How do you spend time at home with your kids so that you have fun, bond and learn something? Here are some things I like to do. They can be done with simple everyday household items.
Game for toddlers who just learned to recognize the characters of the alphabet: This game is suitable for toddlers who have just learned the alphabet or numbers from 0 to 9. Print out the alphabet on a sheet of paper like this:
Then print out a list of 3 letter words. Show just the first word to your child. Let him/her take a good look and read it out loud a couple of times. Then present your child with the alphabet sheet. Give him/her a coin and ask him/her to place the coin on the alphabets in order. For example for the if you showed your child the word "the" then he/she should first place the coin on "t", followed by "h", followed by "e". It will take a few attempts to get it right the first few times but be patient. Then you try it yourself for the second word saying "Now it is mommy's/daddy's turn", so your kid thinks of it as a fun game. Once you kid can do the 3 letter words easily, move on to 4 letter words and then 5. My daughter loves this game. My husband invented it to help improve her working memory.
Working memory is what you use, to do a simple mental math calculation, or plan your next chess move, or reason out an argument in your head. Greater the number of characters you can hold together and manipulate the better your working memory is. If your child just repeats a string of characters you say that is the simplest. Trying to find them on the grid with the coin makes it one step harder since the child has to remember the string while trying to locate its elements on the sheet of paper.
You can play the same game with a random string of letters or numbers or both. We do words because it has the fringe benefit of helping my daughter to learn to spell words too.
If you have no objections to letting your kid use a computer then you can type the word or a random string of numbers or letters or both in a big clear font. Let your child see it as before and read it out a couple of times. Then delete what you have typed and and let your child type it out. In this case your kid will have to remember the string while trying to locate its elements on the keyboard.
Seed Germination Project for 2 to 6 year old kids: This is a great project for kids. The youngest ones will just enjoy tending to the seeds and plants and watch them grow. Its amazing seeing a tiny seed grow in to a plant. If they are slightly older use this to explain cotyledons, sprouting, roots etc. Use two different types of seeds to show difference in sprouting and growth rates and leaf shapes. Sometimes your kids will ask questions whose answers you may not remember or may not be able to explain easily to a child. Then you can look it up and think about it so its a learning experience for you too!
I did it with mustard (rye) and fenugreek (methi) seeds. They have different growth rates. The mustard gets leaves a day or 2 before fenugreek.
Volume experiments 4 to 8 year old kids: How do you compare the size of several irregular objects? You can take a bucket with some water in it, mark the water level, then put in various objects that would sink and see how much the level rises. For example use this method to compare the sizes of 2 stones with very different shapes. This will give you child a feel for sizes of objects of different shapes. If they are wooden objects you can push them just below the water level. You can extend this concept further to figure out how much bigger a large object is compared to a small one. To illustrate this, here is a cute game I played with my daughter. Its called How many raisins make a lemon . Check it out.
A Doll Play or a Puppet Show: A simple little play done with various soft toys is an excellent way to stimulate your child's imagination. I take 2 or 3 soft toys like a frog, a doll and a bear and make them interact with each other at a picnic scene or in a swimming pool with spontaneous dialog. They talk, they co-operate, they fight and resolve conflicts. After a little while I ask my daughter to play one of the characters. Initially she used to freeze up and say " I don't know what to make them say. You do it mama." But after doing these shows for her about 7 or 8 times she slowly started gaining confidence and agreed to be one of the characters. At first she only did simple answers to questions but she is slowly taking more initiative with the character she plays and being more imaginative with the dialog. This can be done with both parents and siblings too on holiday afternoons with each person playing one character. It can be used to teach concepts like sharing or consideration or co operation by steering the story of the play to highlight the concept.
Make a Mask: If your kid likes craft activities this is fun and requires very little by way of materials or preparation. This video shows you how to make a bird mask. If you don't have stiff paper for the base you can use a paper plate instead and fold it and cut it into the recommended shape. If you don't have colored paper for the feathers, just take a white sheet and have your child paint it with water colors. It gives the feathers a nice texture.
Learn about Shadows: You can also teach your kid about shadows with a torch (flashlight). Point the flashlight at an empty wall. Show how the shadow of your hand is bigger when it is closer to the torch and smaller when your hand is further away from the torch. Use this to explain that the shadow comes from the path of the light being blocked and when more light is blocked the shadow is bigger. Also show how the shape of the shadow depends on the face of the object on which the light shines. Show how shadows change with the angle the torch makes with the object. To make it more fun do a shadow puppet show.
These are some of the ideas I have used. Please feel free to use them and comment with some of your own.