Educational Activities for Young Explorers: Places, Activities, and Toys for Active Minds
Does it seem like every time you turn around your home has been taken apart by your little explorer? Don’t despair. It may simply result from an extraordinary desire to learn. Who knows, your child just may be a future scientist, inventor, or leader in the making.
When your child needs to occupy her creative energy, have her try some of these fun, educational activities.
Put together a book of facts on a favorite interest such as dinosaurs, insects, rock bands, sports, or astronomy. Clip pictures and descriptions from magazines and Internet printouts. Then trace drawings from books, and write about personal experiences with the topic.
Make up a scavenger hunt. Parents, make a list of easy to find items for your small children. Give older kids a greater challenge with a list of puzzles to solve in order to determine what items to find. Kids can also create their own scavenger hunt for family or friends to try.
Play restaurant. Have your child make up a restaurant menu with several simple dishes he can prepare. At dinnertime, he can seat the family, take orders, then prepare and serve the dishes. (Suggestion: Bring along some reading while you wait).
Recycling fun. Start a discard collection and teach your kids the importance of recycling and reusing disposable items. Then get their creative juices flowing. Save zippers and buttons from old clothing, plastic containers, fabric strips, packing materials, small scraps of wood, carpet and wallpaper scraps, and more. Then supply your kids with scissors, tape, and glue, and let them go to work. Offer ideas to get your kids started then let them come up with their own creations.
Make a United States puzzle. Purchase several colors of clay and a United States map. Clip each state from the map, place a state clipping over the rolled out clay, and trace the shape into the clay with a toothpick. Cut out the shapes then write the name of the state with a pencil tip. Be sure to use a different color of clay for each neighboring state, and then let the shapes dry or bake according to instructions.
Play Thomas Edison. Save oldkitchen appliances, computers, DVD players, and other electronics. Give your child a supply of tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, and safety glasses, and let him go to work. Kids love this type of exploration and learn by taking apart and examining the inner workings of electronics. As a word of caution, cut the electrical cord before your child begins to prevent any mishaps. And supervise for sharp parts or mechanisms that could pinch fingers.
Create a video. Have your children make up several humorous television commercials using household items for props and by dressing-up for the part.
After they’ve rehearsed their skits, set up a video camera, and tape their production.
TOYS THAT TEACH
Keep kids entertained with these educational toys that won’t quickly lose their appeal.
Try K’nex, which puts a new twist on building blocks. With K’nex, there are endless possibilities to what a child can create, from dinosaurs and airplanes to roller coasters, space shuttles, and motorized cars. K’nex are found in educational toy stores.
Go on a dig. Archaeology excavation kits are found in many educational toy stores or online. Children can dig for ancient treasures from replicas of dinosaur fossils to Egyptian reliefs. Kids also learn about the history behind the excavated items through stories included with the kits. Once kids’ interest has been sparked, parents can print out additional articles from encyclopedias or the Internet.
Scientific Explorer kits have won several awards. These kits offer a variety of educational activities, experiments, and worksheets. They are available in the following themes: Ancient Greece: The Dawn of Modern Science, Galileo: Renaissance Astronomer and Physicist, Charles Darwin: The Life of a Naturalist; and many others. Look for these kits in gift shops at science museums and in other educational toyshops.
EXPLORATION ON THE GO
Are you looking for some new and exciting places to take your kids? Try some of these spots.
Art museums offer a variety of activities to spark your kids’ interest. Many offer art and craft workshops, traveling exhibits, book signings by children’s illustrators, and even musical performances and other arts.
Head to a natural history museum where kids can discover the past from dinosaur displays and stuffed-animal exhibits to geology collections, ancient mummies, and astronomy. Also, ask what kind of workshops and educational programs are available for kids and any special events that are coming up.
Youtheatre. Look for one in your region offering plays for child and family audiences. Pre-show “playshops” conducted by area artists and educators where kids can explore the performing arts from puppet making to stage make-up are just a couple of the special offerings you might find. Ask about summer arts programs and more.
Hands-on science. Visit one of the many hands-on science museums around the country. These science playlands are great fun for kids and adults alike. They’ll keep your child mentally and physically active the whole day through while pushing buttons, winding cranks, playing instruments, experimenting, and building. When everyone is exhausted, enjoy a fun, family science show, the observatory, an IMAX movie, or simulator rides, all commonly found in these museums.
Kimberly Blaker is a realtor and an author and freelance writer.