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An Activity a Day Keeps the Boredom at Bay

With the timing of this post on the last day of November, I have prepared a December Advent Activity Calendar for families (parents and children) to use in the lead-up to Christmas. There is one suggestion for each day until Christmas. In this article, I provide a brief outline of each activity. For those who want more, I have prepared a PDF with additional details for each activity which you can download free by following this link.

1. Put up the Christmas Tree

It is traditional for Christmas trees to be put up and decorated at the beginning of December. In my family, we try to do it on, or as close to, the 1st of December. If you haven’t put your tree up yet, perhaps it’s time to think about it.

I have provided the outline of a Christmas tree which can be cut, coloured and hung on the real Christmas tree. Write the year on it. On the back, write something you wish for yourself, something you wish for others, and something you wish for the world. Hang it on the Christmas tree. If you do the same thing each year, you can reflect on changes in yourself and in the world.

2. Make Paper Chain Decorations

Paper chains are easy to make and add colour to the tree or can be hung around the room.

3. Make a Gift Day

The 3rd of December is Make a Gift Day — perfect timing to remind us that personal handmade gifts are special and to be treasured. Children can make gifts for their parents, siblings, grandparents or friends.

4. Wildlife Conservation Day

The 4th of December is Wildlife Conservation Day. While you may not be able to visit a zoo or wildlife park in person, many are open for virtual visits.

At Explore.org livecamsyou can visit animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore. In the PDF, I link to ten more of the many other places also live streaming animals.

5. Play a Board Game

Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Many different board games are available and adjustments can often be made to suit most numbers and ages of players, and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.

In the PDF, I have provided a board for playing Ladders and Chimneys, an innovation on Snakes and Ladders. To play, all you need to add is a dice and a button or token for each player.

6. Hour of Coding

The Hour of Coding is a great way to become more computer literate as a family. Many activities are available on the website, available for all different ages and levels of experience. They take you through a coding activity step by step. Children can do it independently or have fun doing it together as a family.

Jacqui Murray at Ask a Tech Teacher also has some great suggestions for the Hour of Code.

7. Read a Christmas Story

Reading together is another great bonding activity for families and has many benefits for children. In the hectic lead up to Christmas, it is important to ensure there is still time for a story or ten, every single day.

Of course, not all stories you read need to be Christmas themed, and it is important to allow children to choose which books they would like you to read for them too.

8. Explore the Local Environment

Spend time outdoors, experiencing what your local environment has to offer. Be in the present moment, be mindful, experience, wonder and enjoy.

Discuss what can be observed with each of the senses, for example what you can hear, smell and touch as well as see.

Whether in an urban, rural or natural space, there is always much to observe.

In the PDF, I include a template for writing a poem about the sounds you hear.

9. Take a Deck of Cards

There are many fun games you can play with a deck of cards. I’m sure you have a few favourites of your own.

Here are a few suggestions, to remind you of games you may not have thought of in a while:

  • Strip Jack Naked
  • Snap
  • Happy Families
  • Cheat
  • Old Maid
  • Go Fish
  • Memory

In the PDF, I provide a set of cards you can cut to play Memory.

10. Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day provides a good opportunity to take some time out from Christmas preparations to think of others who may not have the same advantages as you.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be a little heavy for young children to fully understand, they will be able to consider the Rights of Children.

Children may like to consider actions they can take to ensure they don’t hinder the rights of others, for example to be treated fairly, to be safe, or to play and have fun.

11. Gingerbread Decorating Day

Who needs an excuse to indulge in a little gingerbread from time to time? Christmas is a perfect time to make and decorate some gingerbread cookies for Christmas.

At the very least you could read or tell the story of The Gingerbread Man.

For some inspiration, visit Robbie on her Robbie’s Inspiration blog and watch her make gingerbread dough on her YouTube channel.

12. Prepare Christmas Treats

Children love to be in the kitchen cooking with a parent or grandparent, especially when they may get to be the taste-testers.

It doesn’t really matter what recipe you follow, there is always something for the children to learn, for example:

  • Social skills
  • Literacy skills
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Safety
  • Social Studies

13. Invite Friends Over

It is always fun to have friends visit at Christmas time.

