How Do I Find Hands-On Learning Activities for my Child?

This is the second post in the series Hands-On Homeschooling: Getting Started.

Regretfully, it has taken me months to get around to picking up where I left off- What Does My Child Need to Learn? (Age 2 to Grade 2 Learning Objectives).  As the title implies, it went over the what-- what learning objectives are age/grade appropriate.  Today I will focus on a bit of the how- how to find quality resources.  So, here we go!

How do I find hands-on learning ideas?
With the popularity of Pinterest, you have likely come across tons of creative hands-on learning ideas there!  I am going to fill you in on my methods for sifting through it all to find quality activities.  Read on for a step-by step illustration of the process I use for each unit study we do.

Pick a theme (or not)
My kids love themed learning, and I love creating unit studies with my kids- so it's a win-win for us.  It  may or may not be something you or your kiddos enjoy.  There are plenty of ways to make learning fun and hands-on without having a theme.  Although I personally enjoy the planning process, the prepping process is another story!  We take lots of breaks between unit studies, mostly because MOM needs a break.

When we don't have a theme, I still like to find a fun way to practice sight words or math concepts.  I have a collection of general ideas for math, reading, writing, sensory, craft ideas, books, etc on my Pinterest boards that I use to keep things interesting on our "off" weeks.  Don't get me wrong, there are many weeks we just do our chosen curriculum with no "extras."

Now when I am planning a unit study, I usually choose our theme based on season or holiday, or whatever the kids are into at the moment.  I made a huge list of theme ideas to help with planning what we might want to explore next, so that is my go-to guide for choosing a theme.

Find Books
After picking a theme, I start my search for good books.  Books are the backbone to any learning activities we do, so this is the most important part of the process for us.  I look for both fiction and non fiction as read alouds for the group, and easy readers for my oldest to read on his own.  Sometimes I look for a complimentary chapter book for group story time as well.  

Here's a look at my personal system for choosing books:

1.  Our Bookshelves- The first logical step is to gather books we have on hand that go along with what we are learning.

2.  Check the Library- The library's website is as wonderful a resource as the library itself!   Without leaving my house, I can choose books by going to my local library's website,  typing in a keyword (the name of our theme/unit) into the search bar, and hold the books that look good.  I may only check out half of what I hold, but it really saves time to search for books online!

3. Amazon-  After I check the library, I hop over to Amazon and I do another keyword search in Amazon's search engine.  Be sure to chose "books" in the drop down menu on the left so you will get a selection of just books (no toys, etc).

Unlike the library website, Amazon brings up the handy "Customers who bought this item also Bought" feature.  With that feature, I often find books that are on the topic I want (let's say "farm," for example), but that may not  have the word "farm" in the title.

When I find books I'm interested in, I write down the titles (or put the books in my Amazon "wish list"), then check the library before buying.  We buy a lot of books (and other stuff!) through Amazon, so it definitely pays for us to be Amazon Prime members.  We get free shipping and orders are delivered in a couple days!

Start Pinning!
Pinterest is a wonderful way to find, organize, and keep track of all the ideas you may want to try with your kiddos.  I really don't have much advice beyond Pinterest for organizing ideas,  it's really the only thing that ever worked for me!  I personally create a board for every theme.

Here are my best tips for finding awesome themed activities on Pinterest:

Keyword search ideas
For really fantastic hands-on learning ideas, add the word "centers" to your Pinterest keyword search.  Public school teachers always have wonderful themed ideas!   In the  Pinterest search bar, type your theme name (let's use "apple" as an example) and add the word "centers" ("apple centers").  Adding "Montessori" to the search ("Apple Montessori" or "Montessori Apple") also produces a lot of quality hands-on learning ideas! 

Look for "boards," not just "pins"
Usually folks who have an entire board dedicated to a theme have quality resources pinned!  To find boards, type your theme name into the Pinterest search engine, then switch to "Boards." 

If you don't have much luck searching for the theme name alone (ex.- "Apples"), then try a new search by adding the word "theme" ("Apple theme"), or "unit" ("Apple Unit").  Remember, you are looking for "boards" and not just "pins."  

Get Specific
If you're still in search of a particular activity, switch back over to "Pins" and type the theme name + a specific learning objective/activity into the search bar.  For example, search for  "Apple math" or "Apple Sensory Bin."  Below is a list of specific activities I like to include in a unit.  

- Reading/Literacy
I like to find a fun themed way for the boys to practice sight words and for Corinne to practice letter sounds.  Planting a Word Garden was a fun way we practiced sight words and letters during our gardening unit.

We also love to do fun reading comprehension activities by finding something to go along with a book.  It may be through a craft and/or writing prompt, or it may be finding a way for children to act out a story through a sensory bin, flannel board, small world play, or just physically act out a story.  Here are some examples of things we have done in the past to act out a book:

Ice Cream King (book-themed) sensory bin

Cat in the Hat pretend play

- Math Concepts
I try to find something that goes along with whatever we are learning about in math at the time, just as extra practice.  The most successful activity to date was counting pumpkin seeds (skip counting by fives) during our Pumpkin Unit.  Sam was really having trouble with the concept until it "came to life" through this hands-on activity!

- Writing prompt
It's usually pretty easy to find seasonal writing prompt ideas either through a Pinterest search or just a general Google search.

- Sensory Play
I love to make a themed sensory bin to go along with our units.  They are usually the most effective way for my kids to learn a science or social studies concept.

- Fine Motor
This usually comes about naturally through other activities, like crafts or sensory play.  But sometimes we throw in something else for extra practice.  Most printable packs include themed cutting practice pages and we use those.  I also use my fine motor board to grab ideas to incorporate into our school day (sometimes themed, sometimes just a general activity).  All of my kids need practice in this area, so I like to have lots of variation in practice activities.

- Craft
Sometimes it's fun to combine a craft and a writing prompt.  Usually our writing prompts are just a sentence or two and can be attached to a craft.   It's a fun way to really celebrate the theme/unit.

- Themed Snack
"Fun food" is one of my favorite things to include in our units.  We usually eat it during what we call "Snack and Story Time."  The kids have a snack during our read aloud time on most days, but we usually only enjoy one "themed" snack per unit. :)

Searching for ideas and resources is fun.  But if you collect a lot of ideas, it can get a bit overwhelming when it comes time to plan out what to do.  Next time, I'll share a bit about how I personally choose what to include and how I plan for a unit.  Hope you follow along!

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1 comment :

  1. I completely agree about the wonder of Pinterest for inspiration and resources. I'd be lost without it!



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