Fun things to do with kids at home….that are educational too!

Now that we are fully into summer and the kids are out of school, you may be trying to think of ways to engage their minds again without them knowing it. Some of the most fun things for my kids that I have done have been playing games that relate to educational things. We have also used summers to capitalize on helping them learn something they are interested in. When it's a game or something that has captivated them, then it doesn’t feel like learning.

Here are 10 fun things to do with your kids at home that are also educational.

  1. Math War - did you ever play the card game ‘War’ as a kid. Each of you gets half the pile of cards and you flip over one card. Whoever has the larger number card gets both cards. You continue until one person has all the cards. In this fun math game, you play the same way except that you play ‘Addition War’. The first person to say the correct answer to the addition problem presented using the two cards gets the two cards. Start out with Addition War and as your kids get the hang of it then you can play a game of Subtraction War or Multiplication War based on what they need to work on. Division War won’t work...I will let you figure out why! :) This is my favorite book of math games using cards. Don’t let the grades 3-6 fool you. Some of these can be adapted for older kids who still need to review math facts.

  2. Baking - if you have done much baking you know that measuring ingredients allows for lots of opportunities to have a discussion about equal measurements. How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? How many cups are in a pint? Start there if your children are young. If your children are over the age of 10, you should bake a batch of cookies and double the recipe. That will give them more opportunities to do some math with fractions. If they are over 13 then bake the batch of cookies but multiply the recipe by 1.5. That will be a bigger challenge to see if they can figure out equal measurements. But don’t tell them it is for them to practice math. Just tell them that they will get to enjoy eating the cookies! If you need one, here is a cheat sheet with lots of information.

  3. Plant a Garden - There is no better way to learn basic botany with younger children than to plant a garden. This gives you the opportunity to talk with them about sun and shade, planting depth, the stages of a plant and how it grows, the shape, number and appearance of leaves and flowers, and so much more. Use this DK book with beautiful pictures to examine so many of the differences of seeds, plants and flowers. This will be a summer project that they won’t soon forget.

  4. Paper airplane contest - Do you remember having a contest as a kid to see whose paper airplane would go the farthest. Well, now you can teach your kids the ‘why’ of it all. This simple, but great book will teach you how to not only fold the paper airplane but why it works differently than other ways of folding. You can also teach some basics of physics and flight with these websites from Scientific American or from JACO Aerospace and Industrial. Even if you know nothing about the physics of flight, you can learn along with your child and have fun in the process. You could spend a whole evening learning the science behind the shapes and then have a contest with many different types of paper airplanes another evening. What a fun adventure!

  5. Create an at-home scavenger hunt - Scavenger hunts are some of our favorite things to do at home. We have even done scavenger hunts when one of the kids makes a much sought after purchase, like a computer, and they aren’t home when the mail delivers it. Any excuse will do. :) Creating your own scavenger hunt is not only fun for both the creators and the hunters, but can also be educational depending on the clues you use. A very basic scavenger hunt can be a list of things to find. For young children coloring a sample circle of color from 10 different crayons and sending them outside to find things that match the color could occupy them for quite some time as they notice details and get sidetracked by insects and beautiful flowers. A more advanced scavenger hunt for older kids could be where they have to find the answer to the first clue because that gives them a hint of where to go look for the second clue. Here is a website with over 20 scavenger hunts that both younger and older kids are sure to like.

  6. Marathon Monopoly - Playing the game Monopoly can take lots of time to complete one game. Rather than feeling like you have to complete it before you can get up from the table, set the timer and play for 30 min or 45 min each night. When the timer rings, you are done for the night. This can allow a week or more of family fun. Of course use the opportunity to talk with your kids about money. It is such an important topic that so many young people walk into adulthood with very little knowledge.

  7. Geography Bee - This is like a Spelling Bee except that the focus is on Geography. It is interesting to me that for a subject that sees relatively little change in the last 1000 years, we don’t teach geography in schools? History is always being added to. Technology changes faster than we can keep up. But the continents and even the borders of countries have changed minimally as compared to the volumes of history books that have been written in the last 1,000 years. So go back to school with your kids and learn geography. Start with a continent and then work your way around the world. Not only will this help your kids with history as they learn where different events over time have happened, but it will also help with understanding current events. The National Geographic hosts a Geography Bee every year. Go here to find out more information and use their materials. Here is a great resource ready to use. Just sit down with an atlas or your computer and start answering questions. Just noticing details will expand your child’s horizons and help them learn a little bit about the world in which they live.

  8. Read a book aloud - This is a dying art. So many families are so busy with work and activities that read alouds get put on the shelf (pun intended). Even your older kids will appreciate being read to. Find a book that will be of interest to your kids but also has literary merit. Start with this book list from the New York Public Library. If you will get in the habit of reading out loud to your kids most nights, they will begin to ask for it. Allowing the children to just sit and let their minds wander through the words allows them to explore and engage with the book. This is very different than requiring them to read it themselves. Children can understand books at a much higher level than they have the ability to read. And snuggling with mom or dad is a bonus too!

  9. Explore something new - Find out what your kids are interested in and dive in headfirst to explore with them. This can be a great way to spend time together or even to jump-start them into a new career. If your older students are always on the computer then find some new skills they can learn like video editing or learning a programming language. If they love to be outside them help them learn to build something or learn about the vegetation, trees, and edible plants around your area.

  10. Cooking - With this idea I would focus on an adult skill more than the math of baking. Teach your kids the life long skill of making some good for you and yummy food. Even the basic vocabulary of chop, slice, dice, and roast, bake, boil are things that an aspiring adult needs to know when they live on their own. Make it fun by letting them decide what’s for dinner and then you teach them along the way. You could even assign one child a night of the week for the entire summer where they plan, shop for, and make dinner. Consider this Adulting 101 for students.

Remember, don’t just survive...THRIVE!