Educational Household Items
So for Christmas you bought your little dude or dudette (but really yourself) a bunch of badass toys, like the NES Classic, or took our advice on buying used toys. However, you’re now realizing you blew your load (of cash) on fun-and-exciting and were probably thinking less about the educational-and-beneficial because that seemed like a lame Christmas theme. educational household items
Well you’re in luck! Here at Daddy Mind Tricks we pride ourselves at fooling our mini-me’s into thinking that what is boring and stuffy is actually thrilling and adventurous (I mean, we already fooled our spouses into thinking that about us, how hard is a child?). Besides everything always being a teachable opportunity (reading, cooking, exercising, hygiene, etc) here are nine easy ways to make common household items into educational tools. Enjoy!
1. Board Games
Board games are not only a great way to spend quality time, making memories together, as a family but it can also be a great educational tool for kids. Depending on the age of the child can really depend on what the child gets out of it. However, it’s never too early, and you can never get enough, good information flowing so have at it and you’ll see the opportunity to teach the following qualities:
- Sportsmanship (good winner vs. sore loser)
- Listening skills
- Following directions
- Memory strengthening
- Money management
- Numbers (dice, amount of moves, collecting items, etc)
- Colors (Candy Land uses colors instead of dice)
- Letters and Numbers (Battleship)
There are also other ways to use board games besides just playing them the way they’re intended. Here are a few examples of what I mean…but remember to be creative and feel comfortable coming up with your own ideas with what you have handy.
You don’t have to play the game but you can use the pieces and parts independently. Depending on the age depends on what you use it for.
Older kids you can use the properties to discuss costs, houses/hotels, and mortgages.
Younger kids can learn math using the money.
Use the Candy Land cards to play a listening game. The way the cards are typically used is they have colored squares on them and each card has either one or two of those colored squares, designating how many colored spaces to go.
However, instead, draw a card, with only you seeing it, tell your child how many squares of a particular color there are so that your child then has to add correlating blocks using that specific amount and color to build a structure. You keep doing that until the structure falls, gets too big, or you run out of blocks.
Oh, and the special candy and sweets cards means they have to remove a block or two from the structure.
Don’t go buying a clock that is made solely for child education purposes. Those types are typically more expensive and a lot of the time (pun intended) the hands are either too close in size or unrealistically has too much disparity in size of that of real clocks making it defeat the purpose altogether.
So use a real clock from around the house or buy a cheap one like this from IKEA where you can change out the background with whatever colors, shapes, numbers, you want and it has a second hand, unlike most toy clocks, this way you can teach them real life concepts and not toddler fantasy life situations (but I’ll go into that at a later date).
3. Wheel of Fortune
No joke, my son started learning his letters from Wheel of Fortune as young as 18 months old. Thank goodness, though, he didn’t try solving this puzzle above.
4. Food Pantry
Kids love to play grocery shopping but not everyone has plastic toy food to play with or the money to pay for those particular toys. Instead entertain your kids by using real items in your pantry but here are the proper steps:
- Keep boxes and cans (that do not have sharp pieces) after you are done using them instead of throwing them away or recycling them.
- Wash out the cans and make sure boxes are free of debris.
- Fill the boxes and cans with paper or plastic bags that you planned on recycling or throwing in the trash anyways.
- Cover the item in clear packing tape so that they last longer and can be wiped down after uses.
Pay close attention to the sturdiness and integrity of the food items as you should get a good couple of weeks out of them.
5. Junk Mail
We need to remember that encouraging and developing the skills required to pretend, use an imagination, and/or feel comfortable being creative is crucial because if it isn’t innate in your child (like it is in some) then the younger the better to make these skills become a little more natural. And believe it or not, junk mail makes for an easy first step at using one’s imagination.
Young kids love it when they receive mail so let them have the junk mail so they feel like they’re receiving mail for themselves.
You can make this an educational opportunity by asking, “Who is it from?”, “Is it a bill?”, “How much is the bill?”, “Did grandma say anything in particular?” and let them use their imaginations to answer. There are no right or wrong answers so let them say whatever comes to mind.
If they don’t seem to use their imagination at first then this is an even more perfect exercise for them as they could use some lessons on pretending,
Coax them for the first while by asking questions that are actually answers. For example, “It looks like this letter is from grandma, huh? How is she doing? Did she say how her weekend was?” and get answers from them. The more they do this everyday the more they will mimic and then start to make up their own stories that they’ll want to share with you.
6. Obstacle Course
Kids are always going to get plenty of exercise with all the running around and play that comes naturally to them. However, we should also be encouraging structured physical education to help with fine motor skills as well as improving their listening ability.
Use common household items to build a small obstacle course and show them how to do run through it first.
Test out their listening skills as well as their physical awareness but letting them run through it without any of your help.
Here are some common yet very effective items that could be used to build your obstacle course:
- Toy balls
- Anti-burst fitness stability balls
- Yoga balance trainers
- Laundry baskets
- Swimming noodles
- Paper plates and cups
7. Musical Instruments
Most kids have an innate general interest in making noise of sorts so attempting to do so in the name of music comes naturally. However, the first thing we need to talk about is doing so safely.
Most people think that it’s a good idea to let their toddlers knock on pots and pans as drums. Unfortunately, as a past baby-proofing professional, I learned that children who used household items, like pots and pans, as toys would view those specific items only as toys going forward, even when they were on the stovetop being used to cook hot food.
Please make sure you are using items that, if your kids came across them in their normal, everyday, state they would not necessarily be deemed dangerous.
Some great homemade instruments ideas shared by redtri.com are:
- PVC Pipe Flutes
- Plastic Easter eggs as maracas
- Kazoo with a paper towel roll
- Shoebox guitar
- Paper Harmonicas
- And more, so go check them out!!
8. Scavenger or Treasure Hunt
Put together a scavenger hunt using only things found around the house or instead take one favorite item, hide it, and give them a list of hints on where it could be by whittling it down to the specific place.
Not only does this help with listening skills and creative thinking but it can help with map reading skills if you draw up a map first for them to use with it.
I typically just let my three year old son play with Play-Doh in what could be referred to as “freestyle mode”. This is where he gets to create whatever he wants, whenever he wants. However, if you once and a while use that same Play-Doh as an educational tool it will not only assist in keeping their attention but it will inspire them to look at other toys as educational opportunities.
Here are some fun activities:
- Printable Number Play Dough Mats
- Sight Word Play Dough
- Build Fine Motor Skills
- Learning About Shapes
Have any common, household items that you use to educate your children? Share them in the comments below and let us know what does or doesn’t work so well for you.