I’m always happy to find a way to use our plethora of stuffed friends. We’ve made a stuffed animal zoo, and now we are using them to learn letters. This game helps with phonics and letter recognition. All you need are animals and letters. We used a foam alphabet mat, but you could easily write letters on index cards or use letter flashcards instead.
For each stuffed animal ask:
- What animal is this?
- What letter does it start with? (If they need some help offer other words that start with the same letter)
- Can you find the letter and place the animal on top of it? (Again, depending on ability level you might need to give some clues about what the letter looks like or its place in the alphabet)
Then read an animal ABC book and see if you had the same animals!
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?
The girls decided it would be a fun game to cut up yarn. I’m not sure how the came up with idea or how they stayed interested in it for so long. It kept them occupied and it was great cutting practice for my three-year-old, so I was happy. I was slightly less enthusiastic when my living room was covered in bits of yarn. Hmmm… What to do? Well for starters we played my fun game of “Who can pick up the most yarn in her baggie?” Then we made some art.
Big Sis used some steady hands to make lines and shapes with the Elmer’s glue. Then she carefully found pieces of yarn to place on her glue lines.
Little Sis also had a great time plopping glue on a paper and then sticking yarn on. She wasn’t as concerned about getting it on the lines….
We also practiced some sight words. First I wrote the word with glue and Big Sis placed the yarn on the lines. Then we switched and she got to write with glue. You could do the same with letters, numbers, or shapes.
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.
We recently discovered water beads. You see, there is this thing called “Pinterest” that has all sorts of ideas for kids. You should really check it out. 🙂 So I ordered some from Amazon (a 2-oz pack of Jelly Beadz), but I hear you get them even cheaper at dollar stores or floral supply stores.
Water beads are awesome. They start out tiny and very hard, then you soak them in water for a few hours. They soak up the water and become large and gelatinous. That is a cool word. But not cooler than water beads. Seriously. As fun as it is to feel then between your toes (try it!), you can also LEARN with them. I know. Mind blown.
- Fine Motor Skills– They are SLIPPERY! It takes a steady hand and pincer grip to pick them up. Or try scooping them up one a time with a spoon. We even tried chopsticks. I think it is impossible.
- Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
- Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
- Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
- Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up. Then find out!
- Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
- Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
- Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors. It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
- Capacity– Kids will naturally want to fill up containers, so throw some measuring cups and let the kids explore. They can see firsthand how many 1/4 cups it takes to fill up a cup.
- Hypothesize and Experiment- Do water beads bounce? Can you squish them? What happens when you put them in salt?
And speaking of experiments, Creekside Learning offers a free printable science observation worksheet that is perfect for older kids.
*Disclaimer- Water beads look a lot like candy. I wouldn’t use them with babies or toddlers who like to put things in their mouths.
What is even better than paper towel art? Paper towel learning! Just write with markers on a paper towel. Then use an eye dropper filled with water to “explode” the words into art. I think this would be a great way to get reluctant writers to practice handwriting. Watching water transform their words is built-in motivation. And how easy would it be to set your kiddo up with a paper towel and marker to practice her spelling words at breakfast?
Use paper towel writing to practice:
- his own name
- sight words
- spelling words
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.
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.
I am a little messophobic. That’s a word, right? I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up. The clean up. Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it. Sigh. Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day. I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it. And of course, so did my girls. Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick. Maybe messophobia is genetic?
Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words. Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters. Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing. She might need a little more practice on her numbers….
And the clean up was not as bad as I expected. Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up. I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink. Then a wet towel did the rest. Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.
Here’s a round-up of 67 art and learning ideas for shaving cream from The Artful Parent.