20 Ways for Kids to Learn at Home Without Using a Computer
Digital devices are invaluable educational tools that offer access to a whole world of information. However, they also come with some downsides; computers offer almost unlimited distractions, and it often feels that the only thing that youngsters are learning from them is how to use technology. There are plenty of alternatives available, though, which can offer some great solutions for people stuck at home and needing to provide extra educational support for their kids. Here are 20 smart ideas that you can use in your home, providing fun and independent learning in abundance.
An atlas can be a great resource to help children begin to explore the world and to get a sense of their place on the planet. Of course, atlases also map the world's rivers, mountains and borders and record the sheer diversity of the Earth. All of this can be a real eye-opener for any youngster.
A great activity is to give your child a list of capital cities before asking them to match them up with the countries and continents they are in. If you have additional research materials available, you might ask them to note two important facts about each city. This offers a fantastic and fun way to study the globe and to pick up some extra information along the way.
It can often be interesting to reflect on exactly how and why we do things in our everyday lives – such as how we use electricity in the home. Ask your child to make a note of all the electrical appliances in each room of your home. You'll likely be surprised at just how long a list it is.
Then ask them to think about ways of using less electricity, which will both save money and help the environment. Youngsters will quickly discover a lot more about which appliances are essential and how to use them sensibly. If you want to go deeper, you could explore how electricity powers these devices and how power generation works.
The world of words can be a wonderful place when a little imagination is applied. First, present a short sentence to your child on paper. Then ask them to create new words from the letters in the text.
A fascinating list will soon emerge as all the potential permutations of the available letters become apparent. You can also supplement this by using a dictionary, looking for new words and learning what they mean. It's a fun way to enrich any vocabulary.
Almost everyone has a spare change jar – and perhaps your kids have a special place for their pocket money. For the very young, coins can be a helpful tool to visualize sums. You can set them questions, and they can physically handle the coins in order to reach the answer.
What's more, identifying notes and coins is an important life skill. You can talk about what things cost in the real world; and if you have foreign currency to hand, you can take it a step further, illustrating all the ways that they're different to your own coins – and you can use them as a hook to begin to talk about other cultures.
Critical reading is an extremely valuable skill. Present your child with a newspaper and ask them to take a look at a story, that will be suitable for their age group. You can then test their understanding of the story with a few questions.
Going further, you can ask them if the story missed any details – for example, the when, where, who and how of the matter. And did the piece include any assumptions that might be unfounded? You could also ask them to write a new headline or to re-write the first few sentences themselves.
Reflecting on our environment can come with some surprising insights. But how much do your children know about the area that they live in? Ask them to draw a simple map of the local vicinity – perhaps the route to their school or a park – and include local landmarks.
This then presents the opener for a great discussion. Is the map to scale and are the dimensions correct. If not, why not? You can also talk about what landmarks have been added and which haven't – and potentially tell your child plenty of details that they never knew about the area. If possible, you can also follow the route that you've mapped to compare and update what's been recorded.
Rather than simply repeating stories, it can be interesting to take them in a new direction. Take a pivotal scene from a favorite and ask your child to create a new narrative from this jumping-off point. Where are the characters and what might they do next?
This can be a great way of exploring the characters and their motivations. Are they consistent and credible? What would your child do in their place? Of course, it can also be fun to subvert the original and send the story along a completely new path.
Children who keep physically active will learn better – and develop better physical skills – than those who are sedentary for much of the time. Play with your children outdoors if you can. Sports and other pursuits requiring a little physical effort will offer some variety and break the day up.
Whether it's playing with a frisbee or a ball, or shooting some hoops, every little helps. It's also a great way to unwind and for parents to bond with their child in a different way. And while it might seem like downtime, it also offers a chance for desk-based lessons to sink in.
If you're lucky enough to have some outdoor space, then it can present some great opportunities for youngsters and not just for playing catch. Gardening can be a hugely fulfilling pursuit; and you might even set aside an area for your child to develop their own landscape.
You can show them how to plant and grow seeds and water flowers, and you can run through all the things that plants need in order to thrive. Additionally, you can teach them about nutrition and vegetables and science. Of course, that's at the same time as instilling them with a love of nature.
Puzzles and riddles can be a great way of testing abstract reasoning. Make a simple map of your home and hide small items in various places, making a note of where you've put them, and include a clue to the next item with each one. You could use treats along the way, or you could have your treasure hunt end with a single prize.