Any of the activities suggested for families are great when friends are included too, especially playing games.

It is also good to have some special Christmas treats to share to make the day more festive.

In the PDF, I have provided a recipe for one of my favourite treats to make when friends are dropping over — pinwheel sandwiches. They can be made a few days in advance and kept refrigerated until needed.

14. Christmas Lights

In many neighbourhoods, people create amazing displays of lights and other decorations for Christmas.

Going for a walk or a drive to view the beautiful displays always helps build the anticipation and excitement for Christmas.

15. Tidy Room — Sort Toys/Books

With Christmas just 10 days away, now would be a good time for children to tidy their rooms in preparation for the big event and the new toys which may be added to their collection.

16. Sing Christmas Carols

Christmas carols are fun to sing. You don’t have to go door-to-door and sing for the neighbours. You can sing together as a family right in your own home.

Even if none of you are musical and no one plays an instrument, you can find plenty of carols to sing along with on the internet or radio.

There are some carols that I just can’t help but join in with. What are your favourites?

17. Quiet Christmas Activities

Sometimes, the lead up to Christmas can be rather hectic. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time out to relax or do quiet things to refresh and rejuvenate.

18. Prepare and/or Check Lists

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to prepare and check your lists of last-minute things that need to be done or prepared before the big day.

19. Play ‘I Spy on the Christmas Tree’.

I Spy is always a fun game to play with children. It can be played anywhere, indoors or outdoors, at any time. But Christmas is the only time it can be played using the Christmas tree.

20. Charades

Charades is a fun game to play with family and friends. It requires no equipment and can be played with any number of people (well, perhaps more than four).

21. Have a Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunts are always a lot of fun. They don’t always need to lead to a prize but may involve looking for a toy or a book that is already owned.

22. Let’s Get Physical

Getting physical should not be something children need a reminder to do, but sometimes a little nudge can be required. There are many different ways of putting activity into the day. What are some of your family’s favourite ways of getting physical?

23. Track Santa’s Journey

Make sure you can access the NORAD Tracks Santa website so you can watch where Santa is travelling around the world On Christmas Eve.

Actually, you don’t need to wait until Christmas Eve. The website has lots of activities that can be accessed from 1 December.

24. Jolabokaflod

Jolabokaflod is a great Christmas tradition from Iceland. The word translates to ‘Christmas Book Flood’ in English.

In Iceland, books are popular Christmas gifts and, when they are opened on Christmas Eve, everyone immediately reads the books they have received. That’s a tradition I could certainly go for. (Thanks to Anne Goodwin of annethology for the reminder of this wonderful tradition.)

25. Enjoy Christmas Day!

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, however you choose to celebrate it. Stay safe and well.

If you are still short of ideas, check out these other suggestions, all available free on readilearn (my website of teaching resources for the first three years of school). Some of them were written as part of this series of Learning at Home articles and presented as PDFs on readilearn for ease of access.

An A-Z of Holiday Activities for Families at Home

21 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the holidays

Let the children write! 20 suggestions for parents

25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays

Fine motor Christmas activities

Keep the children learning at home during lockdown

In addition to these, there are many other suggestions for parents in the Classroom Management — For Parents collection on readilearn.

There is also a new 30-page Christmas Activity Book which is available for just A$3.50 (that’s about $2.50 in the US.)

That’s it for now. Have fun!

Till next time, Norah

Navigation is Still an Important Skill for Children

This article is for parents of young children.

In the old days, and even in the not-so-long-ago days, we used maps, verbal directions, or journey markers to find out way around. Now nearly everyone has an electronic device to tell them how to get from one location to another with no need to memorise a path or journey markers. However, I think it is still a useful skill and that noticing landmarks along the way can make a journey more interesting and memorable. It’s also useful when in an area with no network service or a device that has no power.

Young children may not have access to electronic navigational devices, but they are usually accompanied by adults who act as their personal navigators. This is necessary, of course, for their safety. However, it is important to encourage even young children to be observant of their surroundings as there will come a time when they need to navigate independently, be it in the grounds of a new school, from home to a friend’s house, around the shopping mall, to catch a bus or, eventually, drive a car. Not only will they need to recognise markers on these routes, but they will need strategies to implement if lost or separated.

