Found yourself suddenly thrust into the role of homeschooler thanks to Coronavirus? Looking for some simple and fun learning ideas for learning from home? Let me see what I can do for you.
So here’s the thing.
As a teacher, I don’t expect you to replicate the classroom in your home during these strange and confusing times. I would hope that you’re all just loving hard on your littles but it’s a weird one to balance, isn’t it? I’m ALL FOR giving kids the space to get bored. But I also find it useful to have some ideas to fall back on when my kids apparently lose all ability to think up an activity for themselves and are climbing up the walls.
Trying to maintain normalcy in times that are wack seems near-impossible. So don’t go too hard on yourself if your *lessons* don’t turn out as planned. The ideas for learning from home outlined from here are all open-ended. Don’t be rigid and go with the flow. You never know where it will take you.
Process not product, people!
Okay if we try and be positive and look for some silver linings, imagine all the books our kids can enjoy during this time.
Missing friends and social isolation is a big worry for our little ones. Rally a group of schoolmates and meet up via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom and discuss the books that are being enjoyed at each home. You could structure each call with a guiding question like “Who was your favourite character and why?” “Tell us about your favourite part of the story.”
Maybe you could use my Book Scavenger Hunt (developed for Book Week a few years ago) as a way to thematically organise each call. For example, “This week we’re going to find all the books about Dinosaurs on our shelves. We will share our favourite Dinosaur book when we call each other.”
Board games are a totally under-rated way for families to slow down and connect. They also give children a fab chance to practise turn-taking, winning and losing. Take an audit of the board games in the cupboard and pull one out every now and then.
Set up an imaginary restaurant. Holy moly all the writing practice a child will get playing a waiter or waitress! All that vocab development as you construct a menu. See how such a simple set-up is infused with authentic learning opportunities?
Choose a teddy and plan a birthday party for him or her. Write invitations. Plan the party food. Peruse catalogues or supermarket websites and write a shopping list. Calculate your budget. Create decorations. What parts of the syllabus have we covered here? Writing for different purposes and contexts. Letter-sound relationships. Reading for a purpose. Money. Number. Addition. Subtraction. Learning disguised as play? My favourite.
Write an old-fashioned letter to a friend. Take a few snaps of it and send it via the Interwebs for instant connection and easy writing practice. Or try your hand at some of these cool pop-up cards from Maggy at Red Ted Art?
Go on a virtual excursion
The borders of the world may be shutting down but the world is opening up virtually.
Lastly, what do you do when the proverbial poo hits the fan?
Channel your inner Lady Gaga and “Just dance, gonna be okay.”
Turn the music up and DANCE. (My husband attempted to introduce my kids to rave music this morning. They were not impressed.)
Here’s a super fun activity that teams music with painting.
The teacher-in-me is constantly mentally stockpiling ideas for indoor activities for kids.
I’m always on the look out for play-based ideas that are simple and flexible but infused with opportunities for learning.
This map-making activity is fun, light on resources and full of conversational opportunities.
I shall also include some of the prompts that I use to gently guide the learning. (These are shown in italics.)
But feel free to go off-script – look for the teachable moments!
Stick to the end- For NSW residents, I’ve got an awesome offer to share with you from Wacom Australia that takes creative indoor activities for kids to the next level (wherever that may be!)
Step 1: The Walk-Through and Drafting Your Map
I equipped my two older children (aged 6.5 and almost-5) with a clipboard each and we stood at our back door. The 3-year-old was happily engaged in independent play so she didn’t come along for this part of the ride.
What learning is happening here? I began with some positional language. What is behind us? What is to the left of us? What is in front of us?
Once we discussed the lay out of where we were, we began discussing how we would represent this on paper.
At this point, it is useful to discuss map-making as taking a bird’s eye view.
My almost-5-year-old wanted to draw a roof on his map but we discussed how we were like birds looking down on our house.
What learning is happening here? We discussed the shapes we could use to represent different sections of our house and each began sketching a map. I modeled on my clipboard. How many sides does that have?
As we walked through the house, we counted our steps between points. What learning is happening here? We explored measurement by chatting about how the size of our feet led to different answers between the three of us.
Step 1 involved a lot of mathematical thinking. Step 2 involves a lot of literacy and fine-motor skills.
Step 2: The Collaborative Map
I’m not gunna lie.
In a perfect world, this activity would have involved compliant children thirsty for knowledge.
In reality, one child was in a *MOOD* and frustrated by perfectionist tendencies.
