Fun Home Learning Activities for Parents of Primary Children
We’re all scrabbling around in the dark trying to work out the best way to cope with school closures and Easter holidays in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. If your children are at home with you and you’re concerned with them keeping up with their school work, we have some fun ways to embed learning activities that won’t even feel like learning!
Baking provides a wealth of learning opportunities...and produces some delicious results too. Working through a simple recipe with your child will help develop measuring skills (Maths), following instructions (English) and can help them understand reversible and irreversible changes (Science).
Practical tip: Ask your child questions as you work through the recipe, such as ‘What do we need to do next?’, ‘How does our mixture look different now to before we added the flour/butter/sugar?’, ‘How much more flour do we need than sugar?’ As an added challenge, try doubling or halving the recipe too!
Planting seeds and watching them sprout and grow is always a rewarding activity to do with your children. And you don’t need a garden either; a few simple supplies are all you need to get you started. Pop some multi-purpose compost in a plant pot, plastic cup or old yogurt pot, sprinkle the seeds in and cover with compost.
Encourage your child to take responsibility for making sure the plant has enough water and sunlight, and challenge them to record what happens to the seed each day. They could take photos, measure the height to record in a graph, draw pictures or write updates.
Practical tip: These plant seeds germinate and reach maturity quickly: mung beans (2-5 days), cress (3-7 days), lima beans (4-7 days), sprouting seeds (4-12 days), radishes (7-14 days), pumpkin (7-21 days), nasturtium (14-21 days). Lettuce, basil, chives, mint and parsley are also relatively easy to grow.
Encourage your child’s interests
One of the best parts about educating your child at home is that you can harness their natural enthusiasm for a given subject. Are they crazy about LEGO? Challenge them to find out when LEGO was invented, by who and how it became so popular. Do they love singing and dancing? Challenge them to write and perform their own songs, or even create a music video. Are they crazy about science? Challenge them to put together a demonstration or presentation about their favourite scientist.
While your children are out of school, use this time to get them enthusiastic about learning. If they love what they’re doing, they might not even realise they are learning! They can make models, draw pictures, create presentations, write stories...anything at all to show what they know!
Practical tip: A sure-fire way to get children engaged in a project is to give them the role of the ‘teacher’. If they feel like experts in a particular field showing off their knowledge to others, it’s more likely to keep them on track. In these times of social distancing, arrange a video call with a friend or another home learning family so they can share their knowledge.
Being less able to go outside and play with other children may mean that your child is less active than normal but there are lots of ways you can incorporate exercise into your new home learning routine.
YouTube is an endless source of great exercise and dance videos for your children. Try these to start with – there are plenty more!
- Dance ‘n Beats has a wide selection of fun dance routines for younger children to enjoy.
- Just Dance has a more challenging selection of videos for older children.
- Cosmic Kids Yoga has a fun range of videos to guide your child through yoga sessions.
- Jump Start Jonny has some fab free high-energy workouts on his website, plus a few on YouTube too.
Practical tip: Make sure children warm up and warm down before and after each workout session. Walking on the spot, arm swings or circles, jumping jacks, side hops and lunges are all good options.
This may sound complicated but there are lots of free websites out there for children to help them understand how coding works. One of our favourites is Scratch. Children can program their own interactive stories, games and animations, whilst learning a bunch of key skills along the way.
If you're interested in practical computing and want to get your children doing something a bit more hands-on, you can't go far wrong ordering a BBC micro:bit. These cheap, compact, programmable devices include LED lights, buttons and sensors, all of which can be programmed with Scratch, or via the micro:bit online programming app. The website has loads of brilliant programming projects for children, too.
Practical tip: The main Scratch site is designed for children aged between 8 and 16 but there is also an easier version called ScratchJr for children between the ages of 5 and 7.
Engaging your child in creativity by planning and writing a story is a great way to embed some learning in a relaxed way. Ask children to pick a main character, a setting and a special object (such as a magic key, a treasure map, a broken lamp or a buried time capsule) and let their imaginations run riot!
Once they have finished their stories, there are lots of ways to present them to the world too. They could stick with the good old traditional pen and paper method, or try creating an eBook. Book Creator is a great free app for this. Children can create their own books, adding photos, images, drawing pictures, writing text, inserting videos or even recording their own voice! They can then publish their books once they’ve finished.
Practical tip: When challenging children to write a story, use the ‘Somebody Wanted But Then So’ model for their basic plan which they can then flesh out. For example, SOMEBODY (a space ranger) WANTED (to save the world from an evil alien lord) BUT (their space ship broke down) SO (they hitched a ride with a friendly alien) THEN (they made it just in time to destroy the evil alien lord).
Daily reading is a key part of your child’s education and something that you should continue to do if they are home learning. Both reading to your child and having your child read to you is something that should be done on a regular basis. If you’ve not got a vast library of books to choose from at home, check out Epic – it has access to 35,000 children’s books, learning videos, quizzes and more. You can try it free for 30 days.
You could encourage your child to act out the story once it is finished, or create a puppet show (shadow puppets are great for this) to retell the story they have just read.
And if your child isn’t a fan of fiction, non-fiction books are just as valuable. Challenge them to recount what they have found out by creating an information poster or a multimedia presentation.
Practical tip: Every time you read with your child, ask them questions about what they have read. Use this free Reading Question Matrix for a variety of questions that develop into deeper questioning the further into the matrix you go.
Model making can be a fun way to engage children in a topic or subject. You could use playdough or modelling clay to make a model of the solar system or to show the different animals and plants in a habitat or food chain. Or you can use recycled objects, such as boxes, food packaging, bubble wrap, newspaper or anything else to make a medieval castle, a space ship, a dinosaur or a Tudor galleon.
Practical tip: Encourage children to test different ways of joining materials before heading straight into their model. Is it better to join cardboard tubes with glue or masking tape? Is it better to join a plastic cup to a cardboard base with staples or glue? Doing this from the get-go might well avoid some difficulties later!
There are a wealth of Art activities you can do with your child at home that don’t require too much equipment (or mess!). Here are our top 5 fuss-free Art activities:
- Rock painting: grab some small rocks or pebbles next time you go out for a walk and paint them as animals to create pet rocks!
- Photo cut-outs: Print off any picture and cut it in half using zigzag lines. Stick onto a plain sheet of paper and challenge your child to complete the picture.
- Copy the masters: Challenge children to replicate the art of artists. Check out the art of Piet Mondrian or Kandinsky for younger artists.
- Still life: plop an apple, a vase, a glass or a flower in front of them and challenge children to draw what they see. As an extra challenge, ask them to paint it using just one colour, such as using different shades of red.
- Squiggle art: draw a small squiggle on a sheet of paper using curvy or straight lines. Challenge your child to then turn the squiggle into a drawing. You might be surprised at the masterpieces that can be developed from these simple squiggles!
Practical tip: If you’re looking for more arty inspiration, Pinterest is an excellent port of call for children’s art activities.
Other fun home learning challenges:
- Treasure hunts: Hide a variety of challenges or calculations around the house. Children have to find and solve each one to get a prize.
- Sorting objects: Gather a variety of household objects and challenge your child to sort them into groups. How many different ways can you sort them? What criteria can you use? Can you think of anything else that would fit into each group?
- Make a board game: Challenge your child to make their own board game, such as their own version of snakes and ladders, or a quiz game using a subject they are very familiar with.
- Create puzzles: Ask your child to create a Maths puzzle or secret code to email to a friend. Can they crack the code?
- Turn the tables: Invite your child to be the teacher and teach you something you don’t know!