What are some great learning activities you can do at home with a 4-year-old, a 7-year-old, and a 9-year-old?

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Yamini Pathak, Freelance Writer & Parent

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Some learning activities that have worked well with my kids are:

1. Creating a container garden. This is something you can do even in a small space and it has been a source of many practical science lessons in my family. You can grow plants from seed, and uproot a few seedlings to show kids the different parts of the plant. We have grown cherry tomatoes and basil in pots and made a meal out of it. Taking care of a plant also teaches kids responsibility.

2. Taking nature walks. You can have kids look out for specific leaves, birds, flowers etc. depending on the season. Have them make a scrapbook and label their finds.

3. Cooking with kids. This teaches kids an important life-skill and also helps them learn fractions and measurement, for e.g. the quantity of ingredients or temperature used in a recipe. You can start small and be on hand to help with riskier tasks like cutting, or using the stove. We started with grilled sandwiches, and omelettes. My ten year old can now bake blueberry muffins independently though I stick around to help him put in and take them out of the oven.

Hope this helps!

Jacqueline Reeve, Library Media Specialist, Writer, and Parent

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I love kitchen science experiments! Fill up a Pinterest board with ideas for density experiments using a variety of liquids in different colors and viscosities. Get some shaving cream, food coloring, and a big bin, let the kids squirt and squish to die the colors and have some good messy play.

We keep a set of squeeze bottles on hand to make "snow paint" in the winter--this is just food coloring and water mixed in a squeeze bottle. When it snows, you can squirt it all over the snow in different designs. In the warm months we mix homemade chalk paint in the same bottles to decorate our driveway and patio with different designs.

We love the book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids. If you stock up on a few of the staple items from the book, you can whip them out for projects whenever.

I've also done photo scavenger hunts. These are better with younger kids unless you can get really creative with where you hide things. I hide little treasures and objects around the house and snap a quick picture of it up close with my iPhone. If the photo is a closeup, kids get a hint of where it's hidden but can't make out the room, or the piece of furniture it's under, etc. That's one of my rainy day go-tos.

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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I love all of the previous ideas! As a gifted education specialist, I love anything that enhances students' critical and creative thinking. My mom was a gifted education teacher so we were always doing creative activities as children.

I love the resource Mindware for interactive games and toys. You can search by age and subject. They have everything from butterfly gardens to puppet theaters, to dinosaur digs. They have games and puzzles that help enhance students' geography, mathematics, reasoning, and fine motor skills. When parents would ask me what to do to enhance students' critical and creative thinking at home, I would always point them to Mindware.

Barbara Spalding, Parent Resource & Coach for Education

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Some great ideas here... I've got a few more:

  1. Puppet show. Allow all the children to work together the design the story line and stage (even if just the back of a couch). The older children, can really work out the characters and story details, with each child having their own speaking part. For an expanded version... have the children create promotional material for their show, "charge" admission and hold an intermission with snacks for "purchase".

  2. Lemonade Stand. Again, time goes into preparing the stand and decided what (if anything else) is to be sold. Set up, clean up and holding down the fort are all very important jobs but the real learning comes into play with making change, setting a projected goal, adding up sales and determining a budget for profits. Profits can be donated to organizations like Alex's Lemonade.

  3. Interactive Storytime. Step 1 - build a reading fort (extra pillows on the couch, blanket forts with flashlights, tent beds, etc.). Step 2 - have at least 2 related stories. Step 3 - have related puzzle or craft activity. Step 4 - serve a themed snack (doesn't have to be a pinterest perfect creation... animal crackers, ants on a log, etc.). Step 5 - enjoy all the giggles and story fun.
  4. Make a mural. Grab a roll leftover Christmas wrapping paper. Lay out on the floor, securing the corners with tape. Together select a theme... under the sea, dinosaurs, etc. Color, paint, marker the scene. For extended fun... hang/tape mural on bottom portion of wall to create backdrop for interactive play scene. And/or allow children to take pictures to make a mini-movie of figures and toys.
Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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I am a huge fan of reading and legos. Reading and math are the gatekeepers to a child academic success which will lead of career success. I would first suggest that you take time to read with them nightly.

Take them to the library weekly to check out books and see what activities are going on that are scheduled.

As far as the legos, there are many things to do with them. They can be used with math to represent fractions not to mention patterns and more. From an engineering process, students can follow the instructions and create some wonderful things from Star Wars to dinosaurs.

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