Your clues might cryptically point to the next location; they might include challenges; or they might require your youngsters to decipher codes. No matter how you want to run it, the process should offer plenty of fun and excitement for everyone – and it should keep the kids busy for some time.
Toys can be great educational tools. If you have some building bricks at home – like Lego – then you could get your child to create a structure based on a theme. They could draw the plans for a house, for example, and then use their imagination to build it.
This presents an opportunity to then talk about the features and practicalities of real buildings – like why they have sloping roofs and drainpipes and why it might be useful to have multiple entrances to a building. You can then discuss different types of structures, like schools and homes and shopping centers, and what makes them different. All in all, it should add up to a more nuanced view of the world.
Many people have been finding themselves working from home while needing to keep their kids occupied, with limited childcare options available. This can be a useful basis to tell your kids about your job, though. What do you do all day; and how does it form part of a bigger picture?
This can give them a clearer picture of how the world really works and what real jobs entail. You can give them an idea of the roles that are needed to make an organization work, as well as the role that the organization plays in the economy. This might give your children some intriguing insights into the job that they would ultimately like to have.
Youngsters love painting and coloring – and getting the creative juices flowing can be a lot of fun. Provided you have the space, it would be great to give your kids an artistic project. To give them a sense of direction, you might ask them to create a piece around a particular theme or topic.
For example, they could create a piece based on their favorite room or object in the home. They might also try out different media – whether using pencil, paint or perhaps charcoal, depending on what you have available. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Whatever else happens, though, you can always have some fun with the simple things. For example, rather than using paper you might consider simply painting stones. You could paint your own designs on them – or you might use them as Easter eggs in an indoor or outdoor treasure hunt.
Of course, you can also use them – as well as other objects, such as sponges – as stamps, to create unique designs and patterns on whatever material you're working with. Activities like this will inspire a creative eye and drive the imagination as to how items can be repurposed – just as long as you have some clear rules about what items can be added to your child's found-item art sculpture!
Another great way to get kids writing and thinking is to ask them to write a journal with you. This allows them to keep a record of what they've been up to and what they've been learning about. It also gives them a chance to reflect on what's been important to them.
You could also combine it with a nature diary. Take a look out the window – either at your yard or into the street – and make a note of the plants and animals that you see. It'll encourage observation and make for an interesting record of time as the seasons change.
With a little bit of preparation, your kids can be kept engrossed for ages with a building project using just cardboard boxes. The only accessories that you need are some tape and maybe some paint. That and the time to build whatever they want, of course.
Your kids could build landscapes for their toys or even their own den. And if the materials don't fit, all the better. Your little ones will then have the challenge of working around the issue with their problem-solving skills.
If you want to encourage your kids to get writing then another old-fashioned pursuit that they can take up is letter writing. Computer word processing makes writing quick and easy; if you have to think out how and what you want to say in advance then you'll likely write in a very different way.
It should be easy for youngsters to take up letter writing with friends or relatives. Alternatively, you might see if you could connect with a foreign pen pal and write in a foreign language. Going a step further, you could even reach out to a personal hero and see if they'll respond.
Take your dictionary and pick a list of perhaps ten words. Ask your child to look up the meanings of these words, and then write a sentence with each word included. Of course, you can pick terms at the right level for them or that deal with a specific topic.
It's a simple, superb way of building up their reading and writing skills as well as expanding their vocabulary at the same time. It's also great to build up familiarity with how to quickly and fluently use a dictionary. And you might learn something yourself while you're doing it!
Birds can be short of food whatever the time of year. You can give them a helping hand by putting out a bird feeder, whether in your yard or attached to a window. Of course, this gives you a great opportunity to see wildlife up close.
Your children can try to identify what species the visiting birds are, and they can take note of what makes each species unique. Over time, they might even be able to identify individual birds who become repeat visitors. They'll likely also build a list of all the different birds that they've seen and perhaps gain the ability to identify birds that they haven't seen before by consulting a book.
Mixing paints can be a great way to illustrate how primary colors combine – blue and yellow make green, for example. There's much more you can do though. For example, you can discuss how colored lenses – whether tinted transparent sheets or green glass – change what you're looking at.
Using a hosepipe and a little sunshine you can even illustrate how rainbows are created – with the visible light spectrum being diffracted through water droplets. It'll make it very clear that learning from home can be both fun and a very colorful experience.