31 Days of Learning with Free Materials

Use these learning at home ideas using free materials or items already found in the home.

We are big fans of using free and recycled materials in our crafts and activities.  Many times, people ask: “How do you do so many fun activities without spending a fortune?!” Most of our learning, crafts, and activities involve using free or almost free materials.  While we are not a homeschooling family, we do SO many learning through play activities and homework extension skills that work on the skills that my kids are doing at school.  

We’re excited to join homeschooling bloggers with 31 Days of ideas for learning at home.  In this series, we share 31 days of Learning at Home with Free (or almost free) Materials.  Each day, we’ll bring you tips and ideas to use materials you already have in learning and school extension activities. Most of these materials are household items you may already have in the house and others will be recycled materials.

Use these learning at home ideas using free materials or items already found in the home.

All of the activities will be using free (or almost free) items to build on learning concepts that are age appropriate for our kids.  We will be sharing ways to use these items in different age ranges, as well.  

These activities are sure to be a fun way to work on skills over the summer to prevent an academic “summer slide” and ways to creatively learn and extend on school homework and homeschool curricula during the year.  Be sure to stop by each day in July for creative learning ideas as we fill in our month with Free Learning!

 
31 days of learning with almost free materials.  Learn at home through play with recycled and free materials.

 
 

Learning with Free (or almost Free) materials at home:

This series is about easy learning ideas that you can make your own.  Your child’s needs and interests will make these ideas work in your family.  My hope for the 31 Days of Learning with (almost) Free materials is to bring you creative ideas.  

Creative & Playful Learning.  Be inspired.


31 Days of Learning with Free Materials (items you probably already have):


Click on the images below and the list of posts for our month of learning at home!

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
Distance learning ideas for learning at home with free materials.

More Learning at Home Ideas

These learning with free materials ideas use items you probably have in the home right now to work on math or writing concepts, AND build fine motor skills. Try some of these learning ideas using items in the home, including:

Fine Motor Activities with Play Dough

Fine Motor Activities with Paper Clips

Fine Motor Activities with Craft Pom Poms or Cotton Balls

Fine Motor Activities with Playing Cards

Fine Motor Activities with Beads

Fine Motor Activities with Chalk

Flexible Seating in the Classroom

THese flexible seating in the classroom ideas are helpful to improve attention, focus, and learning in students.

It’s that time again when we are heading back into the school year. Teachers are getting into the classrooms and setting up room arrangements. School-based OTs are gearing up for the back-to-school chaos. When the thoughts of classroom organization and caseloads come into mind, flexible seating in the classroom ideas may not be the first thing you think of. Seating options may even be a part of a classroom sensory diet. But here’s the thing: Flexible seating ideas are always good to keep in mind! There are so many benefits to flexible seating arrangements. From DIY flexible seating ideas to types of seating ideas that can be used in classrooms…there is a lot to think about!

flexible seating in the classroom with out of the box ideas that kids will love for learning.

Flexible Seating Ideas for the CLassroom

There is so much to think about when it comes to accommodating to various seating needs. Positioning and specific student needs are just part of the puzzle. Facilitating learning while encouraging collaborations among students is important and the primary concern when it comes to out-of-the-box seating arrangements. Below, you will find various flexible seating for the classroom and information on the benefits of flexible seating ideas…as well as how to adapt to this classroom sensory strategy.

Things to consider about Flexible Seating

When considering flexible seating ideas for the classroom, there is a lot to think about. These considerations include a variety of needs including behavior, cognitive needs, physical abilities, posture, and more.

Many times therapists are consulted regarding specialized seating as a result of postural needs. In these cases, an individualized assessment may be warranted and aspects of seating should be analyzed before addressing specific seating needs:

Posture and seating needs may be a result of sensory issues such as physical limitations, weakness, range of motion as a result of tone issues or spasticity, sensory impairments,or other needs.

Physical limitation or deformities may impact seating posture and positioning. These may include posterior pelvic tilt, pelvic rotation, scoliosis, joint contractures, leg length discrepancies, head and neck positioning, extremity limitations, or other concerns. Each of these may impact learning and attention in the classroom.

When providing a new or novel seating option in the classroom, there are considerations to keep in mind as well. A flexible seating option may not be the primary classroom seating situation. In other words, it may be the best situation for the classroom learning to occur in traditional desks. Flexible seating in the classroom can be provided for supplemental learning, small groups, independent reading, or other similar activities.

