Sponsored By Highlights

7 Activities To Take Your Children's Lessons Out Of the Classroom

By Kate Brierley

As the months of social distancing in an ever-changing world continue on, we can expect this fall season to look a whole lot different than last year's. Maybe your children are school-aged, entering a new grade either partially or fully remote. Perhaps you have little ones in preschool or pre-K, who are full of energy and questions, but lacking the social life they’re used to.

We’re all feeling it! No matter your situation, it's our job as parents to lead with as much positivity as we can muster. One great way to do that is to introduce some kid-focused, family-friendly activities — the kind they might have done in the classroom but can just as easily be replicated at home. Before you ask — no, you’re not expected to be able to come up with a robust list of fun activities on your own on top of everything else you have on your plate.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with our friends at Highlights to bring you some of the best age-appropriate lessons to combine education and quality time, from The Highlights Book of Things to Do.

The Highlights Book of Things to Do: Discover, Explore, and Do Great Things is the companion every parent needs, especially during a time like this. The activities in the book combine learning and fun to create the ultimate to-do list that children, parents or caretakers, siblings, and friends alike will love. Activities are broken up into helpful categories, including things to do inside, things to do outside, things to do with your brain, the exciting "do great things" chapter encouraging good works, and much more.

The activities run the gamut when it comes to age levels, but you know best which ideas your crew will find most fascinating! Here's just a sample of the many activities you'll find in The Highlights Book of Things to Do. Expect these ideas to expand on your child's school-based and day-to-day education in engaging and truly character-building ways. Happy exploring!

It’s important to get outside, even in your own backyard, neighborhood, or local park. Encourage your little ones to collect findings from their afternoon outside, from fallen leaves and flower petals to acorns, pinecones, stones, and beyond. See what kinds of letters, words, numbers, or designs you can build together out of the items you've rounded up. Either leave your creations behind for someone else to enjoy, or take them with you. Glue your new art to some paper, capturing the lesson and memory!

The next generation is never too young to start thinking about where and how their food grows. Why not introduce them to some gardening 101? It’s fun to plant seeds, pick weeds, and water budding plants. Or try an indoor experiment, like starting your own avocado seed using an avocado pit partially submerged in water. Once roots and stems begin to grow in two to six weeks, pot your baby avocado plant, and watch your little one’s face light up as it continues to grow. In the end, they'll be able to taste what they created!

Infuse some color into your kids' day with homemade tie-dye designs that are all their own! From t-shirts to pillowcases and socks to sheets, first you’ll pre-soak your pieces in a washing soda mixture (find it in the laundry aisle). Cover your work station in plastic to protect it. Decide which tie-dye technique you’re most into, from scrunching to gathering and banding, then prepare and apply your dye. Then plastic-wrap your still-wet creation and let it sit for 12-24 hours before rinsing it out until the water is clear. Let dry, and rock your homemade style (which is very on-trend, by the way).

For the experimental at heart — or us parents who are nostalgic because we had lava lamps — this is a great activity that's sure to wow. Like with tie-dye, you’ll want to protect your workspace from unintended messes. You then add 2-3 spoonfuls of baking soda to a plastic bottle and fill it two-thirds full with canola oil. Add their favorite food coloring to some vinegar, then place a few drops into the bottle. Turn out the lights, and enjoy the show, all while explaining the basic idea of density and chemical reactions.

This activity is designed for the artistically inclined! Have a look at some comics to give them a feel for the style. After practicing drawing some basic facial expressions themselves — happy, sad, surprised, worried — help your child create a story of their own. From there, translate it into a visual work of art to be proud of! Start with a three-panel comic, which introduces the characters, a problem, and a punchline. As they get into it, they may work up to more detailed comics with more detailed imagery and storylines.

Travel may be limited these days, but there’s no reason you can’t explore a culture from the comfort of your own home! Have your child choose a spot on a map or globe, then do a little research on their continent or country of choice. What does life look like there? What do they do for fun? What kind of foods do they eat? Bonus points for incorporating any of the cultural learnings into your own day, from games to recipes and beyond!

This is a wonderful way to foster your little ones' natural curiosity and a strong sense of connectivity by giving them an assignment to learn more about their family. Encourage your child to sit down with different family members and ask questions about their lives. This is especially insightful the bigger the age difference. For example, they’ll be surprised that Grandma didn’t have a cell phone, grew up in a different state, or was the first woman in the family to graduate from college. There is no end to the things they’ll learn about their loved ones, and they'll feel a sense of responsibility from recording and sharing this family knowledge.

This article is sponsored by Highlights.