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Anytime, Anyplace: Fun Family Learning Activities

Learning Activities for Young Kids Parents of young children know it best; there really are only so many hours in a day and often it’s just not enough. From carpools to bath time, our schedules are jam-packed full of errands, chores, and to-do list items. There never seems to be enough time to just sit and enjoy our children’s childhood.

In addition to our full schedules, many of us juggle feelings of guilt for not participating in our child’s early experiences and learning as much as we’d like to. But, with a little forethought and creativity, we can turn even the most mundane tasks into fun learning activities to share with our children.

The following ideas can cover all areas of development, are low or no-cost, and require minimal supplies. With these activities, it’s even likely children will begin to look forward to errands (it’s really true!).


Counting Colors

  • Age: Any child that can identify colors
  • How-to:
    > Variation 1: Everyone (individuals or teams) in the car chooses a color of vehicle. For five minutes, see which person/team can count the most vehicles of their color. Then switch colors.
    > Variation 2: Choose a rare color for a vehicle (but not so rare you won’t spot it ever – orange or purple work well). The first person to call out a chosen buzz word (i.e. Beep, beep!) when they see a vehicle of that color earns 5 points. The first person to reach 25 points chooses the radio station or CD. 
  • Related learning: color identification, counting, teamwork
Travel Bingo
  • Age: Two and older
  • How-to: With a piece of paper, a clipboard, and an attached pencil, you can create an easy Bingo game. Before the ride, create a 5x5 table with pictures and words of common things seen while driving (i.e. stop sign, mail box, bicycle, etc.). Use simple drawings or just words for older children who are readers. The game doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting and can be worked on over a period of time.  
  • Related learning: object identification, naming items, matching words and symbols


Tower Power

  • Age: Toddler and above
  • How-to: Start with washing hands. Then, on a plate or placemat, give your child a few of each safe meal item (i.e. banana slices, cut broccoli, peas, croutons, etc.) and see how high of a tower they can build. Try different shapes or patterns, too, such as building a square or putting items in order from smallest to largest, lightest to darkest color, etc. Then they get to eat what they built. If your family has concerns about playing with food, let children build instead with plastic containers.  
  • Related learning: balance, spatial relationships, sequencing, patterning
Measuring Magic
  • Age: Preschool and older
  • How-to: While it might take a bit longer, teaching your child to measure is a valuable math skill. Use a small kitchen scale and measuring cups and spoons to help your child measure ingredient items. If there’s nothing specific to measure, ask him to measure things like 4 cups of water for a pot of water or to see if the package of strawberries weighs more or less than 1 apple.
  • Related learning: measurement, compare and contrast, weight, volume
Taste Tester
  • Age: Preschool and older
  • How-to: As simple as it sounds, ask your child to be the official taste tester during meal preparation. A special apron makes the job all the more important. Ask her to describe the taste. Older children can create a menu with their descriptions.
  • Related learning: articulating preferences, descriptive vocabulary, properties of ingredients


Laundry Sort

  • Age: Toddler and older
  • How-to: As early as the toddler years, children can begin helping with laundry. Put a toddler in charge of folding washcloths and socks; as children grow, assign more items like matching socks and folding T-shirts. This simple task can build important skills. Make it fun by fastening a safety pin to one item in the basket and whoever finds it ‘wins’ extra hugs.
  • Related learning: dexterity, small muscle control, one-to-one correspondence, matching
Clean-up Categories
  • Age: Toddler and older
  • How-to: Cleaning up is often considered a boring task, no matter the age.  Make it more interesting by cleaning up in categories:
    > Put away all of the items you find with blue on them; next put away all items with green on them; and so on - take turns choosing the color.
    > Put away all the square items; now put away all circular items, etc.
    > Put away everything that belongs in the kitchen, etc.
    > Put everything away that is smaller than a coffee cup, etc.
  • Related learning: identifying physical characteristics, following step-by-step directions, shape/color/size identification, categorization
Shopping Savvy
  • Age: Toddler and older
  • How-to: There is nothing harder than coping with a child with a case of the “gimmees” at the store.  A few ways to avoid this:
    > Clearly state if this is a store you will buy your child an item or not before you go in.
    > Bring the circular from the newspaper and let your child find and match items to the circular or provide your child with a journal and allow him to make a list of the items he wants.
    > Ask your child to find coupon items. Give him one or two at a time and tell him when you’re in the right aisle.
    > In the grocery store, decide ahead of time on 2-3 items your child can choose - one breakfast cereal and one kind of fruit, for example.
  • Related learning: delayed gratification, self-regulation, planning
Learning and fun can be infused in any activity with a little planning. We will be rewarded by being able to spend special moments with our children while attending to daily tasks and they will soon forget they’re doing chores.
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