Looking to be inspired with some fresh new creative play ideas? Look no further than the lovely Michelle from @createlaughlearn. Her feed is overflowing with awesome ways to engage your kids in play based learning activities, and best of all they are activities which can be easily followed. Michelle has kindly put together her favorite five play based learning activities that she does with her sweet little 3 year old. Enjoy and be sure to visit her blog too!
As a former early education teacher turned stay at home Mom, I am a big advocate of hands on play-based learning. I love seeing kids actively involved in exploring, creating, and discovering the world around them, while having fun. Children can learn so much when you allow them to freely explore different materials. I see the positive results of play-based learning on a daily basis when I see how much my three-year-old has learned while playing. You may think play based learning is just for a certain age, but my daughter has been enjoying it since she could sit up by herself, and her older cousins often enjoy our activities when they come over for a visit. There is no age limit on having fun!
Most of our play-based learning revolves around art, science, and sensory activities. Learning numbers, shapes, letters etc. becomes so much more fun when your child is engaged and happy! Here are our top five favorite play-based learning activities.
1. Sensory Soup
Sensory activities are a great way to explore a wide variety of materials, and my personal favorite way to teach my daughter fine motor skills without her knowing it! We first got started on sensory bins when my daughter was a young toddler who had no idea how to use a spoon. Now she has scooped, stirred, and poured her way through dozens of different sensory activities. Our current favorite is sensory soup!
Large shallow bucket
Large mixing bowl
Small plastic cups
Various kitchen utensils (ladle, strainer, measuring cups, salad tongs, baster)
Optional- sequins, glitter, colored pebbles, pom-pom balls, gold plastic coins. Any objects around your house that you think would make fun soup ingredients
Optional- dandelions, rocks, or any other random pieces of nature your child wants to throw into the soup
Here are a few pictures of our St. Patrick’s Day soup:
Our Easter soup was another favorite:
I think we will try alphabet soup using magnetic letters next!
2. Making Potions
Does your child love science experiments? I know mine does! Your child doesn’t have to be old enough to understand the exact science behind each experiment in order to learn from it. Merely exposing them to science and giving them a curiosity for experimenting is all it takes to create a life long thirst for knowledge.
Our Favorite Potion Making Materials-
A medium sized mixing bowl
A large wooden spoon for stirring
Salt shakers filled with glitter, or colored salt
Condiment squeeze bottles filled with colorful vinegar
Sequins of various shapes, sizes, and colors
Small cups for holding large amounts of vinegar and baking soda
Crushed up conversation hearts for Valentine’s Day love potions
You can raid your kitchen and craft supplies with your kids to come up with an endless list of ingredients to add to your potions!
If you ask my daughter what her favorite science experiment is, she’d probably start telling you all about the potions she creates with baking soda and vinegar. The fizzy reaction of good old baking soda and vinegar puts a smile on both of our faces every single time. For potion making you can keep it simple and use just baking soda and vinegar, or you can give your child a wide variety of tools, and supplies to make them feel like a 'mad scientist'. Just make sure you put a container and a table cloth under your bowl, because half the fun is watching your potion overflow again, and again!
3. Frozen Paint
Exploring different art materials and techniques is another way for children to learn while they play. Art exploration teaches kids about color and texture, expands their vocabulary, and teaches them how to think creatively. Last but not least, think about all the fine motor skills they are learning as they grip various drawing and painting tools.
One of our favorite art activities is painting with frozen paint. This messy process art quickly becomes a sensory experience, and since the paint starts out as a liquid, gets frozen into a solid, and then melts as your child paints, there is also science involved!
• Tempera paint, or liquid watercolors
• Silicone molds, ice molds, or mini paper cups
• A freezer
• Optional- craft sticks and aluminum foil
To make frozen paint popsicles, just squirt tempera paint, or liquid watercolors into a mold of your choosing, and place them in the freezer overnight. We prefer silicone molds, but regular ice trays work as well. Some people even use small paper cups that can be peeled away after the paint has frozen. If you’d like to add handles to your paint popsicles, you can wrap your molds in aluminum foil, and pop a craft stick into each hole.
This art activity can get really messy, so I recommend you take it outside! We like to lay out long strips of paper so my daughter has plenty of room to enjoy all the colors blending together as she covers the paper in melting paint. I love that this activity is so easy to prepare, and there is no way to do it wrong.
4. Mixed Media Art Collages
Another great way to explore art is to let children create mixed media art collages. If you are like a kid in a candy store when it comes to shopping at craft stores, then you can imagine how any child would feel when given a variety of craft materials to create with. Making collages gives children free rein on exploring art materials and textures.
Recently we searched our craft supplies for any random purple materials we could find, and then we used them to make art collage shadow boxes.
It was fun to watch the wheels turning in my three-year-old’s head as she thought about what material to use next. You can find the easy how-to instructions for this activity over on the Art Bar blog.
5. Color Absorbing Cotton
This last activity combines both art and science. You can even throw in a little math if you cut the cotton rounds into different shapes. My daughter’s favorite part of this activity is squeezing colored water onto the cotton to see just how much liquid each piece can absorb. My favorite part is how the cotton changes each time you squeeze a new color on top.
Cotton rounds (cotton face pads), or cotton balls
Cake pan, or similar wide, shallow container
Liquid watercolor, or food coloring
Plastic pipettes (eye droppers)
Optional- paper for making prints
This activity is easy to set up and engaging for kids of all ages. Okay, I’m not going to lie, I am way past the age of three, and I may have talked my daughter into letting me participate in this activity a time or two!
Place cotton rounds into a cake pan making sure the edges don’t touch, (unless you want your colors to transfer from one cotton round to the next.) If you use cotton balls, don’t worry about keeping them separated, just throw the whole bag into your container and pat them down. Then get your colored water ready. You can use liquid watercolors and plastic pipettes, or liquid food coloring for this activity. To make activities like this easier, I like to place our liquid watercolors into plastic ice pop molds. This makes for easier set up, easier clean up, and it’s a lot easier for young children to use without spilling.
Once your child is done squeezing colored water onto the cotton, it’s time to surprise your child with an easy print making activity. All you need to do is place a piece of paper on top of the colored cotton, rub your hand quickly over the top, and carefully lift it up to reveal beautiful watercolor prints! We’ve also experimented with using paper towels instead of paper.
If you would like to make this activity extra special, you could cut the cotton rounds into fun shapes. For Valentine’s Day, we cut our cotton rounds into heart shapes, and we had beautiful heart shaped prints to use for our cards.
Are you ready to break out some household items and start playing? Just writing this article makes me want to do these activities again. I’m pretty sure alphabet sensory soup is calling my name right now! These activities are our top five, but there are so many more ideas to explore. When your child is busy learning and exploring, you can naturally introduce any topic you can dream up into their everyday play. Once you and your child become more familiar with activities like this, you will see that the ideas, and learning opportunities, are endless. Chances are you have plenty of play-based learning supplies laying around your house right now, so go have some fun!
We are dying to try out the frozen paint activity with our kiddos! Which one will you try first? Thanks Michelle for so many fantastic activity ideas!
Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.
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