When children take note of seasonal and other changes, both temporary and permanent, in addition to permanent features, of their environment, they are building essential knowledge; knowledge that can be developing long before they need to find their way alone. Consequently, if the ability to find one’s way around has already been learned through demonstrations and discussions or by deciding which route will be taken for a journey, when the need arises, independent navigation will be far less daunting for the child, and much less worrisome for the parents,

The best way parents can help children develop confidence in navigating their own neighbourhood is by pointing out landmarks and discussing the routes they are following, whether travelling on foot, on bicycles or in the car. It is good to sometimes give children the responsibility for remembering where the car was parked, where the shopping mall was entered or how to find the way back to a particular store.

There are many opportunities, whether in the car or on foot, to take note of landmarks; for example:

  • The numbers on houses,
  • The types of fences
  • How many streets to cross
  • Large trees
  • The entry to the shopping centre
  • The row and number of the carpark space
  • Bridges crossed.

A delightful picture book that can be used to discuss the importance of knowing one’s way around and of staying safe is the beautiful Pat Hutchins’ book Rosie’s Walk which tells the story of a hen who goes for a walk around the farmyard and gets back home safely in time for dinner. The story also introduces many positional words.

Positional terms are useful for describing the location of neighbourhood landmarks in relation to each other and use of them helps to develop spatial awareness along with language; for example:

past the shop

across the bridge

over the road

through the park

in the middle

beside the lake

along the road

next to the bakery

around the corner

behind the fence

near the post office

as well as left and right.

You could use the book Rosie’s Walk as a springboard for encouraging children to draw a map of their house, their yard, their neighbourhood, the journey to Grandma’s house. They could then use the positional words to get from one place to another.

Together, you could draw a mud map of the neighbourhood and discuss the placement of landmarks and different paths that could be taken to get to and from them. Such discussions encourage divergent thinking.

It can be helpful for children to think of these maps as being from a birds’eye view, or from a plane. It is not such a stretch then when they are introduced to more formal maps such as Google Maps and street directories on which they can learn to point out or mark places they have visited.

The Hokey Pokey is a fun game that can be played to teach left and right. If you don’t remember the song there are many videos on YouTube to watch. My only caution is that watching someone facing you and using the correct side can confuse children as they will need to use the visually opposite side to be correct. Having been a teacher of young children for many years, I became confused about left and right because I had to use the opposite side to mirror them when teaching left and right. In this video, the demonstrator mirrors the side for the children to copy.

Navigation need not be difficult if children are introduced to it in purposeful and fun ways from a young age. Why not give your children a little more responsibility for showing the way?

Until next time,

Norah

Maths is Everywhere

Maths is something many say they can’t do and didn’t enjoy in school. Many say it’s too boring or too complex or that they don’t understand it. If you have an aversion to maths, you’re not alone, and you probably don’t want me quoting figures about what percentage of the population suffers from it. Let me just say, it’s a big number.

However, we use maths every day. We couldn’t function fully in everyday life without it. From the moment we wake up and look at the clock until shutting down at night, we are using mathematics. Even if you don’t look at the clock, knowing that it’s morning is using maths.

You see, many think of maths as having to do exclusively with numbers, but it is more than that. It involves patterns, shape, probability, data collection and problem solving. We use it almost every moment of the day without giving it a thought.

We use it when we schedule events in order, like deciding what we will do in the day or even in what order we will be dress ourselves.

We use it when we sort items to place onto shelves, in cupboards or drawers.

We use it to work out our budget — what to spend and what to save.

We use it to navigate our way around the neighbourhood or places further afield. 

Since maths is such an integral part of everyday life, it is important to avoid, as far as possible, passing on one’s anxiety about maths to children, not just because they are equally capable of developing it on their own, but because they’d be better off without it.

If a child does experience difficulty in any areas of maths – try to avoid reinforcing it by saying that you always had trouble with maths. Instead, say something like, yes, it is difficult, but we can work on it. We’ll figure it out. Encourage them (and you) to develop a growth, rather than a fixed, mindset. We can all learn given the appropriate support.

