A child’s education stretches far beyond a classroom; it extends into the environments where she lives and plays. These activities, designed for children ages 4 and up, are fun ways to develop your child’s artistic learning and encourage her to think in a more challenging and creative manner.
1. Aspire to Be an Architect
Help your kid discover a talent for architectural design! Visit your favorite playground and evaluate what your child loves most about it. What equipment does he enjoy the most? Can he think of a new type of slide? What could make the playground more interesting? Use these visits and conversations to inspire him to design an original jungle gym or swing set. Start with graph paper and have him illustrate diagrams and plans with specific placement of each piece of equipment. Then create a visual representation using straws, cardboard, toilet paper, and paper towel rolls.
2. Invent a Superhero Identity
Every child wants to have super powers, so challenge yours to create her own superhero persona. In You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, author Rahima Baldwin Dancy states, “Children .. love to transform themselves into characters who can act out roles in imaginative play.” Ask your child what super powers she would like to have and what superhero name she would choose. Then draw a superhero logo and use old sheets and scraps of material to create an outfit (and potential Halloween costume).
3. Fill Up on the Funnies
Explore the comics section of the local newspaper with your child and discover what makes him laugh. Use his response to create an original comic strip, complete with characters and illustrations. Create a storyboard and have him fill in each box by drawing a scene with a speech bubble. Come up with a name for the comic strip and each of the characters. “When children realize that writing is a medium for communicating their ideas and stories, the possibilities for expression become limitless” says Mariah Bruel in Playful Learning. Discover your child’s talent for writing or drawing comic situations through this activity
4. Form a Family Book Club
Gather other families from the neighborhood or school and take turns choosing age-appropriate books each month and writing a list of questions for discussion about the characters, plots, themes, and settings. Make the meetings a fun potluck dinner with foods that relate to the story — your children can take part in the cooking and help brainstorm appropriate foods. For example, if you’re reading James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl, each participant can create a dish incorporating peaches, like peach pie or salsa.
5. Send a Flat Stanley
With the popular Flat Stanley book series as inspiration, have your child write letters to friends and family around the world. Ask them to take and send back photos of Flat Stanley next to famous landmarks, along with stories of Flat Stanley’s exciting adventures. As you receive responses, locate on a map the places Flat Stanley has visited and mark them with pushpins. “Regularly engaging with and keeping track of information on a world map will develop your child’s understanding of places around the world on a deeper level,” Bruel says.
6. Plan a Political Platform
Your kids are too young to vote, but you can teach them how political campaigns work by holding your own election. Suggest two child-friendly opposing topics (i.e. Candy Land vs. Monopoly, cats vs. dogs, ice cream vs. Popsicles) and have two children choose which topic each would like to represent. Talk about the debates that happen during a campaign and create posters, slogans, and arguments to illustrate why one choice is better than the other one. Then hold a campaign period at home for a week or two, and work on formulating arguments. Set aside a day to have a real debate and have friends or family members as the audience.
7. Launch a Family Blog
Design a private family wiki page or blog with updated photos and videos from trips, holidays, and special events. This is a great way to stay connected while enhancing everyone’s computer skills. With adult supervision, each child can add personal (but not too personal) information to the page — new hobbies, latest accomplishments, goals for the year — and share the page with family members across the country. You may discover hidden talents and interests — perhaps one of your children likes to document family adventures through photos and another likes to work on page design.
8. Keep the Camera Rolling
Bring Hollywood right to your living room by putting together a television show (a comedy sketch or a sports program). Together, create a name, outline a basic concept, and write dialogue for a segment or episode. Or assign specific roles to each family member: script writer, director, producer, camera operator, actor, and so forth. Then use a video camera to film scenes from the script. Feel free to shoot retakes or to alter the script to make words and scenes come to life. You can even create a music video with original lyrics and costumes, or recreate a famous music video with your own family twist. For the next family movie night, set aside time to screen the finished product (complete with outtakes!).
9. Explore Other Galaxies
The mystery of the universe provides an awesome space for imagination to grow. Foster it by visiting a planetarium and then encouraging your child to create a planet or galaxy of his own. Invent the planet’s name, characteristics (like rings, red earth, moons), and placement in comparison to other planets. Or create a papier-m?ch? version of the planet. According to Baldwin Dancy, “actually making something is so much more satisfying for children than cutting out shapes or fitting pegs into holes.” Take it a step further by splattering white paint on black paper to create new constellations and then suspend the planet against the starry background. Reward your kid for the hard work by making ice
10. Learn a Second Language
Speaking a second or third language is a wonderful skill, so start the process by posting a words or phrases in another language in your home. Connect the words to a milestone or event in your child’s lives. For example, mark the start of a school year with the word “school” or the phrase “I love school” in another language. Each week, practice using a different word or phrase in the car, at the dinner table, or on the way to soccer practice. Introducing one new language at a time will help your child gain a deeper understanding of the patterns and sounds of various dialects. You can also check with your child’s schoolteacher to see which language, if any, is being taught and then integrate that language at home. As your child learns new words, keep track of them by adding them to a bulletin board, poster, or scrapbook. For additional resources and reinforcement, parents can download mobile apps by MindSnacks, such as Learn Spanish, Learn French, or Learn Chinese.
11. Celebrate Moments Every Day
There is something to celebrate every day. Research each month’s holidays, observances, and awareness weeks and have your child think of fun and creative ways to honor the occasions. For instance, May 1 to 7 is National Summer Safety Week, so brainstorm a list of ways to ensure a safe summer. August 10 is National S’mores Day, so make s’mores bars over the grill. In honor of Good Nutrition Month, November, involve your children in planning healthy meals and compile the delicious recipes in a family cookbook. Inspire your children to think about original and interesting ways to look forward to days and seasons.