I tried my hand at homemade playdough for the first time. I am no cook. But since the end product is not supposed to be edible, how can I mess it up? I used this recipe from Domestic Super Hero. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be super hero at all. I made three batches: red, yellow, and blue.
Then the fun part: mixing colors! I divided each of my colors of playdough into two equal halves and then set one of the halves off to the side. The remaining half should be divided in half again. (Perfect time to talk about how fractions are equal parts of a whole.) Now you have two equal fourths of each color. Time to mix! Take 1/4 of the red and smoosh it together with 1/4 of the blue. It takes awhile, so you might have to help if your kiddo wears out on the mixing. See if your kid can guess the color that you are making…then see if it actually turns out. Our purple was a little on the gray side. But you can always add a pinch more red or blue to tweak the color.
Our last step was to put our colors on a color wheel. There are tons of free blank color wheels out there. I used the secondary color wheel from Mr. Printables. I liked how the color words were labeled so my daughters could match them up. If you don’t have a reader yet, give them clues like “Red has three letters. Can you find the word blue? It starts with the letter B. Orange is red and yellow mixed together so it should be in between them.”
And if you are still in the mood to play, here are 15 more ways you can learn with playdough!
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.
I saw this idea for making popsicle stick shapes on Pinterest from A, Bee C, Preschool. So fun and easy! She wrote the shape names on the sticks and also made paper shapes that fit inside the stick shapes. Of course I had to make it even easier.
- Color the sticks with markers. This was my girls’ favorite part. I gave them a certain amount of sticks and a marker and let them do the rest.
- Put all the sticks together.
- Identify colors by saying “Find all the green sticks!”
- Make a shape with the sticks by connecting them end to end. Identify the shape. Count the sides and corners.
I liked leaving the sticks plain so the kids could play with them in other ways. We made symmetrical designs and played “continue the color pattern” with the sticks after we made shapes.
Some other ideas:
- Glue the sticks down on paper
- Draw around the sticks to make the shape
- Glue the ends of the sticks to make permanent shapes
- Use playdough or marshmallows to “glue” them together temporarily
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.
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.
Our local food pantry, Harvesters, does a yearly competition where businesses build structures out of cans. Then when the competition is over, all the cans are donated to Harvesters to feed those in need. The designs are on display at the mall for about a month.
We got inspired to make our own CANstruction at home! Can you tell what we made? (ha- unintentionally pun)
Did you guess? It was a giraffe, rainbow, and castle. Constructing with cans was free, fun, and (bonus!) I had an organized pantry when we were all done. It would be a great activity for the kids while you put away groceries. And of course there is all sorts of learning that can be done with cans…
(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 cans, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
- Size- Compare sizes of cans. Find all the cans that are the same size. What happens when you stack a large can on a small one?
- Counting– How many cans in all? Count how many you can stack in a tower.
- Addition and Subtraction– How many bean cans plus tuna cans do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
- Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D. Use the word cylinder. Point out the circles on top and bottom of a cylinder. (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
- Measurement– Measure things around the room with cans. How many cans long is the couch? (first grade- Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object end to end)
- Classification- Sort the cans 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 can of corn, see if they can pick out the word “corn” on the can.
- Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the cans.
- Creative building– And the most fun, building!
Packing paper is big, easy to clean up, and free. Perfect material for kid art. Now what can you do with it?
1. Cover the table. Put packing paper over a table (it completely covered our kid table) and let them finger paint all over it. Give them some primary colors and let them mix it by hand to make secondary colors. The best way to learn is by doing, so let them get messy. Not feeling the paint? Give them crayons and markers and let them draw on the table while you make dinner.
2. Hang it on the wall. Tape up the packing paper to a long wall and let them create a mural.
3. Lay it out on the floor. The floor is the perfect place for sitting babies that haven’t mastered walking. Plop them in the middle of the packing paper and let them go to town. Have older kids lay down on the paper and trace around them. Then they can color themselves and design an outfit with paint, markers, or chalk.
4. Take it outside. On a nice day, put packing paper down on the driveway, deck, or sidewalk. Take off those shoes and make paint footprints!
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!
What can you on a cold day? Go to a museum! Hopefully you have a free museum in your area. If you don’t, try local galleries, college campuses (especially the art department), or even local art displays in malls. You don’t need to go to a museum for your kids to see some art.
WARNING: Taking toddlers to a museum is not for the faint of heart. I’ve found museum outings work best with babies in carriers, toddlers in strollers, or preschoolers and older kids with good self-control. If they don’t have good self-control….it’s a great opportunity to PRACTICE! On our last outing I took my two-year-old, who was too big for the stroller (in her opinion) but a little too young to understand museum etiquette (in my opinion). But we managed. You can, too. Just go over a few basic museum rules before you get there. No touching or running. Keep it simple. And then leave if they can’t follow the rules. Don’t worry. You’ll be able to stay longer next time.
While my goal with Little Sis (the two-year-old) was just keeping her from licking sculptures, I aimed a little higher with Big Sis (my four-year-old). We made a museum scavenger hunt before we set off on our adventure. Some museums have their own pre-made scavenger hunts for kids and you can also find some online printable worksheets on Pinterest. I liked our DIY version because we could make it up together and tailor it to her age-level. I came up with categories (shapes, colors, materials, feelings), and she brainstormed the ideas. She also colored in the color boxes….
and made a little mistake. Notice the yellow and green boxes. No problem. It was good opportunity to do some problem solving to fix it.
While we walked around the museum, she marked off boxes on her paper. TIP: Use a pencil to mark off boxes since pens/markers aren’t allowed in most museums. The scavenger hunt helped her focus on one piece of art long enough to really look at it. We talked about how we could check off several boxes with one painting.
We chose a few different categories, but you could also focus on only one. Here are some ideas to make your own museum scavenger hunt:
- types of lines
- feelings you get when looking at the artwork
- particular works of art that are in the museum (look up names/pictures before you go)
- subject of the artwork- people, animals, houses, etc.
And a few ideas for older elementary kids:
- painting styles- impressionism, cubism, surrealism, etc.
- mediums- paint, pastel, pencil, etc.
- time periods
- country of origin