As an early childhood educator, I focus on helping children find enjoyment and purpose in the world around them, including things mathematical, from a young age.

Here are a few ways to get your children using maths in everyday situations (without necessarily labelling it as maths) that make its use fun. The suggestions come from 25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays. The full list can be downloaded free from readilearn here.

Number and place value
  • Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  • Include your child in shopping activities
  • When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  • Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  • Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins’s The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle’s Rooster’s off to see the world or Kim Michelle Toft’s One Less Fish
Patterns and algebra
  • Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach
  • Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
Measurement and geometry
  • Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
    • measure the ingredients
    • set the temperature on the oven
    • work out the cooking finish time
  • A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:
    • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g., compare an apple and an orange, measure the quantity of butter required for a recipe
  • Measuring length can be included by:
    • measuring and comparing height
  • Use the calendar to
    • learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
    • count the passing days or the number of days until an event
Probability and statistics
  • When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible

These are just a few simple ideas to get you started. I’m sure you will think of many other everyday activities that will help your children develop mathematical concepts.

Celebrate Maths with the International Day of Mathematics

Another reason to celebrate maths and to turn around any negative attitudes is the International Day of Mathematics coming up soon on March 14. This year’s theme is Mathematics for a Better World. I can find no argument with that goal.

If you are keen to be involved, there are suggestions on the website, including a poster competition which is open until 1 March. Most of the suggestions are suitable for older children in classroom groups and organised events. However, I think the Scavenger Hunt could be used by a family working together and the Paper Activities could be adapted for younger children or substituted with; for example, making origami shapes, making shapes from tangrams, completing jigsaw puzzles and colour by number activities.

A gift for you

Many lessons and activities in mathematics for children aged 5 – 7 are available at readilearn. Like the list above, many are free. Others are available individually or as a collection through a small annual subscription. If you would like to see what’s available and whether they may be of benefit to your children, I am happy to offer Carrot Ranchers the first year’s subscription free. Simply use carrot at the checkout to obtain your gift (valid until the International Day of Mathematics, 14 March 2021).

But wait there’s more — Pi Day

Many of you will already know March 14 as Pi Day, celebrated because the date is often written as 3/14 and Pi (the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) is approximately 3.14.

The Pi Day website is also loaded with mathematical information and activities. I really enjoyed reading the Top 25 Most Interesting Pi Facts. It also lists ten reasons why mathematics is important and has information and videos to support understanding of some hard-to-get concepts.

The Exploratorium is also a great resource for learning about Pi. And of course, if all else fails on Pi Day, eat pie. Of course, you will discuss what fraction of the pie each person gets, won’t you?

The Birthday Paradox

In her post here at the Carrot Ranch last week, D. Avery stated that her husband and her sister-in-law’s mother shared a birthday. In response to the post, Ritu commented that there were a number of overlapping birthdays in her family, and I agreed that there were also a number in mine. I am constantly amazed by the frequency with which births, deaths and other events in my family fall on the same date while other dates remain bare.

I guess the further you cast the net, the more dates will coincide. However, I was intrigued by a phenomenon referred to as the birthday paradox. This states that in a room of 23 people, there is a fifty-fifty chance of two people having the same birthday. It doesn’t seem that likely to me but then others more mathematically able have worked out the probability.

What’s your birthday?

I thought it might be fun to compare dates to see how many of the Carrot Ranchers’ birthdays overlap. To join in, just pop your birthday (no year required) in the comments. I’m 18 June.

Matching family birthdays

Although I am one of 10 (so 12 in the family), there are no overlapping birthdays, though some are close with just one day apart. We only have to move sideways and compare the cousins’ birthdays to find a few that match, some with three or more sharing the same day.

