Whether you're trying to avoid the dreaded "summer slide" or are just looking for a kid-sized mental tune-up, you need ideas to keep those little scholars' brains active. These learning activities for kids are so entertaining, they may not even realize how educational they are. Even better, the projects are low-prep, easy to clean up, and mostly involve common items you can find around the house. Dip into the old art-supply bin, gather up some toys, and you'll be able to whip up an educational activity in no time.
From practicing sight words to simple coding activities, these projects cover literacy, STEM, and social studies, among others, so you can focus in on your kids' particular area of interest (or subject where they need the most additional practice). The one thing they have in common is that there's some kind hands-on component to all of them, so kids can get really involved in their own learning. As they get older, they can even help set up the activities for themselves, too. These are mostly geared for elementary school students, but if you have a toddler or a preschooler, you can check out these fun toddler activities, since even the tiniest students deserve a brain workout.
Kids just learning to read can explore different sound combinations with a word-family sunflower. Write word endings on the petals, fill a paper-plate center with all the letters of the alphabet, then let kids spin and read the results.
Lots of classrooms make students create dioramas of the solar system, but what about mapping out other celestial bodies? This activity uses pipe cleaners and beads to give kids a hands-on way to learn how stars connect to form different consteallations.
This is a science experiment that turns into something you'd want to display on a desk or table. Draw stripes on coffee filters with markers, and then fold them up into triangles and dip the pointy end in water; the water will travel up the filter and separate the marker into different pigments, making a cool pattern on a flower-shaped filter.
You don't need screens or apps to show kids the foundations of coding. Set up a simple LEGO maze, and give kids commands to get a minifigure to go through it. The mazes and concepts can get more sophisticated as the child gets older.
One way to sharpen those map-reading skills? Hide a treasure in the backyard and have the kids use a map to find it. It's even better if they can hide something from you and draw the map themselves.
Not only will these beautiful blooms help kids visualize their fractions, it'll teach them equivalents: Two one-eighth peals will be the same size as a one-fourth petal, for example. Not into flowers? Try pizza slices.
Get their brains and bodies working at the same time! Hop from letter to letter to spell out different sight words.
Practice two skills at once: Write new vocabulary words on one card, definitions on another, and then play a traditional Memory game. You can also do this with synonyms and antonyms.
The classic vinegar-and-baking-soda experiment becomes extra exciting when food coloring is added to the mix. In addition to using an eye dropper or baster to make more "explosions," kids can also see what happens when different colors combine.
This game is so simple to set up: Stick math equations on the top of a bottle cap, and write the answers inside. Then, if a student answers a math fact correctly, they get to keep the top. If not, it stays in the pile. The player with the most caps at the end of the game wins!
If kids are going to grow up to be writers, it helps to know how stories are put together. A story map lets them dissect the parts a book. They can either make one for tales they know well (something like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"), or use them as an outline for an original creation.
A delicious lesson in geometry, you can use mini-marshmallows and toothpicks (or small pretzel rods) to build different shapes. As kids get more advanced, they can move from 2D to 3D creations.
Forensics 101: Leave a fingerprint on a drinking glass — it helps if your fingers are a little greasy, so pizza night is the perfect time to try this out — then have your kids use flour and a paintbrush to "dust" the glass for prints. You can even try to "lift" the fingerprint with a piece of tape and transfer it to a piece of construction paper. You can talk about the common patterns found in fingerprints, and how prints are used by law enforcement.
Tell your kids they're going to become vexillologists — it sounds super impressive! Vexillology is the study of flags, so talk about the symbols on the flags of different countries and what they represent. Then, they can design their own flag — show them the North American Vexillological Association's "Good Flag, Bad Flag" guidelines — or you can come together and create a flag for your family.
The great thing about this activity is that kids can do it independently, whenever they have a few minutes (like in the car): Write out a series of math problems on craft sticks to give kids a chance to practice doing math in their heads. See how many sticks they can get through in a certain period of time.
By growing crystals in a Borax solution, kids can learn science and make a new decoration for their rooms. (Just use extreme caution with the Borax, and make sure they know it's not sugar.)
Give the world map a 3D twist with this crafty learning activity. You can paint coffee filters for the oceans, or use different colors and shapes of pasta for different regions or geographical features.