Learning and retention are almost always enhanced with hands-on activities that engage the body and mind. I prefer using open-ended, versatile, and easily-adaptable. Try some – or all – of these 13 hands-on activities to enhance any study.
1. Build a map. Creating a 3-D map is an excellent tool for better understanding and visualizing history and geography. Doing so helps you understanding things like why Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt look like they’re in the wrong spots on a flat map. Over the years, we’ve done everything from salt dough maps to paper mâchè maps to cookie maps.
2. Make costumes. Kids love costumes, simple or elaborate. I’m not a seamstress, so our costumes always tended to be super-simply DIY affairs or store-bought. If you sew, use costume-creation to cover basic math skills as you measure, figure out how much material you’ll need, and cut. Plus don’t forget to count this as home ec time.
3. Do a puppet show or play. From writing the script to building the set, kids can practice many different skills as they prepare a play. Then, they can reinforce what they’ve learned about scientists, inventors, historical figures and more as they act out scenes from the lives of the people they’re studying.
4. Create presentation. Your kids can review and showcase what they’re learning with an oral presentation or try their hand at Power Point, a slide show, or photo journaling.
5. Make a paper mâchè model. These are great for science and history studies. You can build a model of the earth – or even the whole solar system. Way back when, we used paper mâchè to make a model of Leaning Tower of Pisa when we studied Italy. I remember my cousin making a model of the Liberty Bell when he was a kid. There are so many creative possibilities!
6. Have a themed dinner. A themed dinner is easily applicable to history or geography studies, but, with some creativity, it could apply to science, math and more.
7. Do a “paper bag” book report. These are so much fun! You simply place into a paper bag items that are representative of some aspect of the book (or a person’s life, a time in history, or an invention). Then, you pull out the items, one by one, using them to present the report orally.
8. Make a lapbook or notebook. Lapbooks are a very popular method of showcasing concepts kids are learning. If, like mine, your kids aren’t fans of lapooking, try a story notebook or notebooking instead.
9. Build a diorama or other model. Dioramas are really fun for doing studies of different biomes, but can be adapted for many different purposes. In addition to dioramas, we’ve done models of all kinds of things such as: Earth’s layers, Roman roads, and cells.
10. Create a collage, painting or sculpture. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just choose something that represents some aspect of your topic. For example, a collage of various types of animals if you’re studying mammals, or a painting of sea creatures if you’re studying marine biology.
11. Build a time machine. Visit an appliance store and see if they’ll give you a large box. Then, go home and get creative building your time machine. Once it’s complete, you and the kids can climb in and travel back in time as you read about people, places and events in history. Of course, building a castle is a lot of fun, too! Our library made a really elaborate castle one year with multiple boxes.
12. Play games. I love to play games for review. Bingo, matching, memory, or fishing are easily adaptable for almost any topic. For fishing, we made rods by tying a magnet to a dowel rod with a piece of twine. Then, we put paper clips on our “fish.” Just use construction paper or index cards to make the fish – and don’t stress; they don’t have to be fish-shaped if you’re not the crafty type. You can also use your imagination, a pack of index cards, and the board from most board games to create your own homemade learning games.
13. Take a field trip. We’ve done everything from caves (for geology) to a replica of one of Columbus’ ships (history) to an emergency room (health and safety). We’ve even done an official (as opposed to a homeschool stereotype) field trip to a grocery store. Try some simple, stress-free homeschool field trip planning tips or pick up some field trip ideas for middle school and high school students.
What are some generic activities that you and your kids enjoy, which could be adapted to many different fields of study?
updated from an article originally published October 23, 2008
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.