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.
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
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.
Some kids don’t like practicing sight words. Maybe they think it is boring. Or maybe they just learn words better in context. If they hate it, don’t push it. There are lots of ways to learn words. Sight word flashcards are just one way to help your child read. If they are willing, I think looking at flashcards is great for beginning readers to memorize words and feel more confident about reading. Flashcards are also a good pre-reading activity for any reader with a difficult book. Pick out words you think your child might not know in the book plus some that they DO know, make some flashcards, and then do this activity. (Psst: here’s how I made my own sight words, but you could also buy some flashcards or just write words on notecards.)
1. Pick out 9 or 12 sight word flashcards and lay them face up on a table.
2. Ask your child to pick up any word they know and say it aloud. If they are right, they keep it in a pile. If not, say the word for them and they try again.
3. Replace the missing flashcard with a new one (or not if you want a shorter game).
4. Repeat until your child has found all the words she can name.
5. Then say, “Pick up the word ________” and you name the word. It is easier for kids to recognize words than naming the word themselves, so they should be able to pick up a few more this way. If they can identify the word, it goes in the pile. If not, say the word and ask for it again later.
6. When all of the cards in the pile, count them up and celebrate their success! Now those words will be fresh in their mind when they read the story.
Click on “Sight Words” on the right to see more games and activities.
(Common Core kindergarten standard: Read common high-frequency words by sight )
I call this game “I’m Thinking of a Word.” It’s a quick sight word game to play while you are waiting at a restaurant or office.
- Write some words on a piece of paper. (Of course you could also use homemade sight words or flashcards.)
- Give a clue about one of the words. For example: “My word ends with the letter D.”
- See if your child can guess (and read) the word you chose.
- Now it is her turn to think of a word and give you a clue!
Some ideas for clues:
- My word has the letter ‘b’ in it.
- My word rhymes with…
- I use my word when I talk about…
- My word is in the title of….
- My word has 3 letters.
- My word means….
- My word is the opposite of…
- My word ends with the /t/ sound.
- My word has 2 tall letters. (tall letters are h, t, k, b, d, l)
- My word has two vowels.
- My word has 3 syllables.
It is easy to make this game fit your child’s ability level. You can vary the amount of words you write, the level of difficulty of the words, and the clues you give. You might play that they have to identify all the words that fit a given clue. Or just give clues that only fit one word. Have fun!
Common Core Standards:
kindergarten- first grade: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes)
kindergarten- fifth grade: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
This is an easy game to play with sight words. It’s exercise and learning combined! It is a great way to take a movement break in the middle of reading or homework.
1. Purchase some sight word flashcards….or better yet, make your own.
2. Scatter the sight words around the room writing side up.
3. Call out a word and see if your kiddo can run and find it. Exercise and learning combined!!
Okay, it’s not so much hiding as seeking. Although you could turn the words face down to add an extra memory challenge. You could also vary the game by the movement involved. Call out a word and an action (skip to find the word “you”, crawl to the word “can”). Have fun with it!
What can you do with sight words? Make sentences! Once a kid learns a few sight words, you mix them around and BOOM he is reading a sentence. It will blow his mind. All of a sudden, he is a READER! Very cool.
(Psst…you will need sight words written on index cards, post-its, or other paper. I made mine with magnets on the back so they can be used on a fridge or magnetic whiteboard.)
Try out a few of these ideas to make sentences together:
- You say a sentence out loud and then the kiddo makes it using sight words.
- Your child makes up a sentence and you make it using a combination of sight words and written words. He reads it out loud to “check” your work. Kids love this!
- Your kid makes a sentence that you have read together in a book.
- You make a sentence with sight words and without saying anything, see if she can read it.
- Once you make a sentence, show how you can change words to make a new sentence. “We can go up” can change to “Dada can go up” or “We can go there.”
- Make a sentence and leave a blank that you fill in with crazy words. Instead of “Mama and I go to the store,” how about the moon? Brainstorm a list of ideas to fit in the blank.
- Teach about the meaning of pronouns by substituting “it” for a noun in the sentence. Try it with other pronouns that you have introduced as sight words: we, she, he, etc.
- Extend the activity: Once you have made a sentence, write it on a piece of paper and your child can illustrate it. You could even make a whole book that they can read!
Having sight words around your house is a great way help beginning (or struggling) readers. Sight words are easy to make (psst…here’s how I made mine) and you can do lots of learning activities with them. In a classroom, there is a “word wall” where sight words are displayed so they are easily read/spelled. Why not try something similar in your home?
How do I display sight words?
- on the fridge- This is great because they can easily be reached by little hands and moved around. However, they end up jumbled and might be difficult to find.
- on a traditional “word wall” in their bedroom or a common room- Easy to see, but not easy to reach and manipulate (and maybe that’s a good thing?)
- on a large whiteboard- It’s movable and you can write on it!
- easel- This is another movable option that doesn’t take up wall space.
How do you organize the sight words?
- alphabetically- Teachers usually organize their sight words alphabetically. It’s easy to find words if you know the first letter and it’s a good way to practice ABC order.
- number of letters- Kids can practice counting while they rearrange words in a different way.
- tall, small, fall letters- Some letters are tall (t, b, l) some fall below the line (g, p, y) and some are small (m, o, a). Organize the words into groups according to their shapes.
- words they know/don’t know- Just like flashcards, split into two groups of words they can easily read and words they are still working on. Then watch the “know” group grow!
- any group that makes sense- Experiment with different groupings. Rearranging sight words means your kiddo is reading, thinking, and organizing words. All good things!
(Common Core kindergarten standard: Read common high-frequency words by sight )