Wednesday, September 4, 2013

40+ Cheap and/or Free Activities to Expand your Child's Mind

I was thinking the other day that as a SAHM, my job is literally my home and family. I then got to thinking how if I were a hired hand or nanny, I might do some things differently. When I have a job, I am constantly thinking about how I can improve my work area, how I can educate myself, and how I can make my company more successful. Since my family now IS my company, I started to think in terms of what I can do to make each 'employee' (family member) reach their full potential.

With that, I have decided to make a greater emphasis on exposing my children to as many enriching activities as possible. This is just a beginners list, mostly for kids from 2-8, but it gives you some ideas for mostly cheap/free activities. I've already begun doing two or three of these kinds of activities everyday and I feel like my daughter has really been benefiting from them! Have other ideas? Please comment! I'm always looking for ways to improve!

Hobby/Talent
Activity
Dancing

Ballet
Put a YouTube video of ballet on the tv/computer screen. Mimic the dancers with your child.
Jazz
Put a YouTube video of jazz dancing on the tv/computer screen. Mimic the dancers with your child.
Tap
Use a weak glue to put pennies on the toes of your child's shoes. Have them watch a YouTube video of tap  dancing, then turn up the music and dance in the kitchen floor (or another hard surface).
Freestyle
Turn some music on loud and just dance around like crazy with your youngster.
Musical Instruments

Piano
Using a real or toy piano, practice banging out tunes with your child. Try to get them to play a few notes in sequence to make a tune.
Flute
Show your child a video of someone playing the flute. Then, get a paper towel roll, cut a 'mouth' hole out, and draw some dark circles (to make 'notes' with their fingers) and pretend to play the flute with them.
Drums
Show your child a video different people drumming, then pull out a few pots and pans with wooden spoons and encourage them to drum themselves.
Violin
Show your child a video of someone playing the violin. Then, make a 'violin' for your child with an empty tissue box and some elastics as the 'string'. Give them a 'box' made with a stick that has a shoestring tied from end to end on it and let them make noise!
Recorder
Buy a recorder from the dollar store. Show your child how to blow notes on it, and then try to teach them to play a few notes in succession to make a tune.
Music

Classical
Play classical music on the radio. Watch a video of an orchestra playing classical music. Now play jazz music on the radio and watch a video of jazz music. Ask your child what is different between the two.
Jazz
Play classical music on the radio. Watch a video of an orchestra playing classical music. Now play jazz music on the radio and watch a video of jazz music. Ask your child what is different between the two.
Hip Hop
Listen to hip hop music on the radio. Watch a video of hip hop performers. Ask your child to dance to the hip hop. Ask them what they like/don't like about the music.
Disney
Turn on Disney radio and listen to a few songs. Ask your child what songs seem like classical, jazz, or hip hop songs. Ask them why. Ask them if they can identify any other types of music being played.
Gardening

Fruit/Vegetable
Plan a fruit/vegetable garden on paper with your child. Tell them when plants can grow and how they should be planted. Quiz them and ask how they would plant a garden of peas, corn, tomato, and beans (etc) in your yard- where would they grow best? When? Why? Plant their own  bean/tomato plant in a small pot and let them care for it in their own room.
Flowers
Plan a flower garden on paper with your child. Have 5 or 6 different pictures of actual flowers. Teach them which are perennials and which are annuals. Quiz them and ask how they would plant a garden of the flowers you taught them about. Where would they grow best? When? Why? Plant their own flower in a small pot and let them care for it in their own room. Take them to public parks, see if they can find some of the flowers you discussed.
Landscaping
Find 4 or 5 well-landscaped yards/parks in your area. Show your child pictures of famously landscaped castles, palaces, parks, etc. Help them identify the types of plants/rocks/walls/fountains used in landscaping. Show them the well landscaped yards/parks in your area. Ask them what styles they like and why they like them. Give them a paper and pencil and let them create their dream landscaped yard. Give them a small area of the yard/garden to landscape however they please.
Animal Care

Pets
Take your child to a pet store. Show them the different varieties of pets there are and help them classify the animals. (Is it a fish? A reptile? A mammal?) Have them ask an employee what a certain animal requires in order to take home. Help them find similarities in foods and environments. Go home and find pictures online of the natural habitats of each animal they showed interest in. Ask them to make a list of what they would need at your home to make that pet feel at home.
Livestock
Have your child name off every meat they can think of. Help them make a complete list. Tell them which meats go to which animal. Take your child to a county fair, FFA show, local farm, or petting zoo to find as many of these animals as possible. Have your children ask what these animals need for food/shelter etc. Ask your child to draw a pretend home for their favorite livestock animal and list everything that animal would need in order to raise it.
Bird Watching
Find pictures of common birds in your area. Show them to your child. Help them see identifying characteristics for each one, then take them to a park, the ocean, or just on a walk and help them find as many of these local birds as possible.
Collections

