We all want to make our child’s face light up from discovering something new, and it’s a bonus when learning is enjoyable for parents, too!
Fortunately, we know that play-based learning is the way to go. Studies show that children learn best when they are engaged, social and active–all aspects of play. Playing develops key brain connections, leading to learning and growth.
There are plenty of activities that are both playful and educational.
Check out these 10 fun ideas to keep both you and your child engaged and enjoying the learning process!
1. Play with Letters and Sounds
With so many excellent ways to teach your child letters and sounds, it’s hard to pick just one!
A Print Hunt activity is a perfect choice. First, brainstorm a letter or simple word that your child can recognize. Next, give your child a bag that they will fill with all the items in the house that have either the letter or word printed on it.
Practice by showing your child how the letter “C” is present on a can of soup in the pantry, or the letter “D” on soap in the bathroom. (Tip: Younger children may do better in a single room set up with the items in order to stay focused). When they bring you the full bag, list down the inventory together and give plenty of praise!
2. Play with Rhyming
Rhyming is a crucial skill for young children to master. It teaches children the rhythm of language and even how language works.
So how do we keep it fun?
Enter Rhyming Ball. This game lets kids identify words that rhyme through movement. To play, simply sit a few feet apart from your child while holding a ball. Say two words and roll the ball to them. Your kiddo should roll the ball back to you if the words rhyme. Otherwise, he or she should hold it.
3. Sing and Dance Together
Living room dance parties require little preparation and provide hours of fun. Research shows that singing and dancing are essential for child development.
According to a post by Lin Marsh, children use their voice and other instruments to express what they feel. However, they also serve important learning functions like pattern, pulse, rhyme, and structure.
Happily, children love nothing more than musical parties. And dancing together improves everyone’s mood (and fitness).
While a family song and dance party can be impromptu, there are plenty of ways to make it even more engaging. Select popular music your child loves, “set the stage” with lights, a disco ball or glow sticks, or copy your child’s dance moves to keep it silly!
In stressful moments, turn up the music, sing together, and know your child is learning as they calm down or turn around their bad day.
4. Read Books
There’s a reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your child from infancy. Brain scans reveal that hearing stories develops the part of the brain associated with word meaning, comprehension, and visual imagery.
Reading aloud to your child is also linked with improved behavior and attention. When parents play and read with their children, they model how to behave and interact.
Here are some tips for maximizing reading time:
- Read together (at least) once a day
- Use a lively, engaging voice and gestures to enhance understanding
- Read the same story a number of times
- Talk about the pictures
- Let them choose their own books
Know that reading aloud can enhance your child’s empathy and perspective-taking too. As you read, pause and reflect on how each character is feeling, and why. Ask questions like, “He seems mad. Why do you think that is?” or “She is smiling. Who do you think made her happy?”
5. Practice Writing
Your child will use writing throughout life, so keep it fun! Let them get messy, use Play-Doh or shaving cream to make letters, and scribble as much as they want.
Encourage your child to trace and draw shapes, or draw silly pictures and let you guess what they are. Have them trace letters and words on your back and see if you can figure them out.
Technology has dramatically impacted children’s handwriting ability and writing skills, so giving plenty of playful practice at home is crucial! For writing prompts that help your child face challenges, embrace mistakes, and gain confidence, check out the Big Life Journal!
6. Play Learning Games
Learning games mean your child plays and learns at the same time! It’s a win-win.
Scavenger hunts are a perfect option and can be adapted for kids of all ages. For preschoolers, you might hunt for colors, shapes, or even animals. Older children can look for items in nature or do a literacy walk (search for specific letters, rhyming words, or a certain number of syllables).
Consider a family math scavenger hunt for more learning fun. Your family can work together to find patterns, numbers, or things that tell time!
7. Fun Baking Activities
Baking together isn’t just delicious–it’s also educational. When you bake with your children, reading, math, and following directions are just some of the skills they practice.
Kitchen skills depend on your child’s age and development, so adapt as necessary. Preschoolers can often stir, scoop, and smell spices. Older children may measure, read directions, and add their own creative touches.
Check out the kid-friendly Zebra Mix Baking Kit to let them take charge in the kitchen!
8. Connect-The-Dots with Letters
To gain letter familiarity, consider engaging your child in a movement-based Connect-the-Dots game. Here are the 3 simple steps:
- Choose 5 or 6 letters (2-3 your child knows, 2-3 that are unfamiliar)
- Roll out a long piece of butcher paper and write these letters in a random pattern (be sure to repeat each letter 8-10 times)
- Have your child connect the matching letters using a marker or crayon
This simple activity gets your child moving and engaged. For older kids, you can make it more challenging by writing two of each letter in the same color and having them find the match!
9. Share Oral Stories
Studies show that oral storytelling builds your child’s vocabulary, creativity, and listening skills. Set aside a time each day to share stories together.
To keep them focused, tell stories about your child’s interests. You might try turning off the lights after dinner, or even lighting a candle to make it special. If you feel stuck coming up with a story, tell them one you already know.
In time, your child will be able to join in the storytelling too!
1o. Keep Math Skills Sharp
Your child’s brain is like a muscle–it gets stronger from challenges and even mistakes. The mind needs continual practice to stay in good shape.
Occasionally, your child’s home learning will require a bit more help than you can give. Enter the Yup App, which gives on-demand math tutoring and homework support whenever your child needs it. They can simply snap a photo of the problem they are working on and be connected with a tutor.
We sometimes think that teaching at home must be serious and formal. But play is how children learn, so it is key to keep learning activities both fun and exciting! When your child enjoys the learning process, they build academic skills that will serve them throughout life.
Alexandra Eidens is the founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life’s challenges with confidence.