100 Awesome Homeschooling Ideas for Little Kids

When the covid outbreak began and schools across America first shut down, I really felt bad about everything kids were missing out on — like my preschooler’s very first school experience in an environment he loved. But I assumed it would be a brief intermission and expected schools would reopen by May. (Naive little pandemic novice, I was.) Here we are, six months later, already into the new school year, and most of the nation is either remote learning or homeschooling.

My son is now a kindergartener and we’ve decided to homeschool him this year, at least until after we see how 2021 looks. It’s a familiar territory for us, since I made a point of starting early learning with him since he was a baby and homeschooled him for Pre-K 3. The entire idea of homeschooling is something that used to make my brow furrow until I had a child of my own and began practicing it . . . and it’s now something my son and I both love and truly value.

Whether you realize it or not, everything you share with, show, or explain to your kids is their first exposure to learning. As a child and family therapist and a mom, I’ve seen first-hand how influential we parents are to our children’s communication skills, academic habits, and enthusiasm for learning. Whether it’s as informal as singing your baby a song or as intentional as reading first word books with him or her, we are teaching our babies about the world from the first moments we speak to them.
Let me tell you, there is nothing more rewarding than personally teaching your children something and witnessing that moment when they master brand new concepts. To be able to watch the first time my son wrote his name, the first time he identified numbers . . . it’s an amazing feeling I would never want to miss and makes me so proud when I realize I taught him those things!

I’ve learned a secret to homeschooling that has helped demystify it and make it more approachable for both parents and kids: homeschooling lessons don’t always have to be formally organized, Pinterest-perfect projects to be effective.

The activities we do together are not always structured but they all have one common theme: they are based in fun! As Mister Rogers always taught us, children learn through play. Play is their job . . . it’s their way of finding out about the world around them and experiencing every new life skill in their sweet and fun-loving way. Oftentimes, my son just thinks we are playing when he is in fact learning a basic foundation of early childhood education.

When I realized this, it simplified the task of planning our homeschool lessons. I’ve found that I often just need a basic idea to spark my own adaptation of a lesson that:

  1. is appropriate for his age
  2. meets his educational needs
  3. matches his personality and interests

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I’ve put together this list of 100 of my favorite homeschooling activities to spark inspiration for other parents of young children. While we do use textbooks and worksheets, this is a list of fun, creative DIY homeschool activities that kids can do with their parents. It’s a combination of my own ideas, things I’ve done in my youth, and adaptations of ideas I’ve collected in my research. The best thing about this list is that I’ve categorized it by the subjects covered in preschool and kindergarten curriculums, making it easy for you to select activities based on your child’s educational needs. Most of the activities are appropriate for young toddlers through first grade students, but many can be adapted for any specific age.

A few reminders that have helped me homeschool effectively:

  • Remember that play is learning!
  • These ideas and other homeschooling activities are “sparks of inspiration” that you should adapt to your child’s age, learning style, and interests.
  • Remember that kids can learn and retain a lot more and a lot earlier than you think! It doesn’t have to be an advanced lesson about a subject for them to retain the basic information that sets them up for success.
  • Homeschooling lessons don’t only have to be at home! Field trips outdoors provide great science lessons and even trips to the grocery store can teach kids about basic math.
  • Rewards (which don’t have to be monetary) are incentives and make children really feel special.
  • Stock up on supplies like paper, crayons, markers, colored pencils, paints, Play-doh, safety scissors, gluesticks, tape, toothpicks, paper plates, paper cups, and plastic condiment cups. And save things like paper towel rolls!
  • Remember that neither you nor your children need to be Pinterest-perfect! (Louder for the influencers in the back! 😉 )
While the pandemic won’t last forever, the memories of the lessons and experiences we are sharing with our kids will. The days are long but the years are fast. So I’m thankful for these adventures in homeschooling and all the quality time it gives us with our kids!!

ART

1. Playdoh. This classic dough can be purchased or homemade using flour, water, and cream of tartar. It is recommended for ages 2 and up and even grownups love the endless creative possibilities.
2. Color together in coloring book

3. Paper Plush Friends: Draw a character or choose one from a coloring book and cut it out while placing a plain sheet of paper behind it (to double the cutout.) Attach the two cutouts together by taping around the edges until 3/4 of the way closed (so it has a pocket opening.) Stuff the paper pocket with cotton balls and then tape the pocket closed for a puffy 3-D character!

