Having a baby is wonderful and watching them grow and learn is a reward like no other. But how do you encourage that learning? Babies learn as their cerebral cortex develops over time even through adolescence into adulthood. How can you help their growing brains? There are a lot of great educational activities for kids you can do to help your child learn how to learn and prepare them pre-school, kindergarten and beyond.
Toddlers 10 to 24 months
Most babies will start crawling around 8 months old and a crawling baby will be a standing baby in no time. So, the first step of helping your child is to make sure they are safe. The last thing you want is to have to take an infant or small child to urgent or emergency care. Make sure to attach edge guards are sharp furniture, and counters and secure furniture that could be toppled easily. Put locks refrigerators, freezers, drawers, cabinets, and use baby gates on stairs. Cover and secure electrical cords and outlets. If you have concrete or tile floors, you may want to consider new flooring that is safer for baby. One thing to try is creating a baby safe space in addition or an extra bedroom where every cabinet, drawer or container has something for baby to play within it. Everything is safe for your child to interact with and they can be watched in case of injury. It can be the living room, family room, or another part of the house, but having safe play space for a baby or can be really beneficial for learning independence.
This early stage of development is crucial for building positive early learning experiences which will affect your child’s experiences in later schooling and life. The educational activities for kids here will help begin building the foundations of how they learn. Some of the best activities you do are listen to music, read together, play motor skill-building games together, and spend time together.
To start with the link between music & cognitive development in babies is well documented by studies. You can play music for your baby from the womb to two years of age, which is when listening-based learning most crucial. Reading together building listening-based learning and can start anytime. Reading to an infant, or toddler helps them learn words and pick up bits of phonics. However, books can also be a great catalyst for interactions using pictures in books you can act out various things, teach them object words, and have fun. You can also use flashcards for this. Motor skills can be developed in all sorts of ways, with lots of different kinds of toys too. Make sure they variety toys like building blocks and balls which help build hand-eye coordination as well. The best thing you do for your infant/toddler is to give them lots of experiences. Take them places with you and have fun, some great suggestions are boat rides which can really fun for little kids and a plant nursery, where they can run around, smell flowers, pull weeds and get dirty.
Pre-School and Kindergarden 3 – 5 years
Pre-schoolers are not just toddlers, the basic difference is preschoolers are actually picking up the basic skills, independence, and knowledge that will be needed when they start school. These older kids are learning to use their imaginations are often love playing pretend. They are also learning how to use their bodies more easily and improving their motor skills and coordination. Preparing for pre-school can be really fun and include simple educational activities for kids.
- Trace letters
Three-year-olds are often big fans of drawing so teaching them letters can be fun. There is a specialized paper with red dotted lines to help kids learn to write. Get some the write in letters and numbers with pencil and have your child go over it with markers.
- Match Shapes
Basic shapes can be learned easily with a fun matching game. Create two circles, squares, hearts, ovals, etc. then help them try to find those shapes in objects around the house by holding the card up over them. Or cut them in half and have kids try to match up the different pieces to form the right shapes.
- Find Colors
Your preschoolers should understand the colors of the rainbow. To help them learn, take them outside to the park or your backyard and have them try to find something from every shade of the rainbow. Alternatively, have them find objects inside or name all the colors you can see.
- The Information game
Little ones should know a few key pieces of personal information before heading into preschool. To teach them their names, addresses, and other key info, you can have them rearrange letter cards until they make the correct name or make a song that lists it all.
- Other Senses
Pre-schoolers are all about touching things which is an important, and messy, learning technique. Play-Doh is great for sensory play and shaping it is fun for kids of all ages. Other activities include filling a bag with puffy paint for a kid to play with and
Hopscotch can be played inside or out. Inside, you can tape to make a board, usually, a few squares but as big you kids want it to be. Then have kids toss buttons, rolled up socks or bean bags. They’ll need to hop one foot on the squares to pick up the bag then hop off the board at its end. If you decide to take it outside, have your kids use chalk to make a court then they can throw the chalk or pebbles. It’s a great game for improving balance and coordination and learning numbers. Physical activities are important for kids of this age group so be sure get your kids moving somehow.
There are also a lot of great apps and websites that feature educational activities for kids like ABC Mouse, Khan Academy to help preschoolers start learning about reading, writing, math, and science that you can use so long as you have internet connectivity.
Elementary and Middle School 6 – 12 Years
Children between 6 – 10 and are referred to as being in middle childhood. This age period is characterized by near-constant growth, and a shift into concrete operational thinking, or the ability to visualize “what if” scenarios based on representations of observed people, places and things. Children of this age cannot yet understand abstract concepts like freedom or divinity. Many of the educational activities for kids of this age are more independent than before.
- Laser Maze Using crepe paper or yarn and tape, you can make a fun hallway laser maze for kids to try to get through without touching any of the lines. This is a great way to encourage physical activity and to help kids develop balance and body awareness. You add onto the experience with cardboard boxes to crawl through cone or bottles to jump over and even shiny prize to try to “steal” if they can get by “security”. You should encourage physical activities like this for at least an hour a day for kids of the age group.
- Marshmellow and Toothpick Building A great activity to get a kid’s brain working is letting them build unique structures with marshmallows and toothpicks. Not only will it keep them entertained for a while, but it also encourages critical thinking and visualization skills.
- Science Experiments A great way to encourage learning while having fun is with science experiments. There are so many you do to teach kids about a variety of things. A couple really experiments include mentos and coke, baking soda volcano, making rock candy and oobleck.
- Reading Reading is a great activity for kids of all ages. If you can’t get your child to read on their own, ask them to read to you or you have them act out the book. Another great activity, especially if you’re providing home care to your child’s grandparent(s), is having them write down stories their grandparents tell them. Not only will the stories be preserved, but it encourages reading, writing, listening and empathy skills and gets your kids spending time with others.
- Bingo You print or make your own bingo cards to help kids learn all sorts of things. Not only can you use letters and numbers for younger kids, but you make each square a math puzzle and you give the answers and they have to find the right equation or vice versa. You can play bingo with words and definitions, states and capitals, and more. You can even get movie bingo cards to help keep kids focussed while they watch movies or documentaries.
- Video Games Yes you read that right. Video games actually teach children a lot fo valuable skills like coordination, problem-solving and multitasking. According to Psychology Today, research shows that playing video games increases memory, attention span, attention to detail, and more. They also state that most claims that video games have negative effects or cause violence are largely myths. It is relatively easy to keep an eye what you’re kids play and if you’re feeling nervous there are a variety of educational activities for kids that can be found online such as Brainscape, Dreambox, and Scratch. These online programs teach traditional language arts, math, history, etc. as well as things like computer programming.
There are a lot more educational activities for kids that you can find online to help your kids learn. Educations activities can be fun for the whole family, so try to get everyone involved. Being an involved, active part of your child’s education is so important during this part of development. Once you see your child develop concrete operational thinking they should be able to understand more adult situations. It can be difficult to explain child support from an ex or a new engagement to a child but so long as you can explain it in concrete terms, and you feel confident your child’s ability to handle it, they should understand. The most important thing you can do with kids is to spend time with them, make sure they know they are not alone and give a safe place to learn and grow.