1 /// Buy a bag of clothespins, some white glue, and gather paint sample swatches from the store (I found ours at WalMart). You need two of each color strip for this project. Glue a clothespin onto the wrong side of each color square for half the strips and trim so just a bit of the color stays on the pin. Have your child try to match the right clothespin to that shade on the remaining strips.
2 /// For little learners who are discovering math – buy a bag of straws, a stack of disposable plastic cups, and some round label stickers. Label ten cups 1-10 and ask your child to put the corresponding number of straws into each cup.
3 /// Buy a large bag of plastic Easter eggs (’tis the season!) and use a Sharpie to write capital and lower case letters on each side of each egg. Split the eggs and ask your child to match the halves up. The colors make it easier for little kids to match, so be sure to keep confusing letters like “p”, “d”, and “b” on different colored eggs to help your learner out. Older kids can do this with baby animal/adult animal names, state capitals, or math problems/solutions.
4 /// Buy a bag of mixed buttons, a plastic ice cube tray (or pill box), and a pair of small tongs. Sort by color, one button at a time.
5 /// Buy a set of ABC flashcards, an aluminum pie tin, and some cornmeal. Put a shallow layer of cornmeal in the pie tin and have your child use his/her finger to trace the letters on the flashcards. You can also have them use an unsharpened pencil or a marker with the cap on if you want them to get used to traditional writing.
6 /// Buy a set of hair elastics and a large bottle of water. Have them put all of the elastics on the bottle. As a challenge, buy elastics in two or more colors and ask them to make a pattern as they put them on. (One white, one black, one white, etc.)
7 /// Buy a sponge and cut it into half and then cut one half again so you have a half and two quarters. Put warm water into a glass and ask them to transfer it to another glass using only the sponges. Let them figure out which sponge works faster. You can also sub in measuring spoons, an eyedropper, a medicine dropper, and a small rag if you want to keep it interesting.
8 /// Buy a set of kid paints but don’t open them. Look in the office supply section for label stickers that match the colors of the paints (you can usually find stars, circles, and square labels in primary colors). Give your child a sheet of each shape and the corresponding jars of paint and ask them to stick the stickers to the jars that match the color. This is a double challenge – you’re asking them to match colors and you’re also asking them to master the task of removing a sticky thing from a flat sheet so they can stick it on something that isn’t flat. If little kids are having a hard time, remove the excess borders on each sticker sheet to make it easier and, if you need to, switch to pieces of colored paper. The jars keep them occupied for a lot longer, though!
9 /// Buy a cheap toothbrush and a bar of soap. Set them up in your bathroom or kitchen with a bowl of warm water, a clean washcloth, and some plastic toys. Show them how they can use the water and soap to clean the toys with the brush and then wipe the soapy water away with the washcloth. Scrub away!
10 /// This one is only for the brave or those who have great vacuums: buy some chunky glitter and a lint roller. Dump the glitter onto a flat hard surface, like a table, linoleum, or hardwood floors. Ask them to pick it up using the lint roller. (Be sure to show them how to remove a layer that isn’t sticky anymore!). Fair warning: even kids who are great at this will end up glittery head-to-toe so if you don’t want your house to sparkle, this one isn’t for you. However, if you don’t mind a little shimmer your kid will be delighted whenever they discover glitter for the next five days.