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?
So you’ve got a little kitchen set for your kiddo. Here are some ways to learn with all that plastic food (you know, instead of just tripping over it)….
- See if your child can name all the pieces of food.
- Select food and have a pretend picnic.
- Set up a pretend restaurant. Take turns being the customer and waiter/waitress and cook.
- Arrange food in rows and go shopping with a basket. Pretend to check-out and use real money.
- Sort food by color.
- Sort food by food group.
- Pick out two or more foods that start with the same letter.
- Look for shapes. Which foods are spheres? Are any flat like a circle? What about a cylinder?
- Find and count certain foods. How many eggs are there? How many oranges?
- Compare quantities. Are there more yellow foods or green foods? How many more lemons than tomatoes?
- Use food to represent addition or subtraction problems. I have four apples, then I give two to you. How many do I have now?
- Play “I’m thinking of a food.” Use adjectives to describe a piece of food to each other and take turns guessing.
- Play a memory game. Place a few foods in front of your child. Then have her close her eyes and take a food away. Ask which one was removed.
- Put a food in a sack and see if you can guess what it is just by touch.
- Go on a food scavenger hunt. Write down a list of foods to find (something to eat for breakfast, a vegetable, a food that starts with the letter B, etc.) and then see if your child can find them all!
One of the easiest science experiments is “Sink or Float.” Just gather up some stuff on your living room floor and toss it in a bowl of water. Done. Science.
Okay, you could probably make it a little more educational.
First, make some predictions (hypotheses) about the objects. An easy way to do this is group them into “sink” and “float” piles. For older kids, make a chart of the objects, hypotheses, and actual results. You can make your own or print one from the handy internet.
Next, the fun part. Test the objects in water. This is a hit with all ages. Who doesn’t love dropping things in water?
Then, discuss the results and draw conclusions. Ah, the learning part. Were your hypotheses correct? What do the sinking objects have in common? What makes an object float?
I always like to follow up an experiment with a good book. Check out library books with a 532 call number or try some of my favorites:
- Magic School Bus Ups and Downs: A Book about Floating and Sinking by Joanna Cole
- What Floats? What Sinks? A Look at Density by Jennifer Boothroyd
- Will it Float or Sink? (Rookie Read-About Science) by Melissa Stewart
And if your library seems oh-so-far-away, try this equally educational online video. Plus it’s interactive!!
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.
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.
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.
The celery experiment. Do it. It’s easy and it’s fun and it’s SCIENCE! A million other people have done it (and taken better pictures), but here are the cliff notes:
- Go to the grocery store and buy celery. I hear they sell it there. What it is doing there among the normal people food? Do people actually eat it? I guess they don’t have a science experiment store.
- Fill a glass with water and a few drops of food coloring.
- Cut off a stalk of celery and put that bad boy in the cup.
And there you go. You’re officially a scientist. Now you get to use big words like “hypothesis” and “observation” and jot things down in your notebook. I’m sorry, I meant OBSERVATION journal!
The National Science Teachers Association website has a wonderful scientific explanation of the experiment and follow-up questions that you can discuss with your child.
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
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)