Many parents like to hide veggies in kids’ food — if they don’t see it, they won’t realize they’re eating something good for them (oh, the horrors!). You can take that idea and apply it to play time, too. If your kids are having fun, they won’t realize they’re actually learning at the same time.
Here are eight games that are fun, but also offer educational benefits:
1. Hopscotch Calculator
Practice math with this entertaining sidewalk game, where you turn the boxes into a calculator. Draw 10 boxes with chalk on the sidewalk, and then write 0-9 in each of the spaces. The first person has to jump into two different boxes. Then the second person has to add the two numbers and jump into the box (or boxes) that equal the
2. Simon Says
This classic, silly game of copy-cat is a great way to encourage listening and motor skills. Pick one child to be the leader (if children are young have a parent take charge). The leader will call out different actions, like “hop on one foot” or “clap five times.” The trick is kids must only follow the commands when the leader says, “Simon Says” first. Make it more interesting by introducing rhyming (“Simon says say a word that rhymes with boy”) or multiple actions (“Simon says rub your tummy and spin in a circle”).
3. Jenga Spelling
Grab that old Jenga box collecting dust in your closet and use it to practice for spelling tests. Label each block with your child’s spelling words. As you pull each block from the tower, you have to use the word in a sentence. Type the words on the computer and print them onto self-adhesive labels to save time.
4. Balloon Challenge
In this game, kids have to keep a balloon up in the air while a song plays. When the music is done, whoever was the last to touch the balloon has to pop it and do the challenge inside. (Write tasks on slips of paper and insert them into balloons before blowing them up). You can write down trivia questions (“name the capital of the United States”), physical tests (touch your nose to your knee) or math challenges (“what is 2 x 3”?).
5. Word Bingo
Turn this classic game of chance into a vocabulary lesson by switching out the numbers on the card sheet to words. Create your own word list to easily customize the game for any age group. To help save time creating a unique Bingo card for every child, try templates like these.
6. Treasure Hunt
Turn a regular afternoon into a fun search for some pirate’s booty. Create a list of clues, leading kids to uncover hidden prizes. Clues can be anything that will get them thinking and head them in the right direction — just make sure they’re age appropriate (“Look at the bottom of the tallest tree in the yard” or “look inside the fifth cookbook on the kitchen counter”). The end treasure can be something fun like a new toy or a yummy cookie.
7. Rainbows in Jars
Teach kids about density and science, while creating this colorful experiment. You can be a “Mad Scientist” and put on a show for the little ones, or if kids are old enough, you can give each kid pre-measured supplies. Take a clear jar, tip it over at an angle and pour in the following ingredients in this order — each layer will form a color in the rainbow: 1/2 cup of corn syrup, mixed with one drop of red food coloring and one of blue (to create the purple layer); 1/2 cup of blue dish soap (blue layer); 1/2 cup water mixed with two drops of green food coloring (green layer); 1/2 cup of olive oil (yellow layer); and 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol mixed with two drops of red coloring (red layer). Watch as your rainbow appears and kids’
faces light up with amazement.
About the Author: Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.
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