I was interested in the following information that came up when searching the birthday paradox, so I followed it to the source at KLTV and an article about Unusual Mother Trivia

The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

My mind boggles. Of course, each set of twins, triplets and quadruplets share the same date, but there were 27 ‘confinements’, so chances are there were at least two matching birthdates in different years. Unfortunately, there appears to be no proof of the births or of the claim itself. Vassilyev’s wife, identified as Valentina in this article on Wikipedia, must have been healthy and strong. In fact, the meaning ‘healthy and strong’ is attributed to the name Valentina. Another coincidence? What are the chances of that?

Enjoy your mathematical encounters.

Until next time.

Norah

Keep Learning on the Boil in the Kitchen

Home with the Kids by Norah Colvin

Your-kitchen-Michael Rosen

This quote is taken from Good Ideas How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher by Michael Rosen.

The thought of having to assist children’s learning at home can sometimes be overwhelming, but it needn’t be that way. Some of the best learning can take place in the kitchen without any extra equipment or expense. All you have to do is include them in preparing the day’s food. We all have to eat, don’t we?

When you involve children in meal preparation, including choosing the menu, purchasing the ingredients, preparing the food and cleaning up, they are not only learning valuable life skills, they are learning in almost every area of the curriculum.

Children love to cook, and by ‘cook’ I mean the preparation of food whether heat is involved or not. They enjoy sharing the food with their family and friends almost as much as eating it themselves.

Some of the curriculum areas in which you are helping children develop skills while preparing food include:

  • Reading — read and follow the recipes for ingredients and method, select the ingredients, read product labels
  • Vocabulary development — learn the language of food and cooking and the preciseness of vocabulary such as the difference between dice and chop, shred and slice, boil and steam, bake and roast; understand words such as mix, stir, sift, fold, blend, boil, bake, roast, fry …
  • Writing — write a shopping list, or list of ingredients to take from the pantry or refrigerator, write a menu or invitations to the family (how lovely to receive a special invitation slipped under the door), write a recount of an event
  • Maths — count e.g. the number of eggs and measure quantities with cups and spoons, count and sort utensils and dinner dishes and cutlery, read and measure times for cooking or preparation, share e.g. the number of cookies or how many slices, measure the size of cooking trays and tins
  • Science — observe changes that occur as you mix ingredients or when heat is added or removed, understand that some of the changes that occur are reversible e.g. water to ice and back again; but that some are irreversible e.g. cream to butter, but not back again.
  • HASS — learn about the recipes that have been handed down through your family and about recipes that have originated in other countries or traditions
  • Music — listen to music as you engage in food preparation, including music from the countries of food you are preparing
  • Art — decorate menus and special invitations, photograph dishes made and keep a record of them in a book alongside their recipes

Life skills they may be learning include, but are not limited to:

  • The ability to look after oneself.
  • Social skills such as cooperation, turn taking, sharing and patience (how long before they’ll be ready?), the etiquette of dining.
  • Safety – with knives, peelers, hot implements, and ingredients including hygienic food handling. While it is not suitable for children to use knives or handle hot utensils or heating appliances when young, and only under careful adult supervision when older, if children are included in kitchen tasks from a young age they understand the dangers and respond to them appropriately.
  • Understand that unless the steps of a recipe are followed in order the outcome may not be what was expected.
  • Organisation and preparation skills: making sure all ingredients and utensils are available and assembled.

One of the fantastic things about food preparation is the opportunity it provides for asking questions: it can be an ongoing edible science experiment, for example:

  • Why do the cakes rise?
  • What makes the water bubble?
  • Why is a cloud coming out of the jug?
  • Where does the water go when it boils?
  • Why isn’t the egg white white before it’s cooked?
  • What would happen if I didn’t put the egg in the cake mixture?
  • Why is some sugar brown?
  • What the difference between the different types of sugar, flour or milk?
  • What happens to cream when it is beaten?

As you have seen, with a little imagination and lots of discussion, any kitchen activity can stimulate a lot of learning.

In the cooking section on readilearn, a website of early childhood teaching resources, you will find the recipe for a crater of the moon cake and some suggestions for associated science learning. These are usually available for minimal cost but, if you are interested in these or any other of the cooking resources, please let me know in the comments and I’ll send you a complimentary copy.

Until next time, have fun learning in the kitchen.

