Here is the first in a weekly series of easy, cross-curricular activities that will keep your little ones engaged and stimulated, by Laura McCartney (qualified teacher, founder of Curious Little Monkeys learning group and homeschooling Mum of 4). Try to relax about ‘what they are learning’, instead focus on engaging, challenging and motivating them and you are on to a winner.
Use these opportunities for having fun, building self-esteem, spending quality time together and gently encouraging resilience through kind, constructive feedback. If you are concerned about how much ‘schoolwork’ your child is missing, perhaps take a look at Hannah’s homeschooling blog posts especially the one where she outlines everything her homeschooled children learned in one day without doing any formal learning.
Maths – Chemistry – Fine motor skills – FUN!
The best recipe we have found for playdough is a cheap, no-cook one! Hurrah! Younger children will love helping to make it and older children can be given an instruction card to follow. Great opportunities for reading, following instructions, weighing, mixing colours together and fine motor skill development.
Instructions: Simply mix together the following, then tip onto a kitchen surface and knead for a few minutes for the best texture. Make several colours and shape into a rainbow! The ingredients you will need are-
- 1 cup of plain flour
2. 1/2 cup of salt
3. 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
4. 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
5. 1 cup of just-boiled water
6. A smidge of Gel colour- we recommend Wilton gel colours for bright, vivid colour
7. Repeat for each colour!
*Tip – add your colour to the boiling water before you mix it in.
Super Splashy Science!
Chemistry – Physics – Literacy – Art – FUN!
Engage curious minds with a density investigation! We like to use things we have in the house anyway, so the children here had coloured water, honey, vegetable oil and washing up liquid in different containers.
Invite them to touch, pour, layer and observe the liquids. They can make predictions about what would happen if they poured the liquids into the same container.
(Our kids love to feel like ‘real scientists’ when they do experiments and we have found investing in this complete children’s science kit, including loads of science equipment as well as a lab coat and glasses, means they are always enthusiastic about experiments and science work!)
It’s great fun to let the children try it out by themselves. If you have a clipboard you can encourage them to record their findings by writing or drawing.
Afterwards, discuss what happened and why they thought that was the case. You can vary the level of detail you go in to with regard to density with an easy Google!
Maths – Physics – Fine motor skills – Teamwork – Art – FUN!
With a little prep work these can keep children occupied for hours! Here’s one we have used previously, but you could easily come up with your own.
It adds a great element of believability to make the characters and introduce them to the children when you explain the challenge to them. If you have more than one child you could have them work together in a team or encourage independent attempts.
We like to provide mini whiteboards and paper and pencils for design purposes, but never any pressure on the children to use them.
The challenge: Legoville used to be a wonderful place to live but over the past year it has become dangerously over-crowded! There is no land left to build houses on, so there’s only one solution – to build upwards.
The Brick family need somewhere to live and fast. Your team must design and engineer the tallest building you possibly can. However, Legoville is on the coast and so your building will need to be able to withstand gale-force winds. It must be able to stand without support for a full minute. Remember to listen to everyone’s ideas and include all the members of your team. Good Luck!
It can be helpful to give the children a set amount of time to complete the challenge and you should ‘test’ their build to see if they successfully completed their mission at the end. For the ‘strong winds’ we used a couple of electric fans on high setting to blast the buildings but if you don’t have access to any you could flap a big book to create ‘wind’.
Read a story with a moral
Literacy – Art – PSHE – FUN!
The Rainbow Fish is a lovely book with a great lesson about sharing, happiness and material possessions. If you don’t already own the book it can be bought here for under £5. It’s a great opportunity to discuss some important issues in a very gentle way and use the book as inspiration for a number of follow-on activities.
You could re-tell the story using picture prompts which the children add a sentence to (Twinkl has one ready done here), simply do a comic strip with no words or an entirely written version for more competent writers. A word mat is a great idea if you want encourage independent writing, and it’s great reading practise too!
Then compliment that by making your own rainbow fish using a paper plate or card, foil makes beautiful silver scales and if you do both sides it can be hung on string somewhere to twirl!
Time to Learn About Time!
Maths – PSHE – Literacy – Fine motor skills – FUN!
Time can be a tricky concept for some children to grasp but can be explored in lots of fun ways. It’s one of those topics that is good to keep coming back to and building on.
As a starting point, have the children make their own clocks. A simple cut and stick version can be printed from here. Cut and stick activities are great for developing motor skills but also give a good chance for a chat. What is time? Why is time important? Where do you see time in everyday life (bus timetables, cooking timers, alarm clocks, TV programming)? It always helps when things feel relevant!