This led to a discussion around flipping to a positive mindset and things not needing to be perfect.
So teach to the teachable moments.
After walking through the house, we took our draft maps to the dining table and set to creating a final map with coloured paper.
We cut the shapes out and arranged them. In an ideal world, my children would have refined their scissor skills and cut the shapes out but, as per the above disclaimer, there were varying levels of cooperation. What learning is happening here? As I cut, we discussed the layout of the house. So again we were reinforcing positional language and spatial awareness.
What was Miss 3 doing whilst this was happening? I set her up with a big sheet of paper and some coloured paper. She went wild with collage and every now and then we’d chat colours and shapes.
I then asked my first-grader to label the parts of the house. What learning is happening here? She used her letter-sound knowledge to spell unknown words. We also discussed syllables and how we can use syllabification when spelling unknown words. “Pan-try. How many syllables in pantry? You know how to spell pan! How would you spell the second chunk?”
Once all the spaces in the house were labelled, we brainstormed a list of activities we could do in each space in the event of extended periods spent at home. Call it an “I’m-Bored-Combat-Plan.”
We used dot stickers to highlight places where we could go for some chill-out time should we need it.
Want to take this activity to the next-level? Test your digital drawing skills using a Wacom Intuos. We used our Creative Kids Vouchers to score a Wacom Intuos, and it is HANDS DOWN, the best value use of the voucher that I have come across. (Trust me- I did a whole heap of research! Note: For residents of NSW Australia only.) Read about it here and find 3 more creative ideas for indoor activities for kids from the team at Wacom.
This tea party craft for kids is such a fun, hands-on project for parties or bigger groups.
It is open-ended and involves using lots of different materials. Total winner for all ages!
In 2019, I ran the Kid’s Crafty Corner at the Sydney Tea Festival.
These tea party small worlds kept the crowds of creative kids engaged and entertained.
This crowd-pleaser was originally inspired by these Under the Sea sculptures by my friend, Arielle at Art Camp LA.
Here is what you’ll need for this tea party craft for kids….
I set up a smorgasboard of craft materials featuring:
Paper straws and toothpicks
Sprigs of rosemary
Flowers and gumnuts
I greeted all mini-makers with the prompt of “What materials can you use to create a mini tea party?”
* To colour pasta, place dry pasta in a ziplock bag. Add a few drops of food colouring into the bag. Squeeze in a few drops of hand sanitiser. (You don’t want to soak the pasta.) Zip the bag up and massage the liquid through the bag. Once it is evenly dispersed, pour the pasta out onto basking paper and allow to dry.
Each mini-maker was given a paper plate and a ball of play dough to start.
(You can find my fave play dough recipe here. I substituted the vegetable oil with coconut oil.)
Then the little creatives were let loose on the smorgasboard and they collected their materials. I adore how every tea party is so unique. When they presented their tea parties to me, I asked them something along the lines of “Tell me- what is happening at your tea party?”
I love how each tea party feels a bit like a Dr Seuss world.
In my exceptionally humble opinion, Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys are an unbeatable powerhouse on the children’s book publishing scene. ‘Under the Love Umbrella’ and ‘‘All the Ways to be Smart’ are the two books I recommend the most frequently. (You’ve been warned- if I don’t recommend one of those two books to you, it’s a dead cert that I will recommend the other to you.) ‘The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade’ is the book I chose to gift to my son for his first birthday.
To say that I am fangirling at the fact that Davina and Allison are HERE ON MY BLOG would be, well, a complete understatement.
Through blogging and Instagramming, I’ve been introduced to an amazing Virtual Sisterhood of Creative Ladies.The Oh Creative Lady series is your chance to meet these incredible, kind-hearted, inspiring <insert ALL the happy, positive adjectives HERE> women.
Meet Davina and Allison.
This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.
We are…. Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys, an author–illustrator duo who make picture books together. Allison is from NT and Davina is from WA but now we both live in Melbourne. Davina loves the sun and Allison loves the shade.
I find inspiration… Allison:
So many people and things inspire me. My friends and family are definitely the greats! Music and books – of course! I love pattern – particularly in nature – and have an appreciation for all sorts of typography, be it super slick or a dodgy hand-written ‘garage sale’ sign. And in terms of design and illustration, I think I am most in love with artists who were working in the 1950’s.
We’re excited about … our new project – our fourth picture book together. We’re never happier than when we’re sitting together workshopping the illustrations, making tiny scrap-paper versions of the book, moving the text around and giving each other high-tens of happiness when we feel like we’ve nailed a tricky section. We hope we can work together for always.
