Tag: activities for kids

10 Simple Learning Activities: Straw Pieces

10 Simple Learning Activities: Straw Pieces

Do you need fancy curriculum or complicated activities for your preschool at home? Short answer: NO! Simple learning activities can be just as effective for young children, and they can save you TIME and MONEY.

In our homeschool, we like to reuse our favorite materials for a variety of learning objectives. One bag of colorful rainbow straw pieces have lasted for more than five years, and we’re still coming up with new ways to play!

See even more activities for tactile learners — 100 ideas!

simple learning activities

If you are doing tot school or homeschool preschool, be sure to add straw pieces to your list of materials! (Safety note: make sure that the pieces are a reasonable length to prevent choking, and be sure to supervise your child’s play at all times.)

Here are 10 simple learning activities that can be done with straws:

  • Sort the straw pieces by color.

Give your child a muffin tin or ‘chip and dip’ container from the dollar store to make sorting easier. Add in tongs or chopsticks for added fine motor practice.

  • Add a funnel and jar.

Practice counting the pieces as you drop them in.

  • Order the straw pieces by size.

Use vocabulary like “tallest” and “smallest” to learn more about measurement. You can also use sequencing words like first, next, then, and last.

  • Lace the pieces onto a shoelace or piece of yarn.

Wear your necklaces proudly!

  • Reuse an old Parmesan cheese container for simple learning fun on the go.

Your child can work on hand-eye coordination while enjoying the unique sounds of their new instrument.

  • Practice patterns with the straw pieces.

Start with AB patterning, like red yellow red yellow, and then make more complex patterns as your child is able.

  • Build letters and words with the pieces.

Practice lowercase and uppercase, spell out your child’s name, or just have fun making random words!

  • Use the pieces with playdough!

Make faces with them or use your imagination to pretend the straws are birthday candles or something else.

  • Measure objects with the straws.

How many pieces equal the length of a ruler?

  • Count a certain number of pieces.

Add in a pair of dice or use UNO cards to work on number recognition while you play.

See all of these activities on our YouTube channel:

You can also see more of our Activity of the Week videos in our FREE Resource Library.

As you can see from these simple learning activities using straw pieces, it’s so easy to bring learning into everyday play!

Can you think of more hands-on learning ideas using straws?

Rocky Ridge Farm: a Laura Ingalls Wilder site in Mansfield, Missouri

Rocky Ridge Farm: a Laura Ingalls Wilder site in Mansfield, Missouri

At the beginning of the year, we asked our girls to tell us one thing they wanted to do together as a family. Our oldest daughter picked rock-climbing for her activity. Our younger daughter told us she wanted to visit another Laura Ingalls Wilder site.

Two years ago, we traveled to the Ingalls Homestead in DeSmet, South Dakota. Last year, we stopped by the Masters Hotel in Burr Oak, Iowa on our way north to Wisconsin. According to our youngest, it’s become a bit of a tradition!

When we realized that our family travels would bring us less than two hours away from Laura’s Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri — well, we knew we had to go.

(Note: This adventure was not sponsored, and all opinions shared here are my own.) 

Laura Ingalls Wilder | Mansfield, Missouri

We arrived on a beautiful Saturday morning. All four of us were immediately impressed by the big, beautiful building that houses the museum and gift shop. We purchased our tickets and were invited into a small movie theater to watch a short, 10-minute video about Laura’s life in Mansfield.

Exciting the theater, we entered into a large room with 25-30 wonderful exhibits. We saw Pa’s fiddle, some of Laura’s clothing, and even a plate that survived a house fire early in the Wilders’ marriage. My girls especially loved the timeline running around the top of the room!

(Note: photos are not allowed inside the museum or either of the Wilder homes.)

Once we had our fill of the museum, we moved on to the gift shop. Since we have all the original Little House books (and some of the picture book versions), we told the kids they could each pick out a hat. Our oldest chose a pretty pink bonnet and our youngest (tactile learner) was immediately drawn to the coonskin caps. I also purchased a Rocky Ridge Farm magnet to add to our “adventure collection” on our fridge at home.

Rocky Ridge Farm | Mansfield, Missouri

Rocky Ridge Farm Tours

We had a picnic lunch outside before heading up the hill to tour the white Farm House. Our docent was incredibly knowledgeable and answered lots of questions from the entire group. I was especially fascinated by Laura’s library and writing area! I couldn’t stop staring at all the incredible wood accents throughout the house. It was definitely a comfortable home for the Wilders, which must have been a relief after Laura’s transient childhood.