Norah

Norah Colvin is a lifelong learner and passionate educator. She believes in the power of education to change lives and is committed to raising awareness of ways to support and enhance learning.

Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.

She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.

While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.

Connect with Norah on her blogs NorahColvin.com and readilearn.com.au. She can also be found (occasionally) on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Combat Boredom with Board Games

Home with the Kids by Norah Colvin

One of the best ways to have fun while learning, or to learn while having fun, is by playing board games. Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Adjustments can be made to suit most numbers and ages and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.

Social Skills

One of the greatest benefits of playing board games is the development of social skills.

Some of the social skills children learn include:

Getting along and taking turns

Playing fair — accept the roll (if dice are used) or draw (if cards are used) for example, and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square.

Abiding by rules — all games have rules. For games to work, the rules need to be followed by everyone. That’s not to say that rules can’t be adjusted to suit the ages and abilities of the player, but there needs to be agreement, and it never works if someone just decides to change a rule mid-game to benefit themselves.

Resilience ­— stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it.

Persistence — keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal.

Humour and fun — always look for the light side: it is just a game after all.

Being a gracious winner and loser — while winning usually feels good, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play the game that matters most.

Other skills

Depending on the game you play, children may also be developing their skills with literacy and numeracy, or even adding to their store of general knowledge.

What games?

A plethora of games are available – new ones and old favourites. Games can often be picked up cheaply at second hand stores or dollar shops. They can also be home made. I have made some that can be downloaded and printed from my readilearn website for just a few dollars each. You can check them out here.

As a child I used to have fun making up games to play with my brothers and sisters. As a parent, I enjoyed making up games with my children. In fact, the Trick or Treat Halloween Game is based on one my daughter and I made together when she was about six or seven.

Why not encourage your children to make up their own games too, or make them up together?

Hundreds of different games of all varieties are available. Those listed below are just some of my favourites that are suitable for the 5 – 8 age group and older. I haven’t even touched on some of the more recent games, of which many more are produced each year.

Alongside some of the games, I’ve listed skills, in addition to the social skills noted above, that children may employ when playing the game.

Please let us know some of your favourite games in the comments.

No equipment necessary

Games like I spy, I’m thinking of or Guess my number require no equipment and can be played anywhere, anytime. These games, while not board games, are good for car trips or waiting times and are also great for combating boredom.

I spy can be played using a beginning letter, for example I spy something beginning with ‘t’; a colour, for example I spy something that is orange; or a shape, for example I spy something that is round like a circle; or by a use or feature, for example, I spy something that has legs.

In I’m thinking of one person decides on a secret person, animal or thing, for example an elephant. The other players ask questions to find out what the secret is. The questions can only be answered with yes or no, for example: Is it living? Does it live on the land? Can it fly?

In Guess my number players try to guess a secret number by asking questions. The questions may only be answered by yes or no, for example Is it bigger than, Is it smaller than, Is it odd? Is it even?

Pencil and paper

If you don’t have a board game handy, but you do have pencil and paper, you can play games like:

Noughts and crosses

Dots and dashes

Hangman

Word search (e.g. find all the little words you can using the letters in ‘ornithorhynchus’)

I don’t think any of these require an explanation. I’ve put them here mainly as a reminder. However, please let me know in the comments if you would like an explanation.

Board Games:

Snakes and Ladders (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, recognising numbers to 100)

Ludo (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, strategy)

Chinese Checkers (strategy, planning ahead)

Draughts (strategy, planning ahead)

Scrabble (recognition of letters and words, spelling words, counting score)

*Cluedo (asking questions, recording pertinent information, deductive reasoning, problem solving, planning ahead)

Monopoly (subitising numbers on dice, counting by ones, counting money, reading, comparing amounts of money, following directions, planning, making decisions)

Connect 4 (strategy, planning ahead)

Pass the Pigs (counting, adding to 100, planning, strategy)

Yahtzee (chance, patterns of dice, counting, making decisions, strategy)

Card games are also fun; e.g.

Games with a regular pack of cards

Snap

Go Fish

Happy Families

Old Maid

Memory

Strip Jack Naked (also called Beggar my Neighbour)

Cheat

Once again, I don’t think these games require an explanation but please ask in the comments if you would like any additional information.

