These days, it’s not uncommon to see kids engrossed in iPads, video games and phones; sports, dance or any other number of after-school activities all compete with screen time to fill a kid’s day. Add in homework, and kids are scheduled to the max. The urge for the family to unplug and spend time together seems to grow as everyone gets busier, but turning off the screen doesn’t have to mean the learning stops. Here are six fun, family-friendly activities that happen to include some learning on the side.
Story time at the library
Language arts enrichment starts as easily as simply reading to your child. For a change of pace with the bonus of social interaction, try a library story time. Though they’re perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, many libraries offer book-related programs geared toward elementary-aged kids and older. Normally centered on a theme, story times usually include several books read aloud, songs and finger plays, and a craft based on the theme. Teens usually have their own programs that shouldn’t be overlooked!
If a trip to the library isn’t possible, you can have your own story time at home – just choose a theme, gather a few books on that theme, and plan a craft! Having older kids take the reins on reading the books to you or any younger kids is a bonus.
Form a book club
Book clubs are a great way to increase literacy skills in elementary-aged kids and up, and they allow for wonderful bonding moments between you and your kids. Book clubs allow you to get together with other parents and children to discuss ideas and concepts within books and gain understanding of other perspectives.
You can read all kinds of books or choose a theme like Newbery winners; you could emulate the Mother-Daughter Book Club series in which the young characters read a sampling of the classics – get really meta and read that series and each classic novel associated with it!
If you can’t gather a group to form a book club, you can take part in larger remote ones. NPR’s Backseat Book Club ends each month with young readers sending in questions to a book’s author, who answers them on the afternoon radio program “All Things Considered.”
Build skills with cooking
Involving kids in cooking and baking is a great way to hone math skills. Measuring ingredients is a nice introduction to fractions, and older kids can refine their math prowess even more by doubling or halving a recipe. Shopping for ingredients allows kids to work with money – try making a budget for your little chef to stick to! This is also a great way to experiment with new or unusual foods, since picky eaters are more likely to try new foods if they’ve had a hand in preparing them.
Give your kids a great financial foundation by playing store with them! You can go about it a few ways; one is to be the shopkeeper and set up shop for them. You can use things from around the house and use play money for transactions, or you can kick it up a notch and use actual new items and real money. Either way, your kids can learn how to budget their money – is it better to buy one big, expensive item or several smaller, cheaper ones? Using real money attaches real value to items, especially if your child earns his/her own money through allowance or chores.
Kids also make good storekeepers; they can choose items, price them, add purchases and make change, all without leaving the house. It’s never too early to teach kids about finances, and the math enrichment is a plus (pun totally intended)!
Turn your home into a science lab
Using materials commonly found around the house, your budding scientists can learn all about light, sound, weight and so much more! Simple experiments lead to loads of knowledge, and the hands-on nature of science experiments engage kids more readily than passively watching or listening. You can tailor the experiments to your kids’ interests, too – a green-thumbed kid could plant a little garden, while an engineering-minded kid could build a bridge with toothpicks. Don’t forget to plan experiments that you’ll enjoy as well!
Look to the night sky
Stay up past bedtime and explore the night skies with star charts to map the constellations, learn to use a telescope and spot the planets. Your kids can even find stars whose light is the same age! There are many astronomy resources available for activity ideas, and you can sign up with NASA to receive email alerts to spot the International Space Station when it passes through your view.
If the night sky is hard to see, look for a local planetarium, where you can see the stars from the comfort of a chair, away from the elements!
Spending time together as a family and learning at the same time make these kinds of activities extra beneficial. Whether it’s baking cookies, building a bubble bomb, or browsing a book, you can rest easy know your bonding is building brain power.
What sorts of enriching activities do you like to do with your kids? Share in the comments below!
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