In some cases, it’s important to consider optimal support in seating options including for those students with physical needs. As a result, some situations may not warrant a full classroom of flexible seating. Chairs and surfaces may not provide optimal postural alignment in order to provide adequate trunk support. Upper extremity mobility and positioning is important to consider if students will be using the seating arrangements for writing tasks. Additionally, considerations such as correct height/depth of the seat and the placement of both feet on the floor is needed for writing tasks.

Flexible seating in the classroom, ideas to help kids with sensory needs.

Benefits of Flexible Seating in the Classroom

A primary benefit of alternative seating options is the improvement to learning and attention that can occur. There may be several reasons that various seating options offer in the classroom.

  • Opportunities for Choices- Students may find that the ability to make a choice in their seating situations makes all the difference in learning and attention. Some students may really like the option to pick where they sit!
  • Something for Everyone- When there are several options for seating in the classroom, it can be one way to meet the needs of a whole classroom. Some teachers may find that kids change in their activity or attention levels throughout the day. When additional movement or proprioceptive input is needed, an alternative seating method may be just the ticket to learning.
  • Heavy Work Opportunities- Use of various flexible seating techniques in the classroom can offer occasional or scheduled use of flexible seating options can provide opportunities for heavy work input by moving desks, bean bag seats, or other seating set-ups as students or a specific team of students move furniture from determined positions. Don’t forget the sensory benefits of moving desks and chairs!
  • No Singling Out- When there are various flexible seating options in the classroom, no child is singled out. This is important for the child with sensory issues or self-regulation needs. Some students may need extra movement or heavy input to facilitate learning, and when the whole classroom has the option to choose a beanbag for reading time, the flexible seating methods are there for everyone…and no student feels singled out based on needs.

Flexible Seating Ideas for the Classroom

Now that we’ve covered considerations and a few benefits of flexible seating ideas, let’s cover some specifics! Below are alternative seating methods that may work in the classroom.

You’ll find a list of options for adding proprioceptive input to the seating system, as well as a large list of alternative seating ideas. Some of these are able to be purchased (Amazon affiliate links are included below). Other options are quite frugal or are DIY ideas. Have fun exploring and considering the flexible seating ideas!

Flexible seating and proprioception input

Sensory benefits play a big part of choosing the best flexible seating option. While some alternative seating options provide sensory input or feedback via the positioning, others provide heavy input by hugging the student. There are many ways to add weight that provides a calming benefit into seating ideas. Consider some of the options below in adding to a seating system:

Tips for adding proprioceptive input or weight to a alternative seating system:

  • Add a weighted lap pad
  • Try a therapy band or bungee cord to the chair legs
  • Use a body sock or fabric tube to the legs of the chair. Done in a non-restricting way, this tube can be a place to slide legs into while sitting in a regular chair
  • Bean bag for under/over the child
  • Computer lap desk over the child’s legs (Can be used as a writing station)
  • Homemade bean bags over legs or feet. Slide these into tube socks or knee-high socks and knot two socks together to create a weighted tube to drape over legs or the shoulders.
  • Under-the-table sling
  • Therapy swing in the classroom or outdoor space
  • Add velcro wrist weights to the inside of a 4 inch binder. Use the binder as a lap writing surface.
  • Encourage tummy time writing. (Write, draw, or read while lounging on bellies on the floor. Make this a fun reading experience by asking students to bring in a flashlight from home.)
  • Try a weighted fidget tool that can be used while seated at a desk.
  • Try some of the additions listed and described below.

Remember that finding an ideal seating system can require a lot of investigation and trial and error. Some students may benefit from one of the ideas listed here and others may require a mix of several options. Keep it individualized and remember to consult your child’s occupational therapists regarding seating ideas.

Flexible Seating Ideas

Bean bag chair is a flexible seating idea for the classroom

Bean Bag Chairs- Use these on the floor or at a low table. Consider lowering a table to 2-3 feet off the ground for a low writing and reading surface. Other times, bean bags can be used in small group work or for quiet reading. Consider using a bean bag as a cover for legs to provide heavy input through the legs. There are some inexpensive bean bag seat options available. There are also a few varieties of stuffed animal bean bag covers that create seats using old stuffed animals.

Stuffed Animal Bean Bag Seat- Ask around for stuffed animal donations from family and friends! This bean bag cover creates a bean bag seat using old stuffed animals as a seating option and can be adjusted as needed. Add more stuffed animals to fill the seat or take some out depending on the child’s sensory needs. This stuffed animal cover comes in a larger size that can be used as a lounger chair.

Use a duvet lounger as a flexible seating idea in school.