When I’m in a creative slump, I… Davina:
If I’m in a slump, it’s usually because I’m too afraid of being bad to even try and that’s made me lose respect for myself. So I combat that by doing something to earn back my own regard, and I’m not going to lie – it’s usually cleaning the vegetable section of my fridge. If that doesn’t work, I will walk in nature. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get a Pomodoro timer going, read a Mary Oliver poem and grit my teeth. Or give up and get a coffee.
We’re really proud that… the books we make together say to kids, in different ways, that they are enough just as they are – that they are treasured for their uniqueness and loved unconditionally. Our new book that we’re currently working on, is about making mistakes, and we’re proud that we are talking about shame and imperfection and forgiveness and self-acceptance, which can be hard to tackle. It’s a privilege to have this platform, and one that we are so conscious of using to spread maximum compassion. We’re also proud of our long-term commitment to eating carob Banjo Bears. If you’re a rep from Banjo, please look us up for a sponsorship arrangement. We’re happy to endorse.
Someone once told me… Davina:
‘Write the book that only you can write.’
That’s what the author Martine Murray said once in a writing class, and I can still feel the ease and freedom that I felt in my body in that moment – as if I had put down a great burden. You don’t need to go out searching for a grand and revolutionary plot or premise. Your story is already within you. It’s in the constellation of your past and present, identity and interests, knowledge and hobbies, values and passions. You will find your story or your style by following your curiosity through a maze of your own uniqueness.
My advice to you is… Allison:
If you’re a writer, please see Davina’s excellent note above!
I’m not very good at advice, but here are some things that I know I need to do, and that I feel sure you’re already across!: Make more time to be amongst the things that inspire you. Make more time to draw for fun.
You can find me at …
@davina.bell on Instagram
‘Under the Love Umbrella’ is now available in board book format. It is the PERFECT present for a baby shower or first birthday. (I totes gave a copy to my niece for her first birthday.)
Project LOVE. An eBook CHOCK A BLOCK filled with love and kindness activities for kids.
I began 2020 with a heavy heart. Catastrophic bushfires were burning across my country. Lives, properties and possessions were being lost. A feeling of helplessness washed over many Australians.
My heavy heart was lightened by all the messages of concern from across the world. It slowly alighted on me that NOW more than EVER, our hearts NEED arts, crafts, story, action and connection. And so the idea for Project Love was born.
I reached out to some of my online friends. The instant support for this eBook was phenomenal. Every single person who has contributed to this project has provided their time, efforts and content for free.
The result? Over 80+ pages featuring projects from 24 bloggers from across the world. Arts and crafts, printables, templates, recipes and book lists.
The best part? 100% of proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Food Bank Australia to support their efforts in helping those affected by the Australian bushfires. For every $1 you donate, Food Bank are able to provide $6 worth of supplies to communities affected by the bushfires. So you pay 10AUD, but Food Bank are able to provide $60 worth of supplies with that donation. Hurrah! $AUD10 is about $US6.70 / £5.20.
Want 25 projects based around love and kindness activities for kids?
This eBook will only be for sale during February 2020. Sales will be finish on March 1st and all proceeds will be donated on March 2nd.
Pop over to @ohcreativeday on Instagram on March 2nd to find out how much money this book raised.
This simple Chinese New Year craft for kids involves collaboration, exploring line and shape and patterns.
In Chinese culture, fish are considered a symbol of luck and good fortune. The Chinese word for fish sounds like the word surplus or abundance. So during Chinese New Year you will see many fish decorations and it is customary to eat fish during New Year feasts to ensure prosperity.
What you will need for this simple Chinese New Year Craft for kids
Print your fish template onto thin card or trace it onto cardboard scraps.
We reused some cardboard packaging from Christmas presents to create our fish.
My daughter and I passed the fish back and forth to fill in different sections.
This is a great chance to talk about different lines – straight, curved, broken, zig zag, wavy – and shapes. So much vocab!
Once complete, cut the fish out. Use your hole punch to create a hole in the top middle part of your fish.
String some yarn through and thread beads onto your string.
This is a great opportunity to practice 2-part patterns. Red and yellow/gold are dominant colours seen during Chinese New Year festivities.
Hang your fish decoration on your front door to welcome in all the New Year’s good luck!
If you try this simple Chinese New Year craft for kids, I’d LOVE to see! Tag me on Instagram or Facebook.
Looking for more simple Chinese New Year crafts for kids?