On the theme of Feelings and Emotions, a fun, easy and cheap game to put together for the kids is one we’ve called Paper Plate Feelings Charades, but it can also be played as an emotions ‘Who am I’ kind of game.Read more: Paper Plate Feelings Charades
I have a whole drawer full of printed games and puzzles and activities that I can pull out whenever we need something to change the narrative on our day. One of the activities that I recently added to this collection was a faces & feelings matching game (download it free here). I printed it and laminated it and keep them for a quick, five minute activity from time to time.
You can do it either way – lay out the faces and match the words, or lay out the words and match the faces to them. There are more words than faces because some faces can match a variety of words – like terrified and yelling.
You can either pull out extra words so that you can focus on the words you’re interested in, or you can leave it as is.
I really enjoy game cubes – I’ve made a few of them over the course of parenting, like this activity cube for rainy days – and was going to make one for animals & emotions to go with our feelings and emotions theme, but then happened across this printable version on Twinkl. I decided to save my wooden blocks for another time, and printed this emotional animals game instead.
We’ve been working on a bit of a loose ‘ocean’ theme the last few weeks, so I decided to let the literacy activity for this week be ‘go fish’.
For this game, we used a magnet to pick up our magnetised fish – say, 5 fish, or pick a number – then make up as many words as we can from those five letters. Pretty simple, really, and great for word exploration, spelling and a general word-building exercise, without looking or feeling like learning.
One of the benefits of home education for me is the ability to learn through play. Of course learning through play is relevant whether children go to school or not, and one of the fun ways to encourage learning without anyone even knowing they’re learning is through puzzle and board games.
We were sent a selection of Ravensburger games to review, and they’ve come in very handy over the wetness of these British “Summer” days.
Ready Set Count! Ravensburger Games
This game is a first counting game, perfect for my 3 year old. While it can be played with the included dice, we found it best for learning what each number looked like. Each card set has an animal(s) image, fingers that show the number, the numeric image and the dice representation of the number.
I set like with like – so fingers in one pile, dice in another, numbers in a third and the animal images in the last. She picked an animal card, counted the figures on it and then found the corresponding fingers, number and dice. She has a great time sorting the sets together, and then organising them into their correct numerical order.
Played as a game each player can roll the dice and find the corresponding number set to match.
This set has the obvious learning goal of counting, but also number recognition and a taking turns/sharing. It can be played by 1 – 4 players.
My First Clock Ravensburger Games
The My First Clock Game consists of a clock and 27 game cards. They bill this as having three ‘games’ in one, with double sided ‘clock’ cards that show analogue and digital times. The cards can be used in different ways – put them in order of time and describe what you would normally do at that time. You can also us it to look at the digital times shown on the cards and try to put the hands on the clock face to the correct time, winning a card each time you do this or finally, players take turns to set a time on the clock face and everyone else must try to find the clock card that is closest to that time. Or of course, you can just let your child figure it out on their own, setting the time to match the activity.
This definitely helps to develop “number association, recognition of routines and sense of the abstract concept of time” as it says in the description, and with a little help it’s a very useful device for learning how to tell the time.
The cardboard clock face has movable plastic hands that you assemble yourself, so it’s a good opportunity for learning the difference between the long and short hands too. These aren’t the best design ever, as the clock ‘hands’ come out quite easy but for £6.99 for the whole set, it’s sufficiently effective and safe enough for a 4 – 9 year old.
ABC Ravensburger Games
Based on a ‘flashcard’ style of learning, the ABC Game is filled with two-piece puzzles with one for every letter of the alphabet and a corresponding image card – a & apple, b & bird and so on.
These cards are ‘self-correcting’ which means if you try to put the wrong image to the wrong letter, you won’t be able to slot the puzzle pieces in together. This is good as it’s a gentle prod to try something different, rather than a ‘YOU’RE WRONG!’ which I like.
The final game we have been playing is My First Words, which is a great follow on from the ABC game. Having learned the alphabet, this game introduces little ones to their first simple words. As compared to the other games, I think this one is more about word familiarisation rather than actually learning words – largely because they can put the word together by putting the picture together, but it does help with familiarity of the words. I like that it’s fun, and that it’s play, but that my girls feel a sense of achievement when they can shout out what the word is, and be right.
