Home Learning Activities

by Ruth Schiffmann


If you're looking for activities that will keep children thinking and happy, these ideas will stretch your money and their mind.

It's your deal. - Use a deck of cards to reinforce skills and have fun. A game of war promotes greater than, less than and equal to understanding. Go Fish and Old Maid exhibit matching. Solitaire players sequence, count and learn patterns. Rummy develops strategizing, matching, sequencing, and using mental math to score. Technically speaking, shuffling exercises coordination.

Raid the pantry. - Set up store using boxed and canned goods. Young children count items or shop for things beginning with the letter "B," etc. Shopping games incorporate pricing, estimating, couponing, making change, and rounding while illustrating real-life math and how fast money goes!

Got milk? - Purchase by the gallon and save the caps. By buying with the sales, you'll collect different colors. Use for sorting and as math counters. I use them to reward good behavior. Earned caps buy time during the school day to read a book from the "library crate." Use them for scoring games; with each one representing 10 points, at game's end, they count by tens to find the winner. This no-expense collection has really paid off!

Did I throw that away? - It's hard to see a pint, a quart, or a gallon on paper. So I rummaged through the recycling bin for an empty pint of creamer, a partially crushed quart carton, a half-gallon jug from the morning's orange juice, and the gallon milk container. I lined them up along with a measuring cup. Using water, we discovered how many cups it takes to fill a pint, how many pints to fill a quart, and so on. That exercise accomplished what pages in a math book could not. I wish I had learned like this!

Math is just a hop, skip, and jump away. - Using construction paper, cut lily pads of varying sizes. For the young, number ten pads. Randomly spread them out. Children then hop from 1 to 10. If they misstep they croak "reebit" and begin again. Older children use more lily pads and higher numbers. Have them hop by 2s, 3s, 5s, 10s.

Five cheers for vowels! - Tear newspaper into strips and then fashion into pom poms by stapling one end. Wind yarn around sharp ends to serve as handles. When the children are jumping around wanting something to cheer, offer this, "Five cheers for vowels: A, E, I, O, U!"

The pyramids aren't in Egypt anymore. - They are on our refrigerator. The food pyramids, that is. Make pyramid outlines using construction paper. Glue magnetic backing (cut from free magnets received in the mail) to the pyramid. Then cut out food pictures from store flyers or coupon inserts. Back each with paper and a magnet. After meals, place pictures of foods eaten in the appropriate pyramid section. I was thrilled to watch my daughter refer to her pyramid before snacking!

Yours, mine and ours - My husband throws his loose change into a jar. I pulled out the collection when my daughter was bored with her workbook. Using real money made the problems less of a problem and more fun. When her assignment was complete, she wanted to do more!

Kitchen temptations - Next time you're cooking, resist the temptation to go it alone. Cook up an extra batch of patience and then start with kitchen safety. Being trusted with responsibility encourages more receptive learning. Look for payoffs in cooperation, following instructions and listening skills. Older children learn to follow a recipe, work with fractions and become familiar with measuring. Before you know it, they'll be fixing you lunch.

"My fingers are going to fall off." - This complaint accompanies most writing assignments. Yet, if I let my nine-year-old make the grocery list, she's thrilled. She searches store circulars for the best prices and makes a list for several stores. Then she gathers coupons, figures the pricing and marks the list accordingly. I hesitated handing this task over, but I'm glad that I finally did. The job gets done well while I gain time for other things.

The next time your day feels dull, try one of these activities. It might be that breath of fresh air that carries you through. Those gadgets and games in the curriculum catalogs look good, but with a little creativity, you can garner the same results at no extra expense.


Ruth Schiffmann lives with her husband and two teenage daughters and has been a homeschooling mom for the past twelve years. When she's not thinking up ways to save money, she enjoys writing and spending time with their new puppy.

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