How do I keep the kids entertained while I mow the lawn? Water painting. All you need is a bucket of water, paintbrushes, and a fence. It’s free and it’s fun and it doesn’t make a mess. Plus kids can practice all kinds of things:
- patterns- use the fence pickets
- math problems
- sight words or spelling words
- and my daughters’ favorite: splattering
It isn’t the same as practicing handwriting with a pencil and paper, but that’s the point. Sometimes kids need a break from the routine. Novelty makes learning fun. Who wouldn’t want to practice their spelling words outside with a paintbrush in the sunshine instead of at the kitchen table?
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)
The snow is melting! The snow is melting! Can you see my smile through the interwebs? It’s big. We went outside to play and celebrate. And we got out hoes. Yes. I’ve never tried it before, but sidewalk scrapers and hoes easily pushed around the slushy snow on our driveway. And if you have similar driveways/weather conditions…give it a try!
- straight, curvy, and zig-zag lines and then walked on them
- and our favorite- “snow castles” or the if you want to be honest…piles of slush
We saw snow paint on Pinterest and had to try it out. It is just water with food coloring in a squirt bottle or spray bottle. We found the squirt bottle works best for little hands. Although you have more control with the spray bottle (with jet option).
Some ideas to try with snow paint:
- Let the kids see how colors are made by squirting in a couple drops of yellow and red food coloring to make orange
- Practice writing numbers or letters
- See if they can guess the word you write
- Make a pattern of shapes and ask them to do the next one
- Practice making different kinds of lines- straight, curvy, dotted, etc.
- Take turns making a design and then the other person has to recreate it
- Experiment with different body movements. Run while painting. Skip. Hop.
- Free draw!
A color scavenger hunt is a great activity to do on a nature walk. Just use markers or crayons to write the color words on a piece of paper. This way kids will be able “read” if they know their colors. Then grab the paper and a bag for your treasures, and you’re ready! Try a color scavenger hunt on a walk around the block, at the park, or in your backyard. Show toddlers how to compare the object with the color word to see if a leaf is more red or orange. Elementary kids who already know their colors can still learn with this activity. Have them write the color words on their own. Then they can race each other (or a timer) to see who can complete the scavenger hunt first! Try the scavenger hunt again in a different season to see how the colors and items change.
If it is too cold for a nature walk, you can also have a color scavenger hunt inside. Warning: this could make a mess. I’d do it when toys are already scattered across the floor. You might as well sort them by color before you put them away, right? This time I used construction paper to match the colors.
All kids need some time to get the wiggles out. Maybe they have been working on homework for awhile and their attention is wandering. Or maybe everyone is cranky and could use some fresh air. Doing a quick 5 or 10 minute physical activity will put everyone in a good mood. Especially if you join in the fun. Here are some gross motor activities to do in your back yard, in the park, or indoors if you have enough space.
- Color Tag Shout out a color and have the kids run and touch something that color. Touching the color means you are safe on base, but if you tag them before they get there then they are “it.”
- Follow the Leader The kids get in a line behind you. You start walking around (or skipping, or hopping, or flapping your arms, etc.), and the kids have to imitate your actions exactly. Once they get the hang of it, take turns being the leader.
- Red Light, Green Light You stand on one side of the yard and they line up on the other side. Every time you say green light they can run towards you, but when you say red light they have to stop. If they don’t stop, they go back to the starting line. This is a great activity to practice listening and bodily control. Try crawling, skipping, or hopping on green lights.
- Simon Says This is another great way to practice listening skills. For younger kids, say “Simon Says” for everything. It takes enough concentration to listen and make their body do the actions, without trying to figure out if Simon said it or not. For older kids, try “Simon says wash the dishes.” and see if you can get some chores done! 🙂
- Activity Challenge Older kids love a challenge. Get a timer and see how long they can stand on one leg. Or how many jumping jacks they can do in 30 seconds. Or how fast they can run across the yard. Write down their time to see if they can improve it next time.
- Animal Charades Preschoolers will love acting like their favorite animals and having you guess. And it’s hilarious to watch mom or dad act like an elephant!