For all the games, the cards are decent quality – you have to remember these aren’t expensive puzzle sets – and they last well. The can all be stored within the boxes they come in, and these are stackable in a toy box or shelving unit too, so it’s easy to tidy it all away.
Earth day happens every year in April, and it’s an opportunity for us to talk to our children about their world, to give them reasons to love it and understand how it works, and most importantly to protect it.
One of the simplest ways to teach without it being hard work, while also spending time together, is through books. There are loads of books with the theme of recycling and reusing. Pick up a couple that you can re-read year after year.
Some good examples are Fancy Nancy: Every Day is Earth Day* where Nancy helps her family be Earth-friendly every day, not just on Earth Day. In Little Critter: It’s Earth Day*, Little Critter learns about climate changes, and decides to do his part to slow down global warming. In this story children will learn about the importance of not wasting water or energy. Join Little Critter as he plants a tree, makes a climate control machine, and helps the polar bears.
In I Can Save the Earth!: One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle* Max is a little monster who likes to litter and never, ever recycles. Then the electricity goes out and he sees how exciting and beautiful the Earth is, and that it will need his help to stay that way.
And if stories are good, activity books are even better. Earth Day Is Every Day!* is a fun activity book where four kids and a dog guide young readers through word searches, mazes, cryptograms, and other puzzles that provide fun facts about Earth Day and offer ideas for recycling, conserving energy, and making “green” practices part of everyday life.
I also love the idea of using Earth Day as an opportunity to connect with our friends and family, or our neighbours, or someone we haven’t caught up with in ages, and this Secret Garden* postcard set is beautifully thematic.
If that’s a little ‘old’ for your small people, why not have a go at this Earth Day Colouring Book*. With 32-pages of colouring fun, there’ll be plenty of opportunity to talk about the Earth and our role in protecting it.
Sometimes it hard to know if the Smalls will be interested in something before you spend money on it, so why not print this Free Earth Day Activity Book and give them that for a start. If you’re not in the US you can just remove the page about your State. If you are – it’s perfect for you!
For when the kids want to watch something, Wild Kratts and Tumble Leaf are both great nature shows available for download on Amazon Instant Prime Video* (and you can enjoy a free 30-day trial, often even if you’ve had a trial before).
When book work and brain work gets a little too much, try out Earth Day Kids Yoga – yes, that’s really a thing! This book will walk you through a story of movement and exercise with the children. It’s a great way to get the active, introduce yoga and breathing and talk about Earth Day at the same time.
Earthgames: 50 Nature Games For Ages 3+ is another great avenue for rainy day or any day entertainment. The book is full of chanting, play-it-again action games that are easy to learn quickly, yet substantial enough to last through repeat performances. The book is broken into three nature-themed sections–Wildlife World, Playful Planet, Cosmos–each containing its own Warm Up & Cool Down exercises. Designed for indoor or outdoor group play, EarthGames are a perfect fit for Earth Day or any day.
And of course, the best way to get the children to love the Earth is to make them part of it. Organisations like the Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, National Trust and The RSPB all have membership schemes where your money goes to helping protect your environment. The Wildlife Trust and the RSPB both do a lot of work with children, including magazines that are pitched at their ages – and provide a gift that tops up their interest throughout the year. The National Trust operates in a number of different countries around the world and membership to one gives you access to all (they also have a fab home ed discount of £41 for the family for the year.) Most of these organisations also offer activities for the children throughout the summer. Have a look at our 50Things posts for an example of what you can do as part of that project.
* Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on them and then buy, I’ll receive a percentage from the merchant. You don’t pay more or less whether you use this link or go direct.
I have a slightly different prize up for grabs this week. It’s not wooden, it’s not sustainable, it doesn’t really scream â€˜natural’, but it’s a fab little gadget, and one we absolutely love.Â It’s called the Leapfrog Tag Junior Reading System.
As Ameli faces down the barrel of two years old, she’s developed an amazing interest in books, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tinge of pride when she climbed the stairs and counted them as she wentâ€¦ one, two, three, four, five, six, eight, seven, nine, TEN.Â Or at least, that’s how it usually goes. We’ve never sat trying to teach her letters or numbers, but I’m certain that the stories we’ve been reading since she was just a few months old have had a part to play.
Now, with number two on the way, I’m aware that I might not always have the time that I’ve had thus far to devote to her, so we thought we’d try this Tag Junior Reading System.
Read more: Leapfrog Tag Junior Review