How easy is to make your own binoculars? Just wrap some duct tape around two toilet paper tubes and add some string. I had the patterned duct tape to really make it fancy. Ha. They just take a minute to make and then you can have all kinds of fun.
Use them to…
- spot flowers, nuts, or leaves on a nature hunt
- look for letters in the grocery store
- go on a color hunt around your house
- get a good look at animals at the zoo
- act out a story about an explorer
- 2 toilet paper tubes
- string or yarn
- duct tape
If you can learn with cans, why not boxes? We collected empty cardboard boxes for a few weeks to make “box blocks.” For boxes that didn’t close on their own, I taped them shut. The kids really got excited about adding to our box collection. And we were able to see just how many boxes our family uses…and have a talk about the importance of recycling! That is a learning experience in itself, but here are some other things you can teach with boxes…
Common Core Standards appear in italics. They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels. These standards are used in almost every school in the country. Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)
- Colors- Talk about the different colors on the boxes, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
- Size- Compare sizes of boxes. Put them in order from smallest to biggest.
- Counting– How many boxes in all? Count how many you can stack in a tower.
- Addition and Subtraction– How many cereal boxes plus fruit snack boxes do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
- Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D. Use the word rectangular prism. How many rectangles make up a box? (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
- Measurement- Use a ruler to measure boxes length, width, and depth. (second grade- Measure and estimate lengths in standard units)
- Classification- Sort the boxes into groups based on color, size, or type of food. (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
- Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue. If they know it is a pizza box, see if they can pick out the word “pizza.”
- Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the small boxes.
- Creative building– Design your own sculpture with box blocks!
Or combine all the above into a scavenger hunt. Scatter the boxes around the room and then shout out things to find. “Find a green box and bring it to me. Which box would we use to eat breakfast? Find the largest box. Can you find the letter T on a box?” This is great way to get kids moving and learning at the same time.
1. Spraygrounds- Called spraygrounds or splash parks, these free fountains are always a kid favorite. Who doesn’t want to play in the water on a hot day? I was especially grateful for spraygrounds when I had a baby and a toddler. Take them both to the swimming pool by myself? A nightmare. But watch my oldest run through the fountains while my baby sits and splashes? Very doable.
2. Bowling Alley– Kids can get two free games of bowling every day, all summer long! Check out kidsbowlfree.com to see if a bowling alley in your area participates. We did this last year and loved it!
3. Concerts– Lots of shopping centers, communities, parks, and churches do free summer concerts in the evenings. What better way to spend a summer night? Just do a search for “free summer concert (your city name here)” and see what you can find.
4. Art Fairs- Hands down my favorite activity. We have already been to two this summer! Although taking toddlers to a place with large groups of people and very expensive objects is not for a the faint of heart. Wearable babies or older kids make the best art viewers (in my experience).
5. Public School Playgrounds- The schools are out and the playgrounds are open! Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon “at recess.” Just make sure to check the signage to make sure it is open to the public.
Tired of playing “I Spy?” Try “What Letter Makes This Sound?” It is an easy while-you-wait game that you can play in the doctor’s office or restaurant. One person makes a letter sound and the other person guesses the letter. Easy.
Adult- “What letter makes this sound?” (make /b/ sound)
Then switch it up and let the kid ask the question. Or make it more difficult and ask “Which two letters together make the /ch/ sound?” Or how about which two letters can both make the /s/ sound?”
This game should really be called the Phoneme Game. (That’s a fancy way to say the individual speech sounds that make up a language. Also- I have been reading too many Fancy Nancy books.) Phonemes are the building blocks of words. Phonemic awareness will help kids “sound out” words in their reading and writing. This game will also give kids who need help with speech an opportunity practice saying phonemes.
A warning from my college reading professor: Be careful to only say one phoneme at a time. It’s more difficult than you think. For example, people have a tendency to say “wa” (making a /w/ and /a/ sounds) instead of the pure /w/ sound.
I was inspired by all the very cool paint chip color match games on Pinterest like this one from One Little Project at a Time. It is an easy and FREE way to teach colors and the clothes pin adds some fine motor practice, too. Only, I didn’t have clothes pins. And my paint chip samples had cut-out squares.
No problem. This makes it even easier to make. I just cut off the tops of the samples and then cut them apart. Done. Now to see if the pieces match, you just slide it behind the open square.
Without the clothes pins it is also easier to store. Just throw it all in a zip-lock bag and keep it in your purse for a waiting game at a restaurant. Or use at the table while you are making dinner.
What can you do with leftover birthday balloons? How about make a number line? This is an easy game that gets kids moving and works on math skills, too.
- Write numbers 1-10 on ten balloons with a sharpie. (I also wrote some letters to see if my three-year-old knew the difference between numbers and letters.)
- Scatter the balloons around your backyard or around your house.
- Ready, set, RUN and get a balloon!
- Bring it back to a central location to make a number line. Ask questions to help little kids figure out where to place their balloon. Should 10 be on the left or right? Is 3 before or after 4? Should 8 be closer to 1 or 10?
Variations for older kids:
- Write numbers 1-20
- Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s
- Write random numbers 1-100
Common Core Standard
(kindergarten- Know number names and count sequence)
Paper towel art is a super easy. First, draw with markers on a paper towel. Then, drop water on it with an eye dropper. That’s it. Markers alone are enough to get my daughters excited about a project. Then the water really upped the “wow” factor! So just give your kids a paper towel, markers, and water and you are free to make dinner without anyone hanging on your legs.* And for clean-up, you’ve already got a paper towel handy. 🙂
My daughters might have inherited their marker love from me. I had make some paper towel art of my own:
*Results may vary. I’m not responsible for any burnt dinners or kids that get stepped on.