Games with their own sets of cards

UNO (matching colours and numbers, understanding special cards)

5 Alive (adding numbers to total 21, understanding special cards)

Jigsaw puzzles

And of course, don’t forget the jigsaw puzzles which help children relate details to the big picture, examine details, and develop knowledge of space and shape awareness.

I hope my brief list has inspired you to open that cupboard and bring out all those old games gathering dust. I hope it has reminded you of fun you had playing games as a child, or, if you didn’t play as a child, bring out the child within to play now.

*I mentioned changing the rules to suit your players and situation. I thought I’d tell you some ways we changed the rules of Cluedo to suit us playing as an intergenerational family. All the players agreed to the changes, acknowledging that the changes would streamline the game and make it more enjoyable.

When we first introduced the game to the younger children, they played as partners alongside an adult so they could learn what was required and pick up some strategy hints for recording information.

We found it tedious having to roll the dice to move from room to room, only to be called back into another room and away from where we wanted to go. First, we eliminated use of the dice, agreeing that we could simply move to whichever room we wanted to be in. Eventually, we streamlined even further so that just the token player we were investigating and the weapon appeared in the room. This made it easy for everyone to see what was being asked and avoided having to repeat multiple times. It made no difference to the fairness or the outcome but the game moved more quickly and was more enjoyable.

Adjustments can be made to almost every game you play to make them more inclusive.

Every day is a good day for playing games, but they may be even more important during our days when outings are restricted.

I’m certain some of the superheroes in this video will be combating boredom with board games.  Enjoy!

Until next time, Norah

Norah Colvin is a lifelong learner and passionate educator. She believes in the power of education to change lives and is committed to raising awareness of ways to support and enhance learning.

Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.

She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.

While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.

Connect with Norah on her blogs NorahColvin.com and readilearn.com.au. She can also be found (occasionally) on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Home with the Kids — Ideas to Keep them Learning

Kids and learning are two things close to my heart. I have always been an advocate for education and learning, especially for young children, for that’s where it all starts. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and, although they may share responsibility in partnership with others, they never fully relinquish that position.

I have been a teacher all my life (my mum always said I was good at teaching my younger siblings how to get up to mischief) with involvement in some form of education since earning my first teacher qualifications after leaving school. Probably the only thing I wanted as much as being a teacher was to be a writer. Now I am fortunate to combine both.

I write two blogs, both with an educational focus, and freelance for other educational publishers. My ultimate aim is to be a published author of children’s stories. My first eponymous blog is the one through which I met Charli and engage with The Carrot Ranch. The second is part of a website for which I write teaching resources to support teachers of children in their first three years of school.

Over the years I have written numerous posts that promote early learning with suggestions of how parents can support their children’s learning from birth (or earlier). Having supervised my daughter’s education at home until she was nine, I have some sense of what parents are experiencing now as they juggle their new responsibility for ‘schooling’ their children with other ongoing responsibilities.

I have always promoted education as something different from schooling and I believe that parents would be wise to focus on their children’s learning, as opposed to ‘schooling’ during these different days. Many activities that form part of everyday routines are rich in opportunities for learning and, if we ensure children are interested and engaged, they will be learning. My belief is that we all, parents, teachers (and especially those ‘in charge’ of teachers) need to lighten up and reduce stress all round in these circumstances. The children will survive. They will learn. That’s what they were born to do.

If you would like to check out some of my suggestions, you could read these posts:

Ideas for learning at home when you can’t go out

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age

What parents can do to prepare their children for school

In this post, I want to share with you some online resources that you may find useful in supporting your children’s learning. Unless otherwise stated, the links lead to free information and resources and are suited for children up to about 8 years of age. I have avoided school-type resources in favour of those with more general appeal for a family to engage in at home. However, there is so much good stuff available for parents and children, I could not include them all. If you have favourite sites you use with your children at home, please add them in the comments.

Supporting young learners from birth

The Australian Literacy Educators Association has 27 Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules.  They are organised around themes and each is packed with suggestions for parents to implement with their young children at home.

