Monday, May 6, 2013

Around the House Games and Activities For Children

This is a post is to help you find things around your house that can be used as supervised learning tools for your child. One thing you always have to keep in mind as you do these activities is this -- you don't have to look for mastery, just for learning!

Cutting Expired Coupons -- My daughter loves scissor practice for at least 30 minutes to an hour (one of the few things I have found to occupy her while I am cleaning or working on dinner). If you think about it, it's a great way to let them practice fine motor skills without having to spend any money on workbooks. Even if you don't buy a newspaper for coupons, places like Publix have in-store flyers that have TONS of rectangular dotted lines for your preschooler to enjoy. 

Collages From Old Magazines -- Don't recycle your magazines until you've gone through them! You can do all manner of collages with your child. You could let your child find, cut, and paste all "B" words and pictures he/she finds. You could do an animal collage and let them find, cut, and paste animals. Or you could combine the ideas and do all animals that start with a certain letter. The possibilities are endless, so the bottom line is, don't let this free resource hit the recycle bin just yet!    

Placemats - I've been seeing a lot of Pinterest ideas lately that involve using placemats. I think these are one of those great tools that are practical (they help keep your table from messes), but can be used to any degree of learning you want. They are conversation pieces when you're waiting for dinner to be on the table. Right now all I do with our 3 1/2 year old is talk to her about the US in terms of where we live, where I was born, where her dad was born, where her grandparents live, the biggest state, the littlest state, etc. She remembers those states well and some of their capitals, too. When we look at the planets placemats (in which Pluto has been relegated to a dwarf planet along with Ceres and Eris -- see I learned as well!!) we talk about the legend in the corner and the orbit of the planets. I never feel pressured to give a science lecture (because she's, you know, 3 1/2), but I do sometimes have to say, "Your dad will explain to you about black holes and shooting stars when he gets home, okay?" when she has a genuine interest. Many of them are also multilingual so if you're working on Spanish or French you can incorporate some of the words they might know. Obviously, you can do much more complex concepts with the placemats as they get older.The placemats we have currently are: handwriting/ABC, addition (up to 10), map of the US, map of the world, American presidents. Those alone could last us years!             

Bananagrams - If any of you have this game it's great for emerging readers. You can do a number of things with it. Today I built words and had her sound them out phonetically while she worked on picking out her own words to make. We built our words just like the game (looking like a crossword puzzle). Hers were 3 and 4 letter words. Obviously mine were more challenging words, but she still tried to sound some of them out. This game is good investment for a range of reading -- from your child's first experience with blends and phonics to an experienced reader. 

Bunco, Dominos, and Dutch Blitz - If you're like me Candyland gets WAY old after about a week of having it in the house. I always seem to win unless I covertly stack the deck for my daughter, so Justin and I started looking for some other games to play with her. We were surprised to discover that a lot of games for adults work quite well for a 10 minute break or an hour before bedtime. With Bunco all your child has to do is roll the dice and look for specific numbers. No strategy to this game like in perhaps Yahtzee-- all luck here. She loves rolling the dice and getting the big fuzzy die when she rolls a 1-2-3.

With Dutch Blitz we've shown her how to set up her deck like adults do but we don't get all fast and furious with putting the cards down. She looks through her "wood pile" for 1's to place while my husband and I go super slow putting our cards out there. We've done it often enough now that she can somewhat multi-task and look for where she can place other numbers. Again, just looking for learning -- number sequence and so forth.

Dominoes are good for all kinds of things. Just by playing the actual game you reinforce counting, skip counting, and being able to visualize a number. My friend Sara, also had a great idea where her son had several dominoes set up and he made them each into math problems using a dry-erase placemat. For instance, if a domino had 3 on one side and 4 on another he counted and wrote 3, wrote a plus sign, counted and wrote 4 followed by the equals sign and 7 as the answer.      

I should add to make sure you don't overplay these games. When your child is ready to stop playing or is getting really frustrated, don't push your luck. The idea is for learning, not for you and your child to shelve these games out of several bad experiences.  

Baking Together -- As I said in a previous post, I love baking with my daughter. She doesn't get to do every step of the recipe, but now that she can read she will list several of the basic ingredients, she has learned what the BIG T and the little t stand for in a recipe, she is familiarizing herself with basic fractions. It's not mastery (does anyone ever master cooking?), it's hands-on learning by repetition. The biggest benefit I see is learning a certain appreciation for providing something our family needs multiple times a day. Ironically, I find we are making memories of the best kind by learning through what many would call the mundane -- doing the "daily grind" together. 

Some of you are already doing a lot of these things or something more creative than what I have here, so I want to encourage you to stop and assess learning from the activities you are doing with your child. I suspect you'll find that you are teaching them FAR more skills than you initially thought! I hope that is an encouraging thought for you all today :)   

Feel free to share some things around your house that you use with your children in the comments. We can learn from each other!