20 Money-Saving, Fun, Early Years Learning Ideas
By Linda Dobson
When you need some learning ideas for your child, you don’t have to spend tons of money to keep it meaningful and fun. Thanks to the many moms and dads who have been there before you, there are lots of ideas to share. That’s exactly what these experienced parents did to contribute help to you! Below you’ll find some of those learning ideas that grace the pages of Homeschooling The Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8-Year-Old Child by yours truly. No, you won’t find a long list of curriculum recommendations or text books. Instead, these ideas make use of items you often have around your house and, remember, these are fun learning ideas, too!
Real Life Reading Practice
My husband cut out a picture from a magazine and wrote a short sentence under the picture. When he came hoome at lunch or supper he had fun seeing if the girls read his message.
Something I learned early on was that if a child knows his shapes, it helps him learn his letters. So we made shapes out of sliced cheese. It was a favorite snack and I always asked how they wanted it: In squares, rectangles, or triangles; big or small; how many?
We wrote letters on each other’s back and guessed what they were.
What Begins with “B”?
I write letters on Post-it notes and send the children off to stick the letters on things that begin with those letters or sounds.
Play with sponge letters at bath time. Say or sing the sounds they make. Make rhymes, use alliteration. Get wet – have fun.
You can read aloud books above your child’s skill level, increasing vocabulary as s/he uses context clues and conversation to understand new words.
Money-Saving, Fun, Learning Ideas for Writing
We practiced writing on paper but also using nontraditional media, such as writing in powdered Jello mix spread in a baking pan – shake the pan to erase each letter. My son licked the Jello powder off his finger between letters, which he thought was really fun.
Practice printing with chalk on a sidewalk or driveway – alphabet hopscotch, anyone?
Start with lots of practice drawing waves, loops, and swirls, big and little.
Sing to Remember
We make up silly songs to help us remember those grammar rules that my daughter has a hard time putting into practice otherwise.
My daughter dictates stories that I type into the computer. I put them ini 18-point type so she can read them when we’re done. After a paragraph or two, I’ll read to her what she’s dictated and she’ll make changes or I’ll prompt her with questions to help focus her writing.
We used what we called a Project Book, a large art pad on which the children drew a picture. If they wanted to write a long story about it they would dictate it and I wrote it down.
Personal Postal Service
Our son didn’t want to print, so I made a mailbox for him out of a cereal box. It had two slots: one said “To Matthew” and the other side said “To Dad.” They wrote notes back and forth to each other. Dad tried to use words Matthew could read for himself.
Recognizing and Writing Numbers
I’d have the children look up the hymns in the hymnal, write phone numbers of friends on a list, and other real-life practice.
We made different shapes out of masking tape on the carpet, like a big Twister game. Then I’d call out, “Everyone stand on a square, put your belly in a circle, walk around the edge of a rectangle, put your sister in a triangle.” They love it; probably some of the most fun we’ve had.
I designed a hundred chart on my computer. Each day my son colored in one number, then counted up to that number. One hundred days later he could count to 100.
We mounted a cardboard clock with moving hands to our refrigerator. Throughout each day I asked my son to match the hands on the cardboard clock to the hands on the real clock nearby. Then we talked about what time it was. After a little while, he caught on and could tell time by himself.
Fractions on the Move
We played this game in the car. One of us would instruct the other to roll the window down one-half, one-third, one-quarter, and the rest of the way. We took turns, and when it was my turn I sometimes did it wrong to see if he would “catch” me – and he did!
We used a placemat with a grid on it to graph M&Ms to see which colors were the most or least frequent. We also used animal crackers to graph which animals we had the most or least of.
Gil would make up businesses and use a lot of math in the process. For one, “The Three Cats Bookstore,” he made order forms, checks, and receipts and I would be customers for whom he would fill and mail orders. All the children made stores with their friends, using play money and a toy cash register to help run them.
There Are Millions More Fun Learning Ideas
All you need to do to come up with more fun learning ideas for the early years child is let loose of the “school model,” look at what resources are sitting around your home, and think about what would turn typical school “lessons” into learning fun. Then prepare to be amazed that it’s really true – the early years child is a lean, mean, learning machine, painlessly acquiring skills because of your fun learning ideas.