by K Quinn
Forget the plastic doo-dads on the store shelves. All your kids need for a happy, productive, fun-filled learning day is probably already contained within your home. Let them help you look.
Children love to be creative. My five-year-old proves this to me every day. Sometimes she needs a little nudge in the right direction, but then she can take off with an idea and play while learning to her heart’s content.
Some children enjoy pretending to be a teacher with a class full of stuffed animals, driving a car down the busy neighborhood of the family living room, or diapering a baby doll alongside mommy and their new sibling.
For practicing words or letters, try a fishing pole fashioned from a stick found in the yard or garage. Add some spare ribbon or a magnet. Cut out paper fish to catch. Decorate them with words, letters, or numbers your child is learning. Attach paperclips or staples to each fish’s mouth to help kids “catch a fish.” Each time a fish is caught, triumphantly “measure” the fish by announcing its name and calling out as many words as you can both think of that start with that letter or counting the number out with your fingers.
Help your child learn numbers and writing by playing “office,” “grocery store,” and “bank.” Make desks from discarded cardboard boxes. Make “money” out of recycled paper marked with (washable) pens, pencils or crayons. Give your kids jobs, such as writing up the grocery list or counting how many cans of such-and-such you have in the pantry. Or counting the change found around the house, then letting them deposit the found money into their “banks.” At the end of the play, kids can drop the deposits into their piggy banks so they can enjoy the value of saving.
Children love water play, too. Find something in the home that needs a bit of detailed cleaning, such as soap dishes or some of their plastic toys. Set them up with a little bit of soapy water in a small bowl and a sponge and a cloth to dry. Let your kids work alongside you in the kitchen or at the dining table.
Children are resourceful. Most anything can become a favorite toy. Be on the lookout for learning adventures.