School isn’t the only place for learning activities. When your child’s at home, you’re their teacher. But everything doesn’t have to feel like a classroom lesson. Get your kids excited about discovering something new by disguising the learning activities as a fun time. Try these engaging and effective activities that you can do at home.
Play Learning Games
Put learning in motion by playing games that get your kids moving while learning about a variety of subjects.
For preschoolers, start with a basic game that helps him learn farm animals, numbers, colors (create a hue scavenger hunt!), and shapes. Adapt the game for school-age children to cover anatomy, world government, foreign language, and history. What you choose to teach with this game is only limited by your imagination.2
Learn Phonics Basics
Teaching your child to read is one of the most wonderful gifts you will ever give them. Learning the basics of phonics (that is, the idea that letters make certain sounds), prepares kids for spelling and reading readiness.1
You don’t have to sit still in a chair endlessly repeating letter sounds. Try activities that make learning phonics an adventure instead of a tedious lesson. Kids can play games (look for things that start with certain sounds), hunt for letters, make alphabet books, and even use a digital camera to bring their phonics lessons to life.3
Writing is a skill your kids will use throughout their life. Teach them to write with methods that go beyond pencil to paper. Get messy. Let them trace. Connect the dots. Use Play-Doh to shape letters or draw letters in shaving cream. They’ll be entertained and better prepared for school.
If you have preschoolers, help them learn the alphabet and the motions of each letter.
Kids are interested in learning their colors at an early age.
With a pack of colorful pom-poms, you’ll put them on a path to identify colors, learn how to count, and start sorting, which also encourages gross motor skills. At the same time, you’re helping them develop their fine motor skills by letting them pick up the tiny objects.25
Develop Counting Skills
Teaching your child how to count seems so simple but reciting numbers in the correct order is only the beginning.
Play a game that lets them physically touch the objects they’re counting. As an added bonus, research shows that hands-on projects activate kids’ brains and help them learn better.3 Kids who are more advanced in their counting skills can try a variation of the game that will challenge them to think beyond counting to three and in terms of how many objects they actually see before them.6
Math is an easy subject to teach because it’s all around us. Add the number of people waiting at a restaurant. Divide the number of soccer players on the field by the number of water bottles on the bench to see how many people don’t have anything to drink.
For preschoolers, your future math whiz can get an early start on number recognition (look for digits when playing “I Spy”) and learning to count. For school-age children, tackle fractions and other advanced math problems with math games, an abacus, and even cookies!7
Enrich Their Minds With Music
“Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider” may be on a constant loop in your children’s playlists. But there are so many more musical activities you can play together to instill a love of music they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.
Hit the right note with fun music classes, making your own instruments (add bells to a paper plate to create a tambourine, for example), and playing musical games. Record instrument sounds and play them back to see if your child can get the answer right, or create a music trivia game and act out the answers.
Preschoolers love the one-on-one time with mom and dad and school-age children can begin formal training to enhance their musical skills.8
Try Science Experiments at Home
Think “science experiment” and you might have visions of a chemistry lab explosion. Fear not: You don’t have to turn your kitchen into a blast zone to teach your kids about science at home.
Preschoolers will enjoy simple science experiments that don’t require much of an effort on your part (use gumdrops and toothpicks to create a shape), yet are jam-packed with fun learning opportunities. Your school-age children can try science experiments that are a bit more involved but won’t leave your house a disaster area when they’re finished.9
Plant a Garden
There’s more to planting a garden than sticking a seed in the ground and waiting for something to grow. Gardens are lessons in science, nutrition, and patience all rolled into one plot of dirt in your backyard.4
A garden teaches preschoolers how plants come to life. It’s also an easy way to teach him about nutrition and get him excited about eating the vegetables he’s grown. School-age children can keep a gardening journal, study a plant’s scientific name, and grow more difficult plants.10
Create a Website
That magic box on your desk is an open door to learning. Turn on the computer and create a website together.
Preschoolers may not be the best website designers, but they’re not too young to have their own website. With your help, they can take pictures for their site, tell you what they want to say on their blog, and learn what it takes to make a website run smoothly. When they’re older, you can redesign the site together and turn over the keys without having to do as much for them.
School-age children are ready to manage most of their own site, which will help improve their writing and thinking skills. You can also use their website to teach them how to stay safe online.511
Explore World Cultures
Put down the textbook. A little creativity can help you teach your child about world cultures in a way that will make learning fun while enriching their awareness of other people’s traditions and ways of life.6 The world will never look the same to him again.
Preschoolers can enjoy making crafts he might find in other countries and tasting authentic foods you cook together. School-age children can study cultural etiquette, find a penpal from that country, and learn words from the official language.