Talking is Teaching (US) is a website that supports parents support their children’s learning from birth. The importance of talking with children, reading to them, and singing with them is stressed and encouraged. There are many online and downloadable resources with explicit suggestions for parents to encourage their children’s development in language, thinking, maths, science, art and social-emotional skills. A great resource for parents of young children from birth, or earlier.

Books, stories and poetry

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has put together a great collection by authors and illustrators. There are book readings, audiobooks and eBooks, art lessons, activities and lots of other fun bookish things.

Michael Rosen (UK) has written many fun stories and poems. You can view videos of his recording on his website or YouTube channel. One of my favourites is Chocolate Cake.

You can doodle along with Mo Willems and his Lunch Doodles. If you enjoy Mo Willems’s books and artwork as much as I do, you’ll love these doodle sessions.

Vooks (US) is a child-friendly ad-free streaming library of animated children books. For less than the cost of one book per month, you have access to dozens of animated stories, many of which have lesson notes and ideas for parents. (This site requires payment though offers a free trial for parents and a year free for teachers.)

The Oxford Owl for Home (UK) focuses on learning for children from 3 to 11 years of age and includes eBooks, videos of storytelling and reading (including by Julia Donaldson) and free activities for developing skills in reading and maths. The books and activities are organised according to their suitability for different age groups. Access to the site is free though registration is required for some activities.

John-John Dot com (Australia) is a video channel on which teacher John-John reads picture books.

Goodnight with Dolly Dolly Parton (US) reads a story from the Imagination Library every day for ten weeks.

Across-interests

Kids News (Australia) has a wealth of up-to-date news of interest to children. It covers a wide range of topics and includes suggestions of other things kids might enjoy such as book clubs to join and competitions to enter. The news articles contain video links and exercises for discussion and comprehension. To assist teachers and parents of students who are learning at home, it provides daily activities for children from age 4 to 14.

Scholastic has many free learn-at-home projects from PreK to year 9 with books (fact and fiction) to read, videos to watch and projects to do. There is something to interest every kid.

Citizen Science

If you want to get involved in citizen science projects that advance scientific knowledge, there are plenty of those to become involved in, depending on your interests.

You can help fight disease by solving puzzles on your computer with foldit, or by allowing Folding@home to run calculations in the background using spare graphics processing on your gaming computer.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you can help track the spread of influenza and Covid-19 by joining Flutracking.

If it’s natural phenomena you are interested in, join iNaturalist to record your observations of nature and share them with fellow naturalists. Join hundreds of thousands of other naturalists and projects around the world.

There are over 50 projects you can join in from home with Zooniverse, including space exploration like this one:

For these and other citizen science projects, visit the Australian Citizen Science Association or Scientific American or citizen science associations and organisations in your country.

Maths

Kathleen Morris (Australia), a primary tech teacher and host of the Student Blogging Challenge, has published a collection of 20 maths games in a free eBook which you can download from her website here. Like me, Kathleen is not a fan of worksheets and these games are easy to play with resources and equipment you probably already have at home.

Museums

While it may not be possible for you to physically visit a museum this year, many museums welcome you online. Here are links to just of few of the museums you may like to visit:

The British Museum

The Guggenheim Museum

The Museum of Modern Art

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The British Natural History Museum

The Australian Maritime Museum has lots of activities for children.

You may also like to explore the Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.

Art Galleries

The Google Arts and Culture page provides links to many art galleries with much to explore.

Zoos and animals

At Explore.org livecams you can visit  animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore.

Just ten of the many places also live streaming animals:

Victoria Zoos

San Diego Zoo

Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Houston Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo

African Wildlife

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Aquarium of the Pacific

True to Life Books has 15 wildlife videos taken by wildlife author and photographer Jan Latta. The aim of the videos is to educate children about endangered wildlife. Videos include tigers, sloths, meerkats, pandas and koalas.

On Google Earth, you can explore 31 National Parks of the United States. You might even find others to explore around the world also.

For those interested in space, NASA has made its image and video library available to all.

I hope you have found a few new sites to interest you and your children. Remember to share any other favourites of yours in the comments.

Until next time, Norah.