Parents can do a lot to promote learning-through-play at home using everyday items, but sometimes people simply run out of fresh ideas. By the time they’re in preschool, children have a pretty good command of the language, a love of pretend, an unquenchable thirst for new things, and a growing attention span. They also thrive on using the familiar in unusual ways. Turn your home into a place a child can “think outside of the box”. Model this kind of play to inspire and stimulate their critical thinking skills. Here are some inexpensive ways to have fun together while neurologically firing on all cylinders!
Play pretend grocery store at home. Make money out of cut-up paper or raid your change jar. Put out some used grocery bags and set out canned/boxed foods and fruits/veggies at child-eye level. The shopper can even make a list and go shopping, and the grocery clerk can count the items and manage the money. Now trade places!
2. Empathy Drama
Play hospital with stuffed animals and dolls as patients. Use strips of masking tape for bandages and use tiny spoons for medicine. Homemade “Get Well” cards are a nice touch!
Use cornmeal on a cookie sheet to make your own simple etch-a-sketch for letters and numbers. Draw with a finger and carefully shake side-to-side, to erase and start again.
4. Assessing Same/Different
Use an empty egg carton or muffin tin to sort and classify items: beans, macaroni, cereal, costume jewelry, office supplies, etc.
5. Listening Carefully
Play the “I Spy” game, describing what you see in plain sight, and let the other guess.
6. Creating Literature
Let your child make up and dictate a story to you; write down exactly what they say and read it together afterwards. For more fun, record the reading of the story with a phone!
7. Measuring Distances
Use your actual “feet” to measure distances of places in the house. Guess how many “feet” it is and then walk off the distance to check. Make a list of what you learn.
8. Visual Discrimination
Make a lotto matching game with duplicate photo cards of family members and pets.
9. Concept of Weight
Get out the scale and weigh various items in the house to explore weight and mass concepts. Some things will be huge but will weigh less than others that are smaller. What?! Make a list of what you learn. Put things in a row, in order of weight.
Play the memory game, “What’s Missing?” Gather a few small household items together, show them to the child, then put them underneath a kitchen towel. With the child’s eyes closed, the parent sneaks out one of the items and puts it behind him/her. Whip off the towel….what’s missing? Take turns with your child, sneaking and guessing. You can make it harder by adding more items.
By Lisa Poelle