Your child’s brain is most receptive to learning during the first five years of life. Take advantage of those critical early years to maximize your child’s learning potential. Read to your child every day, even if they don’t seem to be listening (they are). Narrate your way through daily tasks to increase the number of words your child is exposed to each day. And try out some of the fun activities below!

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1. Make Balloon Rockets

What You’ll Need:

  • Plastic straws
  • String
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Balloons

Make it Happen:

  1. Cut a length of string long enough to run across the room that you will be using for this activity.
  2. Use painter’s tape to secure one end of the string to the wall.
  3. Run the string through the straw and secure the other side of the string to the opposite wall.
  4. Blow up the balloon and pinch the end closed to keep the air in.
  5. Tape the balloon to the straw (this is a two-person operation). Make sure that the mouth of the balloon is pointing in the opposite direction from the way that you want the balloon to travel.
  6. Release the balloon and watch your balloon rocket fly!

Other Thoughts: 

For extension activities, try experimenting with different types of string, different sizes of balloons, different types of straws, and positioning the string at different angles.

2. Letter Scavenger Hunt

What You’ll Need:

Random objects from around the house

Make it Happen:

Choose one letter of the alphabet and have kids go around the house and gather objects that start with that letter.

Other Thoughts: 

You can also try color or shape hunts.

3. Book + Art = Fun!

What You’ll Need:

Make it Happen:

  1. Read “It Looked Like Spilt Milk
  2. Add a small amount of white paint to the center of a piece of blue construction paper.
  3. Fold the construction paper in half so that the paint is in the middle and spread the paint around with your fingers.
  4. Open the paper to see your creation!

4. Baking Soda & Vinegar Volcano

What You’ll Need:

  • A tall glass
  • A tray, baking pan with sides, or a sink
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

Make it Happen:

  • Place the glass in the center of a tray, baking pan with sides, or even in your sink.
  • Fill the container about 1/4 full of baking soda.
  • Pour in some vinegar and watch the eruption!

5. Stuffed Animal Sort

What You’ll Need:

  • A big pile of stuffed animals

Make it Happen:

Have the kids sort their stuffed animals by color. Or, for older kids, have them arrange them from largest to smallest.

Other Thoughts: 

For an extension activity have kids come up with their own criteria for sorting. Tails or no tails, big or small ears–the possibilities are nearly limitless.

6. Make a Milky Rainbow

What You’ll Need:

  • Whole milk
  • Tray or baking pan with sides
  • Food coloring
  • Liquid dish soap

Make it Happen:

  1. Pour whole milk into a tray or baking pan so that it just covers the bottom.
  2. Add about 6-8 drops of different colored food coloring onto the milk in different spots.
  3. Add 4-5 drops of liquid soap onto the drops of food coloring and watch the rainbow!

7. Explore Your Sense of Taste

What You’ll Need:

  • Various foods from your kitchen. While many foods can work, ones that work well are:
    • Lemons
    • Chocolate
    • Peanut butter
    • Candy sprinkles
    • Carrots
    • Cheese sticks
    • Grapes
    • Popcorn

Make it Happen:

  1. Divide foods into bite-sized portions (don’t let the kids see which foods you will be serving up).
  2. Blindfold kids and give them each a bite of the first food. See who can guess what it is first.
  3. Repeat for all remaining foods.

8. Rice Writing

What You’ll Need:

  • Shallow tray or baking pan with sides
  • Uncooked rice (amount needed will vary depending on the size of your tray or pan)

Make it Happen:

  1. Fill a shallow tray or baking pan with just enough uncooked rice to cover the bottom of the container.
  2. Kids can then practice writing letters, numbers, drawing shapes, etc. in the rice.

9. Play Tape Shapes

What You’ll Need:

  • Painter’s tape

Make it Happen:

  1. Use painter’s tape to create shapes on the floor.
  2. Call out directions for kids to follow that lead them from shape to shape (“slide to the square”, “hop to the triangle”, “crawl to the pentagon”, etc.).

10. Read a book!

What You’ll Need:

  • A book

Make it Happen:

Cuddle up in a cozy chair and read the book aloud to your children.

Other Thoughts: 

Kids of all ages love to hear stories read aloud. Using funny voices for different characters always ups the fun factor.

11. Story Re-Telling

What You’ll Need:

  • A book

Make it Happen:

  1. Read a story to your kids (see suggestion number 10).
  2. Have them tell the story back to you in your own words.

12. Oil and Water Mix-Up

What You’ll Need:

  • Clear plastic water or soda bottle
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Vegetable oil

Make it Happen:

  1. Fill a plastic water or soda bottle about 1/2 way with water.
  2. Add a few drops of food coloring to the water.
  3. Add cooking oil to the water until the bottle is 3/4 full.
  4. Screw the lid on tightly and let the kids shake the bottle as hard as they can.
  5. Put the bottle back down watch as the liquids separate.

13. Write with Magnets

What You’ll Need:

  • Magnet letters

Make it Happen:

  1. Use letters to put letters in alphabetical order, create words, or even sort letters by color.

14. Make Oobleck

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • Food coloring (if desired)

Make it Happen:

  1. Mix water, corn starch, and food coloring.
  2. Let your children dig their hands in and watch them be amazed to explore this mixture which shows qualities of both a liquid and a solid.

Other Thoughts: 

This can get messy, so a room with easy-to-clean hard flooring is recommended. Smocks are also a good idea. To encourage text-to-life connections, read “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” by Dr. Seuss and choose green for the food coloring.

15. Reading and Soup

What You’ll Need:

  • The book “Stone Soup”
  • Ingredients to cook soup from scratch (you can use the ingredients as laid out in the book, or find a recipe online)

Make it Happen:

  1. Read the book aloud to kids.
  2. Cook up your own batch of soup together.

16. Play “What’s in the Sock?”

What You’ll Need:

  • Small household objects. Good ideas are:
    • Spoon
    • Toy car
    • Crayon
    • Small dolls or toy animals
    • Etc.
  • Sock
  • Rubber band

Make it Happen:

  1. Place the small household object in a sock and rubber band or tie the sock shut.
  2. Give the sock to the child and let them use their sense of touch to try to figure out what’s in the sock.
  3. Repeat with different objects.

17. Mix Colors

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 plastic zipper sandwich bags
  • Tempera paint in blue, yellow, and red

Make it Happen:

  1. Add a couple of tablespoons worth of two colors to each of the bags (red + blue, red + yellow, blue + yellow)
  2. Remove as much air as possible from each bag before zipping to close.
  3. Let kids gently squish the bag to mix the colors.

With this list of activities in hand, you are now ready to encourage young minds to learn and to have fun while doing it. Kudos to you for recognizing that while the days can be long with young children in the house, the years are short. You, and your child, will always be grateful for the time that you invested in early education.

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