- On, Under, Beside, Through Call out directions like “Get UNDER the slide.” “Sit ON the rock.” For older kids, give them a sequence of three or four things to do.
- Jump the Creek Lay two sticks on the ground a few inches apart. Ask your child to jump, hop, or leap over them. Move the stickers farther apart to widen the creek after each jump.
Like that alliteration? I should write tongue twisters. Five free fall field trips to see ferocious pheasants and fat furry farm animals. No good? Anywhoo……
Your toddler is starting to say “Bust my buffers” because he has watched too much Thomas the Train, and you are getting stressed out looking at all the dishes and laundry you need to do. Time to pack the kids up and go on a little adventure! A change of scenery will put everyone in a better mood and they might learn something, too! Don’t worry about planning a big outing, even little field trips are exciting for kids. Afterall, my idea of a good time isn’t going up and down the escalator 20 times, but my daughter loves it. Okay. Maybe I like it a little, too. Here are a little more (ahem) educational ideas than escalator riding….
1. Farmer’s Market- Yeah, you could buy things. Or you could just take in all the sights, smells, and sounds for free. It’s great place for learning the names of new foods and even tasting a few samples. KC Locals: Check out this farmer’s market list from KC Parent.
2. Fall Festivals- This is my hands-down favorite thing to do with my family. You can watch artists at work, listen to live music, and maybe even jump in a bouncy house or two. What is not to love? KC Locals: Here is KC Parent’s Fall Festival List.
3. Nature Walk- Walk on a bike path or just around your neighborhood. Talk about what animals you could see. Compare the colors of trees. Bring along a bag to collect acorns, leaves, and other “treasures.”
4. Story times- With school starting, library (or book store) story times are in full-swing. Listen to some good books, and then you can do some related crafts or activities back at home.
5. Picnic in the Park- Soak up the last of the nice days in the great outdoors. Pick out a park you have never been to before, pack some snacks (or go grab some fast food on the way…nobody’s judging!) and a blanket, and spend the day in the sunshine!
Drawing with sidewalk chalk is a great summer activity. It’s cheap, easily washable, and gets kids outside enjoying the sunshine. Encourage your kids to do lots of free drawing, but also try out some of these ideas. Don’t overload them….just one or two ideas per chalk session.
(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.)
- Let them feel the chalk and try to make marks on different surfaces
- Color in one spot so there is a lot of chalk dust. Put baby’s hands in it and see if you can help them make hand prints on the pavement. Messy, but fun!
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- Draw different colored shapes a few feet apart. Play a game and ask them to stand on the blue circle. Then walk (or run, skip, hop, etc.) to the purple rectangle. (kindergarten-Identify and describe shapes)
- Big sidewalk chalk is perfect beginning writers. Draw dotted lines of shapes, letters, or numbers and see if they can trace it. Or write a letter first and see if they can copy it. (kindergarten- Print many upper- and lowercase letters)
- Write their name in REALLY big letters and have them walk the letters of their name.
- Write numbers in order. Let kids hop from number to number counting as they go. (kindergarten- Know the number names and count sequence)
- Draw a path for kiddos to use with their tricycle or bicycle.
- Make a Twister board with chalk and call out directions if you don’t have a spinner.
- Trace around your kiddo and then have him design and color the clothing. Or he could draw the organs (heart, brain, lungs, etc.) in their proper spot.
- Make a large grid. Work together to make a different pattern in each square of the grid.
- Tell addition stories and have your child draw to solve the problem. For example, “I have 3 apples. Then I buy 4 more. How many apples do I have now?” (grades 1 and 2- Represent and solve problems using addition and subtraction)
- Write numbers in order, but leave some out and have your kiddo fill in the missing numbers. Then have them skip count and hop to the different numbers.
- Kids write out the alphabet in big letters. Then say a word and they run from letter to letter to spell it. (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
- Write out a silly sentence incorrectly (no capitalization or punctuation) and have kids correct your mistakes. (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
- Ask kids to draw shapes and then divide them into equal parts to make fractions. (grades 1,2,3- Reasons with shapes and their attributes)