shoots towards their own pyramid).
The first child to squirt all of the cups in their pyramid off the table OR knock down all of their cups wins.
Magnetic Letters & Cookie Sheets
Magnetic letters and cookie sheets can be used to practice spelling sight words, color words, uppercase and lowercase letters, and even science.
Write lowercase letters on a sheet of paper and have your child match the uppercase magnetic letters.
Write sight words, spelling words, or color words on pieces of paper and have students spell them with magnetic letters. They can also write the words on paper too.
Sun Prints – This experiment demonstrates that the light from the sun can cause chemical changes.
You don’t have to buy special paper for this experiment, all you need is cheap construction paper that is NOT fade resistant (the cheaper the better).
Take children outdoors to a sunny area. Give each child a piece of construction paper and allow them to arrange some magnetic letters on it. They can spell their names, sight words, or just place random letters on their papers.
Tell them you are going to leave their papers in the sun for several hours. Go back inside and have children predict what they think will happen to the paper around the letters (the part of the paper exposed to the sun). I like to have them record or draw their predictions.
Go back outside after several hours, remove the magnetic letters or objects from the paper, and observe the results. The paper should be lighter in color resulting in sun prints of the objects.
Ask children why they think the paper underneath the objects is a different color than the uncovered parts. Explain that not only does the sun make things warm, but it also can cause chemical changes. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can break down the chemical bonds in the paper and thus fade the color causing a bleaching effect.
Board Games & Card Games
Playing games together as a family has many benefits. Not only is it fun, but it helps children learn patience, how to take turns, improves memory and cognitive function, works on math & literacy skills, and reduces stress.
Since young children can have a hard time holding cards during card games like Old Maid or Go Fish, I make them card holders from pool noodles. I make both round and long holders and allow them to choose which one they wish to use.
CLICK HERE to visit the blog post that has the step by step directions for making pool noodle card holders.
Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt
This is a favorite activity of mine because I love nature and being outdoors! Talk about the signs of spring (or whatever season you are observing) and write them down on a piece of paper. Go on a nature walk to look for signs of spring and check them off of your list. If you do not want to look for signs of spring, you can brainstorm items that start with the letters in your child’s name and search for them or just write down any nature items for which you want to search.
This activity helps children’s observation skills, vocabulary, visual discrimination, word recognition.
When you get home, discuss what you found. Children can draw pictures of what they observed or make a simple Signs of Spring book.
Free Online Events & Activities for Kids at Home
With schools, museums, gyms, art lessons, etc. being canceled, your kids’ routines have been disrupted. This list of free online events can help keeps your kids engaged and help get them back on somewhat of a daily schedule. They include story times, virtual museum tours, free lessons, games, concerts, and more.