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.
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.