Bug
Start a bug collection! Find pictures of bugs common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of them as they can. (Please be wary of dangerous bugs.) Provide them with jars, leaves, bedding, food, and whatever else their bugs might require. Find articles online that tell all about these bugs. Read them to/with your child.
Leaf
Start a leaf collection! Find pictures of leaves common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of them as they can. Give them a notebook and tape to store each leaf. Find articles online that tell all about the trees that their leaves come from. Read them to/with your child.
Rock
Start a rock collection! Find pictures of rocks common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of them as they can. Give them a shelf to store their treasures on. Find articles online that tell all about the rocks and how they were formed. Read them to/with your child.
Coin
Start a coin collection! Help your child to collect as many different pennies/nickels/dimes from as many different years as possible. Find articles online that tell when pictures were changed and why. Read them to/with your child.
Food

Baking
Find a simple recipe and allow your child to help you bake something. Even if you just let them stir in eggs for a boxed brownie mix, let them help you. Make sure to tell them all the steps in baking, i.e., preheating the oven, greasing the pan, etc., and tell them why you do it.
Styling
Show your child pictures of food from fancy restaurants. Ask them why the food looks the way it does. Make a meal together and plate it two ways, one, just dumped on the plate, and the other carefully styled. Ask your child which way they prefer. Ask them why. Watch a professional cooking show together.
Sewing

Knitting
Find someone who knits (yourself, perhaps?) and ask them to give a basic explanation of knitting to your child. Have them teach a basic stitch to your child, then supply them with a ball of yarn and needles and see what they create.
Hand-stitch
Next time a pair of pants/shirt gets a small hole in them, pull out a needle and thread and show your child the basics of darning.
Embroidery
Find someone who embroiders (you?) or a simple video online. Have an explanation (via an embroiderer or via a video) of what embroidery is. Find an embroidered pillow case/ wall hanging and have your child identify the different stitches in it. If they are old enough, provide them with supplies and let me create!
Machine sewing
As age appropriate, teach your child to sew with a sewing machine, beginning with the hows of the sewing machine. Don't know how? Find a local craft store, as most host free sewing tutorials.
Buttons/Zippers/Velcro
Next time a button comes off, a zipper gets loose, or velcro gets torn off, show your child how to repair it. If your child is very young, give them a few zippers or pieces of velcro and just let them play with  them.
Scrapbooking
Give your child a notebook, some photos, a glue stick, and crayons. Encourage them to create a scrapbook page. Look to Pinterest if you need scrapbooking page ideas.
Foreign Languages

Reading
Ask your child what country/language they are most interested in and then look up basic phrases in that language. Use an online video or a movie with extra languages to listen to the language. Have them practice speaking the words you've looked up. Borrow a book in that language from the library and help your child identify basic words in it (the, and, you, etc.) Find the languages' alphabet online and teach them to write their own name.
Writing
Speaking
Listening
Art

Painting
Paint a picture with your child. Go to a local museum and look at paintings. Ask your child how their pictures and the museum pictures are the same. Ask them what differences there are. Go home and look at famous paintings online. Ask your child why you think those paintings became famous.
Pencil Drawing
Draw a picture with your child. Go to a local museum and look at drawings. Ask your child how their pictures and the museum pictures are the same. Ask them what differences there are. Go home and look at famous drawings online. Ask your child why you think those drawings became famous.
Crayon Drawing
Ask your child to draw a colorful scene (like a rainbow or a bunch of colored balloons) with only a black and grey crayon. Ask them why it's hard. Ask them why colors are important. Ask them their favorite colors. Have them draw the picture again with only their favorites. Ask them to draw with all the colors. Ask them what is different between the three drawings. Ask them which ones they like best and why.
Origami
Show your child a globe and locate Japan. Tell them that origami is a paper artform that came from Japan. Give them a few square pieces of paper and make basic shapes with them. (find tutorials all over online). A paper airplane can be a good start!
Sculpting
Give your child clay or play dough and let them make a few masterpieces. Take them to a large park with statues or to a museum. Have them compare and contrast their sculptures. Ask them what is hard and what is easy about sculpting.
Photography
Show your child famous photos online. Ask them why they think the photos are famous. Give them their own disposable camera and let them take whatever photos they want. Get it developed. Have them pick their favorite pictures. Ask them why they like those pictures and point out what they did well. Frame their favorite photo.
Reading
Read with your child, to your child, and give them books. Buy cheap books that your children can color in. Let them add words or take out words to change the story. Give them a notebook and encourage them to write their own story.
Singing

Opera
Have your child listen to opera, theater, country, and sing-a-long music. Ask them what is different between each style. Ask them what is the same. Ask them how each music genre makes them feel. Have them mimic the singing styles. When possible, take them to an opera, a theater, or country music concert.
Theater
Sing-a-long
Country

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