One way to keep up with your child’s appetite for learning is to change your playbook once in a while. Trot out an activity that’s fresh and simple… and unexpected. Here’s a bundle of fresh, one minute activities that are quick and easy to set up, but are also capable of engaging your child’s full focus and attention:
Make a Magnetic Fishing Pole: Tie a string to a stick. Attach a small magnet to the end of the string.
Fishing with Magnets: Fill your kitchen sink with water. Drop nuts, bolts and paper clips into the water. Let your child go fishing. (Advanced: have your child place the items into groups as she catches them. Variation: play the part of a purchaser from the market. Tell your child you only purchase items in groups of three. Let your child arrange the items for purchase.)
More Fishing with Magnets: Cut out construction paper fish with your child (colors should vary). Tape a small magnet onto each fish. Place the fish on the living room floor and let your child go fishing with her magnetic fishing pole. Group the fish by color. (Advanced: group the fish by size or fin type.)
Search and Rescue: Fill a glass with water and drop a paper clip into it. Have your child try to take the paper clip out of the glass using a magnet (along the side of the glass).
Advanced Search and Rescue: Repeat the previous activity with a tall vase with a narrow neck. The vase should be dark in color so the contents cannot be seen. Your child will love the challenge of navigating the unseen paper clip to the top of the vase. (Advanced: drop ten paper clips into the vase. Use a timer: let your child retrieve the paper clips using the magnet. Repeat the activity and try to improve the time.)
Going Going Gone: Each player shoots a cotton ball towards the edge of your kitchen table. (To shoot: twit like a marble.) The player whose cotton ball rolls nearest the edge–without going over– scores a point.
Clue Hunt: Leave a note under your child’s cereal bowl: “Secret clue on page 5 of Mother Goose book.” Now have the second note refer to another location–your child’s left sneaker, for instance. Third note reveals another location, etc. Last location might contain a toy surprise or supplies for art project.
Pattern Recognition: You need six spaghetti sticks–three for you and three for your child. Sit side by side. Place your three spaghetti sticks in a row. Let your child try to repeat the pattern with her spaghetti sticks. Next make a design with your three spaghetti sticks. Now let your child try to copy the design. When you’re finished, switch roles.
Make a Crane: Use tape to make a small loop at the top of a bedroom door frame. Pass a piece of kite string through the loop. Tape a nickel to one end. Let your child hold the other end. Now give the nickel a swing and allow your child to lower it into a cereal bowl.
Alphabet Hunting: Set a timer for two minutes. Hunt for things around the house that start with the letter “A.” Repeat for letter ” B” and “C.” Which letter has the most items? Which letter has the biggest item? The smallest item?
Chemistry in Action: Add a tablespoon of vinegar to a ziplock baggie. Now carefully add a tablespoon of baking soda. Do not let the ingredients touch one another. Seal the bag. Now shake the contents and observe what happens.
Field Goal Fun: Use a round balloon to kick field goals in your living room. If it stays on the couch it’s good. See who can make it from furthest away. Mark the spot with a piece of tape.
Tower Power: Roll up a piece of paper and secure it with a rubber band. Stand it up on your kitchen table. Now place a paper plate on top. Place another sheet of rolled up paper on top of that. Follow that with another paper plate. Continue to make the tower as tall as you can.
Freezer Magic: What happens if you leave a strip of tape in the freezer? Will it lose its stickiness? What happens to a dab of toothpaste? A hill of shaving cream? A bowl of cereal with milk in it? There’s an easy way to find out—.
One of the keys to a wholesome learning environment is an emphasis on activities. The best activities are the ones that invite creative input in determining the scope, rules or meaning of the event at hand. You won’t get that from a video game, where all the outcomes are predetermined and all the rules and possibilities are prepared by someone else.
In general, one easy strategy to keep in mind as a parent is that when the activity is important and interesting to you… it’s important and interesting to your child.
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