4. Color by number — teaches both color and number recognition.
5. Painting (or finger painting for sensory)
6. Sponge painting for various textures
7. Paint different shapes of pasta and allow to dry; make necklaces out of tube shapes (like ziti) and collages out of various shapes

8. Three crayon challenge — child chooses three markers or crayons while closing his or her eyes and then creates a picture using just those colors…then try mixing the colors to see what they create.

9. Tissue paper art in the style of author Eric Carle

10. Parent draws a few random lines and shapes, kids use their imagination to turn it into a picture

11. Create a rainbow out of fruits and vegetables for a yummy snack

12. Look at pictures of your child’s favorite characters and talk about what foods are the same colors as the character. Shop for or gather up those colorful foods and create character food art together.

13. Learn about the color wheel (primary colors, secondary colors, and tertiary colors) by using food coloring to color hard-boiled eggs at lunch, cooked spaghetti for dinner, or white frosting for cupcake time
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FINE MOTOR SKILLS & SENSORY

14. Cut up old magazines and paste pictures into collages (you can also teach categories of the objects cut out)
15. Cut out characters from old coloring books, mount them on thick poster board or cardboard and cut them out again, then tape or glue toothpicks or popsicle sticks to the back to make character puppets
16. Paper plate animals (lion face, monkey face, etc)
17. Bend pipe cleaners into flowers or creatures
18. Practice peeling a big sheet of stickers and sticking them in patterns or categories
19. Kitchen helpers can peel clementines, bananas, and hard boiled eggs
20. Shape Play-doh and cut it into various sizes using plastic knives
21. String Cheerios and other circular cereal into necklaces (that double as snacks!)
22. Hold a Cheerios tower stacking contest
23. Make grape or blueberry stars by connecting the fruits with toothpicks
24. Puzzles
25. Popsicle puzzle: Gently scotch tape several Popsicle sticks in a row, turn over and use markers to write your child’s name or draw a picture across the sticks. Then remove the tape, separate the sticks, and present the jumbled up puzzle to your child to put together

26. Fingerprint in the kitchen with various textures like tomato paste or frosting

27. Build graham cracker houses with frosting “glue” and edible decorations
28. Uncooked rice bin for scooping and sensory play
29. Shaving cream art
30. Draw bunnies and sheep and glue on cotton balls for fur and tails
31. Practice tracing hands and cutting out shapes. With a little extra artwork, hands can be turned into things like flowers, trees, and birds
32. Blocks and Legos (Duplos/larger blocks are safer for young toddlers)
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SPELLING

33. Celebrate a “letter of the day”
34. Plan meals together around the letter of the day and talk about the different sounds a letter sometimes makes (For example on the “C” day: Cereal, Clementine, Cheese, Crackers, Cucumbers, Chicken)

35. Hidden letters: Use white crayon to draw “invisible” letters and words on white paper. Kids can then use water colors to paint over the secret messages and reveal the letters and words!

36. Alphabet Bingo

37. Form letters out of pretzel sticks

38. Paste objects or pictures from magazines that start with a letter on a piece of paper shaped like that letter (for example, glue feathers on a piece of paper shaped like F)

39. Cut an apple shape out of red construction paper, write child’s name on it (with a little space between the letters,) then cut each letter out so the apple can be put together like a puzzle and spell the child’s name

40. Teach alliteration and assonance with funny tongue twisters
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VOCABULARY / READING

41. Introduce a “Big New Word of the Day” and talk about its definition, then try to use it throughout the day in conversation
42. Make homemade flash cards together
43. Look through old magazines and newspapers, cut out sight words, and paste them into a collage
44. Make rhyming flash cards with only the end sound printed so child can name with words that sound the same
45. Opposites: Print a sheet of opposite clipart (cold/hot, day/night, empty/full, big/little) and have child cut them out and paste them randomly on a piece of paper. Then have the child draw lines from a picture to its opposite.
46. Reading Comprehension: Read a story and ask children to retell it to you, share their favorite parts, and use their imagination to think of an alternate ending
47. Read 2 short stories and ask about the similarities and the differences

48. Circle sight words as you read a book together

49. Book & a Bite: Read a story together followed by a snack related to the story while discussing the book (for example, muffins with If You Give a Moose a Muffin or Goldilocks and the Three Bears with porridge)

50. Read & Create: Read a story together followed by a Craft related to the story (for example The Very Hungry Caterpillar and a paper chain caterpillar or Curious George and a paper plate monkey)

51. Celebrate an “Author of the Month” by learning about him or her, readings favorite books, and making a special project (for example, a Hungry Caterpillar picnic for Eric Carle or a rhyming game for Dr Suess.)

