Engaging children at home – the stress-free way!
Helpful tips and tricks to make learning at home successful.
In today's post, I have outlined a variety of activities that can be done at home with little or no resources or cost.
Not all of these activities will be suitable for every child. Choosing something too easy will result in boredom, while choosing something too difficult will result in frustration. Unfortunately, there is no exact science, just remember to go with the flow. If something isn’t working, ditch it and move on.
It is essential to keep things as stress free as possible for both you and your child. Even professional teachers who have taught for decades will tell you that some lessons just don’t go to plan. Try to be flexible and remember that it is okay to go off script. If you were planning to teach one thing, but your child takes the activity in a different direction, go with the flow! You never know what you might learn along the way!
Over the next few weeks, I will be covering a range of additional chapters including following your child’s interest, using games to encourage learning and developing a love of reading through exploring books and pictures. If there is any topic in particular you’d like to see more of, let me know on Instagram at www.instagram.com/CatkinToys.
Making use of household resources!
I know the market is awash right now with ‘must have’ guides and resources to help parents teach at home. If these help you, that’s great, but in my experience, they can often hinder learning rather than support it.
Instead, a few simple resources you already have in your home can have a much bigger impact. After all, a fun ten-minute mental maths session, for example, can be far more valuable than copying out a page of meaningless sums.
A simple set of 0-9 number counters (or even the numbers jotted on scrap paper or post-it notes) have so many possibilities.
They can be used to:
· Put the numbers in order forwards and backwards.
· Select one number and find it’s matching number bond (2 + 8, 6 + 4, 3 + 7 etc)
· Gather coins, counters, pieces of pasta or whatever you have lying around and use them to represent each number in order to add, subtract or multiply practically.
· Trace the numbers with your fingers.
· Cover each number using playdough.
· Copy the numbers into sand or rice.
· Select a number and write 1 less on the left and 1 more on the right.
These are just some ideas to get you started but of course there are many more possibilities.
Similarly, a much loved or familiar book can be used for:
· Trace the title in rice or sand.
· Cover the main character with a post-it. Can they guess from reading the story what the character will look like? What emotion they will be displaying?
· Sort through the book and write down ten words beginning with ‘S’ for example. Say them in funny voices. Spell them. Choose different phonic sounds such as digraphs* ‘ng’ or ‘er’.
*Remember: a digraph is a fancy way of saying two letters that make one sound (phoneme). For example: shark, duck, chin. A trigraph is three letters that make one sound. For example: match sigh, pure*
· Phonics spotter – look through the book and spot all the words with ‘igh’ or ‘er’ or ‘ng’.
· Put the words in the first line into alphabetical order.
· Draw the main character with different faces to reflect their feelings as the story progresses. Write thought or speech bubbles to go along side it.
· Jot the first three words of each paragraph onto post-it notes. What sentences can we make by moving the post-it notes around?
· Search through the book and find 5 different adjectives (describing words), nouns (people, places or things) or verbs (action, occurrence or state). For older children, you could extend this to more complex features such as conjunctions, adverbs etc.
· Act out an action from the book. Can they guess what part of the story it is?
· Make craft items based on the story – a stickman from a toilet roll tube, a colour monster painted on a paper plate etc.
· Set out a selection of different books. In secret, jot down a sentence from one of the books. Can they find which book the sentence is from?
· Design and make a bookmark.
The good thing about using simple resources such as those mentioned above is they can satisfy the needs of different children at once. If, for example, you have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old, you could read the same book to both, but set two different activities. The 5-year-old can search for words beginning with ‘d’ while the 7-year-old searches for adjectives (blue, big, tall, wooden, tiny).
Other household resources that may be useful include:
· Coins (for sorting by size, weight, making amounts of money in different ways, role playing a shop).
· Put the letters of the alphabet on post it notes and order them into an arch. Draw letters into the centre to create words
· Spoons and saucepans for an instant drum kit.
· Rice, pasta & grains (counting, making numbers, tracing letters, sensory play, building models).
· Water (measuring and pouring, adding different food colours for colour mixing, make mud and create some outdoor art, make a boat that floats)
· Wildlife around your home (counting the number of birds that visit the garden, looking for bugs and where they live, searching for nests or other animal homes).
· Old rolls of left over wallpaper or wrapping paper for drawing big pictures.
· Make your own play dough or salt dough.
· Messy play – get stuck in to some mashed potato, frozen ice, use a slotted spoon to catch peas in water or see which household objects sink or float.
There are also so many free learning opportunities to be had outside. For example:
· Press some flower petals
· Leaf rubbings.
· Count leaves, sort them by size or colour, cut them into pieces and create a collage.
· Plant some seeds.
· Examine different types of rocks. Do they all sink?
· Are all leaves symmetrical?
· Paint with mud.
· Use chalk on the pavement.
· Find out which tree has the heaviest leaves.
· Collect stones to make different numbers or letters.
· Make a necklace from leaves and string.
· Cut leaves into different shapes – triangle, pentagon etc.
· Build a fort.
· Build a seating area and toast marshmallows.
· Make a nature dreamcatcher using sticks and leaves.
· Find something in nature to match each colour.
· Make a tally chart of how many different things you find in a specific area.
· Did you know that some leaves pressed on paper can be used as green crayons?
· Paint with water onto the pavement.
· Use a water gun to shoot letters drawn in chalk.
· Make a potion or mud pie.
I really hope you found something practical here that helps engage and enthuse your little ones at home. If you have any questions or would like to share what has worked for you, we have a private group on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/CatkinToys) and an Instagram page (www.instagram.com/CatkinToys).