School’s out, but we can all use ideas for learning activities with items we have on hand through the summer too, right? These are some low (or zero) prep ideas to keep your toddlers and preschoolers entertained and learning – maybe without them even realizing it!
Letters & Sight Words
This first one is good for getting wiggles out while also practicing letters/numbers or sight words. For my kindergartner, I used the list of sight words from her school and wrote several of them in chalk on the driveway. For my 3 year old, I wrote several different letters that she’s working on recognizing. I call out the word or letter and tell them to bunny hop/skip/twirl/frog jump to it. Another way to switch it up is to attach the sight word or letter to a cone/stake and spread them out in your lawn – Then have them kick or throw a ball and try to hit whichever one you call out!
Play Dough Maze
An activity I’ve used while I get lunch made or laundry done is play dough mazes. As long as they can roll play dough ‘snakes’ they can do this one. They create a little maze/path and use a straw to blow a ping pong ball (or toy car or whatever lightweight object you have!) through the maze. They can race each other or try it with different objects and see which makes it through faster.
A fun tactile activity is to make a batch of “moon dough” and use it to practice writing letters/numbers/their names/etc. Moon dough is just flour and vegetable or baby oil. I’ve seen 8 cups flour to 1 cup oil as a recipe, but you may need to adjust to get the right consistency (or if you want a smaller batch!) I put it on cookie sheets and added some sand toys and my girls loved playing with it outside!
Baking Soda & Vinegar
We also did a couple science or STEM activities using the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. First I used halves of Easter eggs (but you can use any small container) and put a drop of food coloring in the bottom covered with a bit of baking soda. Next, fill little droppers or squeeze containers with vinegar and let your child reveal the surprise colors in each container. From there you can even add in a lesson about what colors mix together to make other colors!
The other activity with that mixture just requires a plastic water bottle and a balloon. You add a few tablespoons of baking soda to the deflated balloon – easiest if you have a funnel! – and then carefully put the balloon opening around the neck of the water bottle filled with vinegar without spilling any of the baking soda in the bottle. Let your child lift up the balloon causing all of the baking soda to fall into the bottle and then let go – The reaction will cause the balloon to ‘magically’ inflate! We ended up tying off the balloons after they were filled with gas and they ended up learning a little lesson about the weight of the gas inside that balloon being heavier than a balloon I’d blown up for them the day before.
The sweet thing about teaching your kids at home (or teaching kids in general) is their sense of wonder. You don’t need elaborate activities that require a bunch of planning for them to learn or to impress them. Use what you have and watch their eyes light up as they try something new!