Making Everyday Activities into Learning Games

Children are constantly learning. What may seem like an ordinary daily activity to you can be an opportunity for your child to discover understandings about the world around him and develop skills to build on. Our job as caregivers is to provide opportunities and support for these discoveries. Here are a few activities you can try at home as you go about your day.
Most toddlers and preschoolers just love to ride on swings. The rhythm of swinging back and forth lends itself to an essential pre-reading activity: rhyming. Research shows that being able to rhyme is a good predictor of reading success. Nursery rhymes and rhyming songs are a perfect way for children to develop these necessary skills. Try reciting rhymes to the rhythm of the swing while you are pushing, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you _____” and let your child fill in the blank in time with the swing’s movement. Forgotten the words to Mother Goose? Check out this website: Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes
Got a child addicted to DVDs? One day instead of watching them, try sorting and graphing them for a fun, concrete math activity. You can begin by sorting into groups: Elmo, Barney, Disney Movies, etc. Count how many in each group and stack them up next to each other like a bar graph. Which has the most? Least? Depending on the ability of your child, ask more challenging questions such as How many Wiggles and Bob the Builder DVDs altogether? How many more Winnie the Poohs than Care Bears? Which groups have more than five DVDs? You can sort them different ways as well, such as DVDs with people and DVDs with animals; ones with cartoons and ones with real pictures; or sort by colors or writing style on the covers. Have your child think of a way to sort them too. (Another benefit of this activity is a more organized DVD shelf!)
Here’s a math activity that can be made by writing numbers on an old Twister game mat with permanent marker or on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. You call out what to do, depending on the level of your child/children: Jump to the number 5, Twirl to 6 + 6, Bunny hop to the number that comes after 9. Children of different ages can play together, just vary what you call out so that it is appropriate for the child whose turn it is. This would also work using letters to practice letter recognition or spelling as well. Active learning such as this is an engaging way to both learn and get some exercise.
“I’m standing on my age: 4 1/2”
Preparing to go grocery shopping can also be made into a learning activity. Depending on the level of your child, he can use the grocery store flyer to circle pictures of the fruits and vegetable he would like to try, find foods that begin with certain letters or are certain colors, or circle all the number 9’s on a page. He can “write” the foods she wants to buy on the grocery list. Even if all he can write is a few scribbles, he is learning that print has meaning and is developing fine motor skills. Your child can also cut out pictures from the flyer and glue them to the grocery list. While at the store he can look for those items, which will serve to keep him busy for a while.

This summer, with the goal of giving my 9-year-old something to do in the grocery store, I had her round everything we put in the basket to the nearest dollar and add them up to keep track of about how much money we were spending. I think I was even more amazed than she was when her estimate was only $3 off on a $120 grocery bill!
For some more ideas about turning everyday household chores into learning fun, try this website: Born Learning This is a great site to learn about your child’s stage of development with lots of ideas of how to incorporate learning into everyday activities.
Coming next month: Since my family has been spending a lot of time in doctor’s waiting rooms lately, next month I will be compiling some of the best activities to keep the kids busy (and learning) during those seemingly endless periods of waiting. Feel free to leave your comments and ideas as well!
Looking for More Activities to do with your kids? Check out Michelle’s other articles

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