Summer is here! Blink and it’s gone. Here are 8 simple, fun ways to reinforce reading and math at home so your kids aren’t behind when school starts.
By Will and Erin Odom
Before you know it, the summer will be over and school will be gearing up again. Sad, I know. The stores already have school supplies out and have for some time.
What can we, as parents, do to get our kids ready to go back to school?
To be honest, in our house, summer is just that…summer! It’s a break. We don’t do a lot of academic work during the summer.
However, it’s always a good idea to reinforce some of things they learned the previous year as we look forward to the upcoming one.
Many parents often forego this because, on top of everything else we are doing, it can be overwhelming to come up with activities that focus on reading, writing, and math.
To help remedy that, here are a few simple yet creative ways you can practice reading, writing, and math with your kids…using items that may already have around the house.
1. Circle the Word, Sound, Number
Grab a sheet a paper. It could be a regular sheet or a larger sheet. I like using poster size because it just seems to make it more fun.
Write on the paper sight words, blend words, math problems, or whatever else your child needs to practice. Call out the word or sound and have them circle it. For math, they can do the problems, or you can call out an answer to a problem, and they must find the matching problem.
You can make it more fun by using Mr. Sketch Scented Markers; even something as simple as adding a smell good marker can make it more fun. They can choose a different scent for each word or problem.
You can differentiate this for whatever level. For young preschoolers, you can just use the alphabet or letters. With older children, you can use harder words or math problems.
For competitive children, add a “beat the clock” component to see how many they can get in a certain time frame.
2. Sidewalk Balloon Bombs
Kids love anything involving water; this one is sure to please.
Grab the sidewalk chalk and head out to the driveway or sidewalk.
Again, write sight words, math problems, etc. on the sidewalk using the chalk. An extra step would be having the child write the words for practice. Be sure to leave plenty of space between the words.
Fill your water balloons. Any water balloon will do, but I suggest the Bunch O Balloons because they are easy to fill and are biodegradable, and the plastic can be recycled.
Now for the fun part! Call our the word, letter, problem, etc. and your child needs to grab a balloon and toss it at the correct answer.
If you don’t have water balloons on hand, then just have them use the hose to squirt the right answer. Just be careful that they don’t wash away the other words.
3. Fidget Spinner Roulette
Mark one arm of the fidget spinner, or cut the corner off a piece of paper and tape it to one arm to make an arrow (see photo). On one dry erase board or piece of paper, write blends, numbers, letters, etc. around the edge. Place the fidget spinner in the middle of the board.
Give the other board or paper to your child and allow them to choose a marker color.
Spin the fidget spinner (not too hard or it will take forever to stop…ask me how I know), and when it stops, have your child write down words that contain that blend or start with that letter, etc.
If they are practicing math, you can write numbers around the edge, and the student has to write any number combinations that equal that number. i.e. if it stops on 8, your child could write 5+3 or 6+2 or 9-1.
4. Trashket Ball
Who doesn’t love throwing paper at the trash can?
Take a few pieces of paper and cut them in half, and on each half write a word, problem, etc. Stack them all back up in a pile and put them face down on the table.
Place the garbage can a few feet away. On the floor mark two spots: one closer to the garbage can and one a little farther away.
Have you child select on one of the papers from the stack. If they get it right, then ball up the paper and take a shot into the garbage can from one of the two lines. Depending on which line they choose determines the number of points they get. Once they reach a certain number of points, they can get a price of your choosing.
A variation of this would be to have 3 or 4 baskets with each one being labeled a word family (-at, -all, etc.) or mathematical group (addition, subtraction, etc.). The child has to answer the question and throw it into the appropriate category.
5. Beach Ball Bounce
Blow up the beach ball,and grab your Sharpie. Cover the ball by writing numbers, letters, blends, words, etc. If you are using numbers, be sure to repeat a few of them. Don’t make the writing too small.
Throw the ball to your child. Wherever there hands land on the ball, they need to say those sight words or solve the math problem. Have them throw it back to you, and you answer the same way. Keep throwing it back and forth.
6. The Flyswatter Game
This game is sure to be a hit (Get it? A hit…oh never mind)
Take a your notecards and wrote the words or problems on the cards. Place them all face up spread out across the table.
Give the flyswatter to your child. Call out the sight word, and your child will slap the correct answer with the flyswatter. You can choose to remove the card or leave it for further practice.
You could also call out a blend, and the child must slap a word with that blend. I.e. you call out “sh” so the child slaps “shut.”
If you are practicing math, you can call out the problem, and the child must slap the answer.
For a little more challenge, you can call out the answer to the problem, and your child must slap the number combination that would give that answer. I.e. If you said 8, you child could slap 6+2, etc.
You can differentiate this for younger preschoolers as well and just the alphabet for them to slap.
Adding a time component always makes things more interesting as well.
7. Brick Builders
Ok, so you may not have these around the house if you kids are little older, but you an usually easily find these at consignment stores or sales.
Take the Megabloks and write letters, words, blends, numbers, etc on them. Try to be strategic which ones you choose so that you maximize the bricks that you have.
Depending on your focus, your child can build words, mathematical problems, sentences, etc. with the blocks. Tear them down and start again with new words or problems.
8. Easter Egg puzzle
Do you still have any of those Easter Eggs lying around stuck up in the closer somewhere? Well, let’s put them to good use.
This is easier to do with the slightly larger eggs, but the regular sized ones will work as well. There are several variations of this that could work.
On the smaller half of the egg, write your blend or beginning letter only once. On the larger half of the egg, write the second part of the word that will match the blend or beginning letter. I.e. on the smaller half write “cl” and then on the bigger half you can write “ick” or “ock” or “ack” or “own” all around the edge
The child moves the larger half of the egg around until he/she can read all of the blend words with no problem.
Another variation is just the opposite. On the smaller half write the begging letters of a word family. On the bigger half write the end of that word family. I.e. on the smaller half write b, f, h, c, m and then on the bigger half just write -at.
The child moves the larger half around to match “-at” to the letters and form words in that rhyming family. You can do this for all the word families your preschooler will be studying.
For math, you can write numbers around the smaller half and then write a math symbol (+, -, x, ÷ depending on their level) and another number. I.e. on the smaller half you write 6, 8, 2, 3, 9 and then on the bigger half you write +4, -1, x2, etc.
As the child turns the halves of the egg, they must answer the problem that is the presented to them by the number combination.
Bonus: Cup Stacking
The stacking cup game is pretty popular right now (our oldest was playing it with these cups), so use that to your advantage.
Take the cups and write blends, letters, or numbers on them. I.e. I could write “sw” on one cup, “cl” on another, “tr” on another, etc. On the other cups, you could write letters a, i, m, p, or ending blends like “ck.”
Stack the cups up and have the child unstack them. As the unstack the letters, they can create words, and then create new ones by stack other cups over them.
You could do this with word families and stack a new beginning letter to change word within that family or middle and end letters to change the word family.
You can also do this with math. Write numbers or match symbols on the cups and just stack up the numbers to get different problems that must be solved.