This Time Bingo game is a really fun way of getting children to recognise analogue times. Boards can be printed off showing o’clock, half past, quarter to and quarter past depending on what your child is ready for. If you use counters to cover over your board, it can be used again and again.
If they like sit down tasks they can then have a go at drawing the hands on clocks where the time is given and writing the time on clocks where the hands are drawn- here’s a great resource for that!
As an interesting follow on challenge, children could have a go at keeping a time diary of their day. Why not give them free reign over how they would like to set it out and record it? It could include written descriptions of what they have been doing, pictures or perhaps even a code system. It’s always lovely to see the different interpretations of the same task.
We’re going on a LETTER hunt…
Literacy – Physical Education – Teamwork – FUN!
One of the easiest ever, no-resources-required activities is a letter hunt. It’s a great one to get children moving, weather permitting it can be done anywhere outdoors but would work just as well inside.
A fancy name always helps so with this first one we’ll call it ‘The A Team Challenge’. If you have a clipboard and a magnifying glass that adds to the adventure but they are not essential.
How many things can the children find that begin with the letter A? They can write or draw what they find as is appropriate for them. It’s extra fun to have the ‘A Team’ complete against a grown up!
Of course, go through the letters of the alphabet over time and then start to use groups of letters or other challenges- ‘vowels’, ‘th’, ‘ph’ etc.
Aboriginal Dot Art
Art – History – Geography – ICT skills- FUN!
Painting is always a popular activity but we love to put a little spin on it. Dot art is a lot of fun also takes patience and thought. To begin with show the children some examples of aboriginal dot art as inspiration.
It’s great to talk about where this type of art came from (great history lesson!) A few could be printed off for them to refer to, but if you don’t feel that necessary you can just look through a selection online. Cotton buds, regular paint and black card are a super easy way to create this effect.
A Super Sweet Film Study
Chemistry – Economics – Cookery – Biology – Geography – FUN!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is great film to inspire lots of awesome activities. Personally I love the original, but the Jonny Depp version is good too if it’s appropriate for your children. When we have a cinema afternoon, we like to make some popcorn, bring down the duvets and snuggle up. This is what home learning is all about!
There are tonnes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed resources available online but some of my favourite follow-on activities are to challenge the children to design the ultimate chocolate bar, with the promise of a practical making session in the kitchen afterwards!
A tasting session with an investigation into packaging is another great way to get them thinking about the process. This could also incorporate looking at packaging from a hygiene, Fairtrade and environmental perspective. It can also branch off to look at materials and their properties as a science activity!
Explore another world
Biology – Geography – Literacy – FUN!
The frogspawn has already appeared in our pond so if you have one yourself or one locally it is the ideal time to get outdoors and investigate. Children love to watch the life cycle of a frog first-hand.
If you have a tank it’s a great activity to set up a habitat and raise some little froggies. As well as collecting frogspawn, you could do a pond dip, an insect hunt or a pollution survey.
When setting up a tank it’s really important to do your research (get the children doing this themselves online or grab a book for them to read). Keeping tadpoles is great motivation for learning about the subject.
There are lots of great resources about life cycles which would go hand in hand with this project- here’s a simple cut and stick activity. You can also encourage a record of the tadpoles’ development, either through writing, pictures or by taking photographs and creating a slideshow (great fo developing ICT skills!).
Set up an EGGsperiment!
Chemistry – Biology – PSHE – FUN!
Did you know that the shell on an egg is very similar to the enamel on our teeth? A great way of investigating the effect different drinks have on our teeth is to observe eggshells in various liquids over the course of a couple of weeks.
It’s a great way for the children to see visually how important it is to make sure we clean our teeth regularly. The best way to keep the shells intact is to make a little hole top and bottom and gently blow the egg out. We used what we had to hand, which was water, milk, orange juice, cola and squash.
Depending on the age of the children, you can talk about how it make it a fair test (by only changing one variable – the liquid), make predictions and keep a record of what happens. It’s a lovely idea to get the children to draw what the experiment looks like once it is set up and to get them to make a conclusion at the end. It’s also great timing for Easter!
With some of these activities being a bit ‘messy’ in nature, you might want to consider investing in a tuff tray (we have 4!) They are available with or without a stand and will put up with the roughest of use. They can quite literally be hosed down when you are done.
I hope you enjoy these brilliant, easy to prepare home learning activities for primary school children! Do join our FREE support group, “Homeschooling During Coronavirus” for parents and carers who are home educating their children during Coronavirus- we have a huge number of resources and tips on the group and we are adding more daily.