Tag: learning through play

Keeping Kids Busy at Home

Keeping Kids Busy at Home

For the past six years, I have been a work-at-home mom with my kids home full-times. I won’t lie and say it’s easy balancing a business and family time (while keeping up with housework). I can say it’s gotten easier as my kids have gotten older.

When it comes to keeping kids busy at home, it’s best to start as young as possible. Teaching kids to play independently for small chunks of time during the toddler years will make life easier once the napping years are gone forever.

My older daughter inherited my Type A tendencies. From a young age, she would ask me what our schedule looked like for the day. I ended up re-using one of my pocket charts from my classroom years. I made cards listing the major components of our day: meals, rest time, playdates, errands, read-aloud time, etc.

Each morning, I would arrange our daily calendar for her, leaving room for independent play. She had “choice time” in the morning and in the afternoon. I would choose three free time activities for her (for example, puzzles, blocks, and dress-up), and she would pick from the choices. Before long, Addie was quite good at keeping busy during my working hours, no screen time required!

By the time our younger daughter entered the toddler years, I was not only working at home, I was now homeschooling her older sister for Kindergarten. Suddenly, I needed to fill twice as much time for her!

Thankfully, Katie is a tactile learner. Sensory bins have always kept her busy for hours at a time–and pairing sensory play with our educational playlists meant she was listening and learning through play.

How to Keep Young Kids Busy at Home | Indoor activities for summer, rainy days, and work-at-home moms! Keep toddlers and parents happy with fun and simple learning activities using simple materials.

Keeping Kids Busy at Home | Fun ideas for your little ones to keep busy during summer or rainy days! Simple play ideas using pom poms, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks.

Keeping Kids Busy: Simple Play Ideas

I also discovered the idea of “invitations to play” when Katie was nearing the end of the napping years. {You can download all of our seasonal invitations to play FREE here.} She had this little table in her room, and each afternoon, I would set a tray with a new activity on it for her to see when she first woke up.

Her activities ranged from adding pony beads to playdough (and then pulling them all back out again) to building structures for her Little People animals with popsicle sticks. She loved sorting pom poms by color and making bracelets out of pipe cleaners.  

Now that my girls are 6 and 9, they love their free time. They work hard to finish their school work so they can get back to their projects!

Just this week, they put together a play for their stuffed animals! My youngest dictated the entire script for her older sister to write down. They rehearsed, made out invitations, and put on the entire show without any interference from me.

My oldest loves to write books, while my youngest still prefers sensory play. When they start to bicker, it’s time to spread out to different spaces for an hour of quiet time.

Keeping Kids Busy: Screen Time

A lot of moms I know struggle with guilt when it comes to screen time. In my opinion, it’s all about balance. If our kids are getting plenty of time outside, what’s the harm? The trick is finding shows and apps that YOU feel good about!

In our house, we’re big fans of Signing Time (sign language + music), PBS Kids (especially Peg + Cat), and School House Rock. My girls also love to listen to books on Audible, play Stack the States, and practice their math facts on the iPad.

They also love riding their bikes, going to the library, and fishing with their Daddy. Everything in moderation!

When it comes to keeping kids busy at home, during summer or on rainy days, the key is being flexible.

I love helping busy parents connect with their kids through play. Come join our FREE Facebook group for lots of activity ideas and encouragement from other moms!


Grab our FREE Flexible Family Schedule Guide for summer!

You can also download our FREE Flexible Family Schedule Guide, which includes our printable calendar template and activity menu with 20 ideas for when your kids are feeling bored.

Patriotic Activities for Kids

Patriotic Activities for Kids

Here in the United States, summer officially arrives on Memorial Day weekend. Now that my girls are older (9 and 6), we will spend part of the weekend talking about the true meaning behind Memorial Day (no, not barbecues and pool openings). Like most countries, America has experienced a lot of loss — from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts. We will probably travel to see the latest version of the Freedom Rock and make a list of patriotic activities to get ready for our Independence Day celebrations.