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MATHEMATICS

52. Celebrate a Shape of the Day and search for it everywhere throughout the day, keeping count of how many times you see it
53. Shape Bingo
54. Color by number (Bendon makes great kids’ activity books with a lot of color by number)
55. Counting, sorting, and adding goldfish into numbers or shapes; then practice subtraction by eating them!
56. Sort small objects like pom poms, pasta by shape, small toys by size
57. Sorting cereals/rainbow goldfish by color
58. Set up small objects into patterns / sequences and have child complete the patterns
59. Learn pairs by playing Go Fish
60. Playing cards: play solitaire teaching numerical order, sequence, and patterns
61. Measuring with a ruler and learning about smaller (less than) larger (more than), and the same (equal) crayons, markers, pretzel sticks, forks, q-tips, gluesticks, etc.
62. Practice using a real calculator (with buttons, as opposed to on a touchscreen phone)
63. Practice counting to 100 by one decade each day.

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THE WORLD AROUND US

64. Watch a video of how something is made in a factory and then try crafting the object out of household items
65. Transportation of the Day: all about cars, trucks, trains, boats, planes

66. Sing Days of the Week song and practice writing the name of each day

67. Make a calendar to learn each new month and label holidays, birthday, etc
68. Create a weather pie chart with various weather conditions and a spinner to select the weather each day
69. On a poster board, paste four trees out of paper towel rolls, cotton balls, and paint to illustrate what happens to trees in the 4 seasons

70. Make four seasonal trees in a row and have child paste seasonal clipart beneath each row that corresponds with the correct season.

71. Make a poster board clock with spinner and two cardboard hands to practice telling time
72. Create a collage to explain the 5 Senses
73. Have a blindfolded taste test of various foods with different flavors (sour, salty, sweet)
74. Have a blindfolded touch test with various textures items in a box such as cotton balls, nail file, squishy toys, etc
75. Have a blindfolded smell test
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SOCIAL STUDIES

76. Select a book about each holiday and read it on that day to discuss the history of the holiday

77. Practice writing home info and talk about street, town, county, state and country.

78. Celebrate a “State of the Day” by making a collage about the state’s founding year, flag, state bird, sports teams, population, nature, cuisine, crops, and manufacturing
79. Color the American flag and count the stars and stripes together. Discuss the significance of 13 stripes and what colonies were, and the 50 stars representing the 50 states we have today.

80. Make American flag toast with cream cheese and/or bananas, blueberries, and strawberries/raspberries!

81. Visit the grocery store and take a “produce tour” to learn about where various vegetables and fruits grow. Purchase a few and research their crop when you’re eating them at home!

82. Select a “Country of the Week” and read about its flag, people, famous landmarks, language, and exports. You can read famous books from the country’s author’s too. At the end of the week, celebrate the cuisine by cooking a meal the country is known for. Mini homemade flags taped to toothpicks are great additions!
83. Label and talk about the 7 continents on a printed map of the world

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SCIENCE

84. Nutrition: read a nutrition label together. Then taste test carbs, proteins, and healthy fats and talk about their their vitamins and what each food group does for us

85. Nature scavenger hunt: Have child write (or draw) a list of items before going outside. Collect acorns, leaves, flowers, sticks, etc and check off what you see from your list
86. Use a magnifying glass to study objects from nature like flowers and leaves
87. Pick an Animal of the Day and celebrate it with a craft and a storybook featuring that animal
88. Plant small vegetables to learn about farming or visit a pick your own farm and read about the crops you pick
89. Snip the stems of a four white carnations and place each flower into a glass filled with either blue, red, green, or yellow food-colored water. Wait a few hours until the white petals absorb the water and change the flower’s color!

90. Make a solar system mobile with a hanger a, string, and several painted styrofoam balls.

91. Learn about reflections and how rainbows form by making one with a glass of water placed in direct sunlight and a piece of white paper placed where the sunlight hits. The sun hitting the water should reflect a rainbow on the paper. A flashlight may help this along
92. Learn about the phases of the moon by nibbling your way through yummy Oreos!

93. Blow up a balloon with a bottle by putting vinegar in the bottle, baking soda in the balloon, and attaching the balloon to the mouth of the bottle to watch it expand!

MUSIC & PERFORMING ARTS

94. Read a book aloud together like a play, complete with a narrator and actors
95. Act out a scene from favorite movie
96. Imaginative pretend play acting out a trip your little traveler would like to take
97. Create homemade puppets and put on a show

98. Make music with glasses filled with various amounts of water

99. Make instruments out of rice-filled water bottles, bounty tube horns, a rubber band box guitar, and plastic container drums
100. Learn about composers and listen to classical music while trying to detect which instruments are being used to make the music🎼

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