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.
I loved playing Memory (or Concentration) when I was growing up. If you are unfamiliar with the game, all of the cards are face down on a table and you take turns turning over a two at a time to get a match. It’s a great game for improving (you guessed it) memory. We have a few different versions, but I thought it would be fun to make our number game to work on math skills.
- Use notecards or cut cardstock to make twenty cards.
- Have your child write the numbers 1-10 on ten cards.
- Have your child put stickers on the other ten cards. One sticker on the first card, two on the next, and so on.
- Play Memory by matching up numerals with the correct number of stickers.
Common Core Standards
(kindergarten- Write numbers from 0-20)
(kindergarten- Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality)
(kindergarten- Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted)
Do you have some tissue boxes? Let’s make them into monster feet! Last year the girls’ preschool made these and the kids loved them. I like the idea of recycling trash into toys. I also like crafts that are easy enough for kids to make it mostly themselves.
- Cut out the plastic in the top opening of the tissue box. (I did this part.)
- Paint boxes whatever color you want.
- Cut out toes from construction paper and glue to the bottom of the box.
- Optional step: We used a texture brush to do a final coat with sparkly paint.
The end product isn’t perfect, but it is kid-made and they had fun painting.
The scariest monster you’ve ever seen…
- 2 tissue boxes
- construction paper
- texture brush (optional)
Time investment: 15 minutes (plus extra time for the paint to dry)
Difficulty: Elementary kids could it all by themselves, preschoolers might need some help with the cutting.
My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy. This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter. Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.
Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦 Never fear! This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly. Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.
- Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
- Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
- After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
- To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle. One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.
We have a giant bag of animal stickers leftover from my teaching days. They are really meant for student papers (note the words like “super star”), but my girls don’t mind. They can’t read anyway! 🙂 They just like to stick stickers on paper. I thought it would be fun to do a little learning with our stickers, so I whipped up some animal habitats on construction paper. Sorry- they are really rough. I had some eager sticker girls waiting. I’m sure you (or your kid) can draw better.
Here’s how to learn with stickers…
- Draw habitats on construction paper. Older kids might want to do this themselves. If no one wants to draw, just use a blue piece of paper to represent water, white for snow, green for trees, and so on.
- See if kids can identify the habitats. Talk a little bit about the features of each habitat (wet and warm in the rainforest, dry in the desert). Big Sis didn’t believe me that the grassland looked yellow so we we looked at some pictures on the internet. With older kids, you might want to look at a map or globe to show where the habitats can be found in the world.
- Take turns naming the animal on the sticker and putting it in the right habitat. Some might be found in more the one habitat. Some might be found in the same habitat, but in different parts of the world (African rainforest vs. South American rainforest). Of course if you are dealing with a two year old…keep it simple.
One of our favorite car games is “I Spy.” The traditional game uses colors (at least the one I always played)…
- Player 1 chooses a color of an object in sight of all players and says “I spy with my little eye something (insert color of object here).”
- Other players take turns guessing objects that are the given color.
- Some people allow players to ask yes/no questions such as “Is it inside the car? Is it smaller than my hand? Is on the left side of the car?”
- A player wins when she guesses the object correctly. Then it is her turn to say “I spy….”
I Spy is a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. As a bonus, kids are also learning! What concepts could you work on using the game I Spy?
- colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
- shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
- numbers– “I spy with my little eye three of something.” This would work best if you are in a room where the kids could walk around and easily count objects.
- letters- “I spy with my little eye the letter B.” You could spy letters on billboards while you are driving, or letters on a page while you are reading.”
- words- “I spy with my little eye the word go.” Again, this could work on billboards on the road or in books in a waiting room.
- spelling- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter C.” You could just give the first letter, spell out a whole word, or maybe even letter patterns inside the word like “ee.”
- phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.” Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
- rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
- adjectives- “I spy with my little eye something smooth.” This is another game that would be best played in a room where kids could feel the different textures.
- measurement– “I spy with my little eye something about one inch tall.” Be sure to review unit measurements before you play. If you play this at your house, they could walk around and measure things with a ruler.
We have way too many stuffed animals. I’m not a fan. They take up a lot of room, and although they are occasionally snuggled at night…they rarely participate in play during the day. Until today. Today we made a stuffed animal zoo. It was a great indoor activity for a rainy day….and it was free! And, of course, there was a lot of conversation and learning about animals. Here’s what you do…
- Gather all stuffed animals and cages. If you don’t have that many (lucky you), use puppets, plastic animals, or even animals on the covers of books. We used baskets and boxes for cages. We also used a green blanket for the “grass” and a blue towel for the “water.”
- Sort out the ones that don’t belong in your zoo. You can ask questions like “What animal is this? Where does it live? Have we seen it in the zoo?” Big Sis had fun asking these questions to Little Sis. She decided stuffed animals like Care Bears, Thomas the Train, and dolls didn’t belong in the zoo. However, you can do whatever you want. It’s your zoo! You can make this a learning opportunity to discuss real zoo animals, or you can make it pure fantasy and have a unicorn section. Whatever is most interesting to your kiddos.
- Match up like animals. This is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. You can talk about what characteristics the stuffed animals share. What makes it an elephant and not a hippo? How did you know that it was a bear even though it was pink? If you are like us, you will end up with four elephants….and maybe you’ll realize you need to get rid of some stuffed animals. 🙂
- Decide how to organize your zoo. This is where it gets fun! Talk about how you could arrange the animals and plan out the space. Should all the African animals be together? What about animals that fly? Preschoolers and early elementary kids will enjoy thinking about different ways to categorize the animals. If they are stuck, suggest some of these…
- number of legs
- patterns- stripes/spots/plain
- Put the animals in cages…or not. It’s easier to see them if they are just loosely grouped. However, Big Sis is a stickler for “keeping it real.” Although I need to have a talk with her about animal rights and forcing four elephants into such small cage.
- Visit the zoo. This was my daughters’ favorite part. One pretended to be a visitor and pushed a baby doll in a stroller. The other was a zookeeper who took tickets and guided the visitor around the zoo. Then they switched. If your kids are too young, YOU be the zookeeper and give facts about the animals as you travel through the zoo.
Extension activities you might want to try-
- Reorganize the zoo a different way using the same animals.
- Read a book about zoo animals.
- Watch a live zoo cam feed online.
- Write the animals’ names on papers and place them outside the cages.