From the Farm House, we took a paved trail (¾ mile, according to the gift shop clerk) “over the ridge” to the beautiful modern Rock House. We were told their daughter Rose had built for them after her success as a published author. (According to our docent, she rented the Farm House from her parents while they lived in the Rock House.) Honestly, as lovely as the Rock House is, I completely identified with Laura’s love for the Farm House and understood why she and Almanzo eventually moved back.

We loved our time out at Rocky Ridge Farm, despite the summer heat and Missouri humidity. I was glad it was our third location visit. Our first visit to the DeSmet Homestead “hooked” our kids on the excitement of living a prairie life. They’ve been totally engaged at the other two sites we’ve visited, despite the more adult exhibits and details.

Before leaving Mansfield, I asked my husband to drive by the cemetery. It was such a meaningful experience when we visited the Ingalls’ graves DeSmet, and I wanted to pay our respects to the Wilders. As famous and familiar as Laura and Almanzo are to us, it was humbling to see them buried in this small town cemetery just like their neighbors.

If you or your children love the Little House series, I highly recommend a visit to Rocky Ridge Farm, where Laura wrote her stories and lived out the last years of her life.

Summer Slide Prevention Tips for Parents

Summer Slide Prevention Tips for Parents

Are you looking for summer slide prevention tips? Help your kids keep their academic skills sharp by making learning fun all summer long!

What is the Summer Slide?

The human brain is not meant to retain every piece of information it ever encounters. In fact, our brains regularly “prune” unused bits of data. When we go weeks or months without accessing historical dates, geography, or vocabulary words, the brain assumes we are done with that information and it disappears forever.

Young children especially need repetition and consistency to retain important details like math facts and sight words. When they take an entire summer off from learning, they can lose ground and have to work harder to “catch up” in the fall.

Students who continue reading, writing, and practicing their math skills over the school break can actually move forward with their learning, making the back to school transition even easier. In all of my research on the subject, it seems like there is momentum one way or the other — our brains don’t just sit still. We are all either going forward or falling back…

Preventing the Summer Slide

Preventing the Summer Slide

Summer slide prevention has become a bit of an industry over the past few years. There are workbooks and flashcards, websites, and tutoring centers all designed to help our children find academic success. And while these resources can be helpful for some students, most children need just 15-20 intentional minutes each day to keep their skills sharp.

On a website called “Rolling Prairie Readers,” I’m sure you would guess that we make time for reading every day. Not only do I allow my girls to choose their own books at the library, I also bring home a big stack of non-fiction and picture books that go along with our monthly theme.

Both of my kids are focusing on one specific subject this summer. My youngest is working her way through a handwriting book because she needs more practice with a pencil. My oldest is brushing up on her math skills with our online CTC Math subscription.

We are traveling a few different places this summer as well. We took a boat ride down the Mississippi River right after school got out, and we plan on visiting the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri in just a few weeks. We’re also spending quality time in both Narnia and Hogwarts, via our audiobook selection at the library. 😉

Making Learning Fun for Kids

If you’re concerned about preventing the summer slide for your kids, I have a few tips for you:

  • Visit the library at least twice a month. Stock up on books your kids will want to read, even if that’s joke books, graphic novels, or the latest undercover princess goes to spy school novel in the new releases section. Grab a few audiobooks that might be slightly above your child’s reading level and make time to listen to them together. Sign up for the summer reading program and reward your child for getting in 15 minutes a day.
  • Choose one academic skill to work on this summer. Whether it’s handwriting or math facts, creative writing or STEM, commit to spending an hour or less each week on moving your child forward in one area where they typically struggle.
  • Research one of your child’s areas of interest. Study the first walk on the moon or a major historical figure. Visit an art museum in your area or learn more about native plants at a nature center. Go hiking, fishing, boating, or camping — something hands-on that your child will really enjoy!

Awesome Learning Ideas for Kids

Unit studies are a great way to make learning fun all summer long! You can get six of our most popular family activity guides for just $27 to keep your children entertained AND learning during the school break. Or, you can click here to have me create a personalized learning plan specifically for your child’s unique needs.

Making learning fun at home and preventing the summer slide is easier than you’d think! Start with good books, add in some hands-on learning, and finish off with a few family adventures.

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Summer Slide Prevention Tips for Parents