Patriotic Activities for Kids | Celebrate Memorial Day and Independence day with these patriotic songs and resources, fireworks crafts, patriotic sensory bin, and more!

Click here to download our FREE Red, White, and Blue Activities for toddlers and preschoolers!

No email address required.


If you have young kids, you can start with the basics, The Pledge of Allegiance and The Star Spangled Banner! You can also teach them classic patriotic songs like America the Beautiful, My Country Tis of Thee, and This Land is Your Land.

Our favorite resources for learning about American history and geography:

(Just a reminder that Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links, at no additional cost to you. You can read our full disclosure policy here.)

School House Rock: America

Stack the States (app)

Liberty Kids

You can also fill your home with fun patriotic books, such as America the Beautiful or Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution!

Click here for our entire list of recommended patriotic books for kids!


If you like to do crafts with your kids, there are lots of choices for Memorial Day and Independence Day. Last year, we made wreaths using red, white, and blue fabric with some senior adults at the local retirement community! You can see our ever-growing collection of patriotic craft ideas on my Pinterest board here.

Patriotic Activities for Kids | Celebrate Memorial Day and Independence day with these patriotic songs and resources, fireworks crafts, patriotic sensory bin, and more!

Our girls love sensory play, so be sure to consider a patriotic sensory bin. We like red and blue dyed rice (mixed in with undyed white rice), along with 4th of July “table scatter” found at the craft shop. My girls also enjoyed adding pom poms to the mix along with their favorite sensory bin accessories.   


Patriotic Activities for Kids | Celebrate Memorial Day and Independence day with these patriotic songs and resources, fireworks crafts, patriotic sensory bin, and more!

Want 35 more patriotic activities for kids for just $5.00?

Click here for our Patriotic Family Activity Guide.

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers

It’s hard to believe I’ve been involved in education for nearly two decades now. I’ve gone from working one-on-one with struggling students to a classroom teacher, from tutoring small groups to teaching “mommy and me” sign language and early literacy classes. Again and again, I come back to working with preschool and primary grade students (and their parents) because it’s a crucial time to instill a love for learning that lasts a lifetime.

In our Facebook group and in my one-on-one chats with parents, I’ve noticed one skill comes up more often than others: learning letter names and letter sounds.

In my mind, the best early literacy activity is simply reading aloud to our kids. There is no program or app that has a better track record than the powerful connection of a caring adult, a good book, and a willing child.


Click here for our favorite read aloud resources.


However, in my experience both as a teacher and a mom, some skills do need a little extra direct instruction. When it comes to teaching letters to toddlers and preschoolers, I will always recommend hands-on, FUN learning activities.

From an early age, our younger daughter showed us that she preferred choosing her own activities. By rotating her toys and setting out invitations to play every afternoon, she has become confident at directing her own learning.

What is a parent’s role in teaching letter names and letter sounds?

It’s simple, really.

Filling your home with books, stocking your toy closet with open-ended toys, and understanding how your child learns best will go a long way toward early literacy success.

So which books and toys are best for letter recognition?

Read on!

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers | ABC games, learning letter names, learning letter sounds, early literacy, tactile activities, learning through play

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

By nature, most young children are hands-on learners. Our five favorite TACTILE (touch) letter recognition activities are:

Wooden Letter Puzzle

Magnetic Letters

Foam Letters

Letter Stamps

ABC Cookie Cutters

My older daughter (a visual learner) also loved these two-piece letter puzzles and our ABC books:

My younger daughter (an auditory learner) loved this CD and our sign language DVDs/CDs:

Finally, some of our favorite letter recognition activities come out in our seasonal play. Leftover plastic eggs are great for making homemade ABC games!

 


Download our plastic egg activities here.


It is my sincere hope that this post has sparked some ideas for letter recognition activities that you can do at home! If you need MORE ideas, I would love for you to join our free Facebook group or schedule a one-on-one chat with me.