By Rachel H and Allison T, Triad Smarty Pants
Although children usually do not want more work after surviving a long day at school, completing homework, and playing sports, we have some tried and true after-school activities that will help boost brain power without the kids even knowing it! These are also great ideas on how to keep your child’s brain active on snow days, long car rides, or rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoons. These have all been child tested and mother approved in our houses! We have a variety of ideas for toddlers and up. Read below for ideas to keep brains active for children of all ages without them even knowing that they are … shhhhh … learning!
Alex Little Hands Lacing Cards
These are perfect for young preschool children and toddlers who are beginning to learn to work with their hands. These lacing activities help develop the fine motor skills and are the perfect size for little hands. This developmental stage is important when children are learning about their world through their sense of touch. The lacing cards are colorful and bright and come in a variety of themes.
I can’t remember who told me about the Leapster when my son was 3 years old, but I want to give them a big hug. My son and daughter both have their own Leapsters with age appropriate, interactive educational games. The Leapster is recommended for children ages 4-10, and depending on where you purchase it, it can cost anywhere from $50 to $60.
Brain Quest Cards and Brain Quest Workbooks
My son received his first set of Brain Quest cards for Christmas when he was four years old. I had no idea that this would be the first of about twenty sets of cards we would eventually own. This is one product that I rarely say no to when he asks me to buy him a new set. We’ve spent hours quizzing each other at night and in the car – math, reading, American and Presidential history. Also, great birthday presents for your kids’ friends! You can find them in any bookstore. We buy the sets at Costco because they are a little bit cheaper.
The Brain Quest Workbooks are equally as awesome. Though, they are more expensive than most workbooks, usually around $11, they are worth the money. They are also in bookstores, Costco and online. The age range for the cards and workbooks are ages 2 to 12.
Leap Frog Math Desk
This is a great tool for children ages 3 and up. Not only does it help children recognize numbers, but it has different levels for higher learning abilities. When my children first started to play with this, they would play the game where they were simply recognizing numbers. Then they moved on to find “what number comes before 14 and after 12”, etc. There is also a board for them to practice writing the numbers themselves. The skills build on one another. It is amazing how much my children learned from this game and it is the perfect size to fit in their lap on a car trip.
Memory – There are so many different versions of Memory that you will be able to find one that fits the age and gender of your child. My daughter loves the Dora Memory game, which is for 3 years and up, while my son loves to play my husband’s VERY old Memory game that is for 7 years and up. This is one of my all-time favorite games to play with my children.
Boggle and Boggle Jr. – A great family game to help your child learn how to spell and search for words. Boggle is for age 8 and up. Boggle Jr. is for age 3 and up.
Guess Who – terrific for memorization, questioning strategies, and logic. Good for ages 4 and up.
Scrabble – obviously for a little older, but this is a game that is challenging even for adults, so you won’t get bored playing this with your children!
Bananagrams – for ages 7 and up. Really cute game that is fun for adults as well. Teaches spelling and vocabulary. Think Scrabble times two!
Leap Frog DVD’s
I should not admit this, but both of my children learned all their letters and sounds from this DVD! No kidding! They loved, loved, loved the Letter Factory DVD and picked up on letter recognition and sounds so easily at a very young age. (I think age 2 is where most kids will usually sit still for this.) Then we moved on to the Word Factory DVD, which teaches children to put letters together to make sounds. The next level is the Storybook Factory, which is also really cute and educational. The other one we have is the Math Circus, which teaches numbers, skip counting, and addition. I highly recommend these videos for all ages. It makes you feel a little more justified in throwing in a video for the kids.
Free Educational Web Sites
My absolute favorite – http://www.starfall.com/, plus http://www.noggin.com/, http://www.pbskids.org/, and http://www.seussville.com/.
Other things to keep in mind when wanting to keep brains active at home: many children learn through different senses, so if your child is having trouble learning the alphabet, have them shape a letter out of playdough or practice writing it with chalk or a wipe-off board. Also, if you have your children write letters to family members, make cards, or keep a journal, It is an easy way to practice writing skills without making it such a daunting task.
And, certainly last but not least … READ, READ, READ!!! Make it a habit early on and stick to it!
Share some of your favorite educational toys and games below.
We just got Bananagrams and my children LOVE it! Actually, so do I!
Great ideas. I can vouch for the LeapFrog DVDs. They are fabulous.
I keep Brainquest question decks in my purse and use in the car (while husband is driving of course) or out to dinner. They sell at Costco for $7 and have all levels. I also play Bananagrams with my tutoring students. They love it-great gift!
The 'Learning Journey International' puzzles are FANTASTIC for 3-6 yrs.(also for mom and dad). Our 3 year old loves to do them over and over again. Helps with coordination, dexterity, language, and reading. You can get them through amazon. Highly recommend them!
We just bought Bananagrams for our little one. He's 18 and off to college this Fall. He loves this game, the little nipper.Jeanne