Duvet Lounger- Using the same concept of filling a bean bag with upcycled stuffed animals is the DIY version of using a duvet cover as a method to create a lounger seat. Fill a duvet cover with cushions, pillows, or stuffed animals and create a crash pad that can be used as a lounger seat for the classroom or home.

A t-stool is a great flexible seating idea for the classroom.
The Stability Tube Chair is a T-Stool seat for the classroom or home.

T-Stools- A T-stool is a common seat seen in classrooms. The stool allows students to wobble, move, and wiggle just as their bodies need, while reading, writing, learning, and listening! You’ll find a variety of T-Stools available: The Kore Wobble Chair is great for grades K-3 and provides a larger base of support. The Stabili-T Tool Tube provides less support but requires more core contraction and work, allowing for more movement. A T-Stool Single Leg stool offers more vestibular input given a much smaller base of support and an adjustable height option.

Single leg T-Stool offers a flexible seating option for classrooms.

Milk Crate with a Ball Inside– Going for a multi-option flexible seating arrangement in the classroom? Adding a large kickball or small therapy ball inside a milk crate is a great option for the frugal. This is one way to create several seats for a lower cost. Line the milk create up under a low table for a centers activity or small group.

A therapy ball makes a great flexible seating option in classrooms.

Therapy Ball– Another frugal means of offering opportunities for movement and sensory input in the classroom is using therapy balls. There are many options available on the market and in stores. Search for yoga balls or exercise balls to find the best prices, in many cases. Worried about them rolling away or becoming massive projectiles in the classroom? Make a “station” using a hula hoop as a base.

The peanut ball seat is a flexible seating idea for classrooms.

Peanut Seat- A different version of the therapy ball is the peanut ball seat. Kids can use these seats in a variety of ways, sitting or lying prone on the ball. The peanut ball allows for only unidirectional rolling so they can be easier to contain in the classroom setting when compared to a round therapy ball.

Use a sensory swing indoors or outdoors, a great alternative seating idea for the classroom

Sensory Swing- A sensory swing is a versatile seating option for reading, small group work, individual work, or a much-needed sensory break. We’ve tried and loved the Harkla Sensory Pod Swing for it’s cozy support and use as a calm-down space. The great thing about Harkla sensory swings is the easy-to install ability to place them in a classroom. We tried ours outdoors too, for an outdoor sensory swing option. Kids love the outdoor sensory swing in a shaded area such as under a patio deck or even hanging from a tree limb.

A portable laptop stand is a fun idea for flexible seating in the classroom.

Portable Laptop Stand- This portable laptop stand doesn’t need to be used for just laptops! Use it as a writing station or for a small reading center. I would love to see a DIY version of this…wonder if an awesome school janitor could whip one together using scrap materials? P.S. If you have one of these stands made…or you make one yourself…let me know! I would LOVE to see it!

Teachers can use a futon in the classroom as a flexible seating idea.

Futon- An easy way to incorporate flexible seating options in the classroom is to add a futon. You can grab one at a big box store or on Amazon and have it shipped directly to where you need it to go. The benefits of using a futon in the classroom are endless- A “job” can be to open the futon and replace pillows after quiet reading time, adding opportunities for heavy work. Add a few weighted throw pillows and a weighted lap blanket if it’s appropriate. Sometimes lounging during instruction may be just what is needed.

A scoop rocker chair is a great way to add flexible seating options to the classroom.

Scoop Rocker Chairs- Kids love these scoop rocker chairs! They are versatile in that they can be used at a lowered table or during circle time. The light-weight and handle make them easy to carry from class to class or to special classes, if needed. There is a special deal on Amazon offering a set of 6 scoop rocker chairs for $48 right now. Who knows how long that price will last!

Use a scooter board for seating needs in the classroom to add sensory input as part of a sensory diet at school.

Scooter Board- Have a scooter board in your car trunk (If you are a mobile therapist, this totally applies to you…) or in the physical education gym/supply closet at school? Scooter boards make awesome foot fidgets for when sitting at a desk. Kids can also use them during circle time. (Provide a hoola hoop boundary!) Or to sit on at a low table or when working in a small group. You can find them at great prices on Amazon!

Use a reading pillow or bed reading pillow  as a flexible seating idea in the classroom.

Cushions or Pillows- Super easy to get, and at a very inexpensive cost, pillows and cushions are a fantastic way to create a cozy corner or crash area. Kids will love quiet reading time or group work when sitting on a pillow or cushion. Stalk your local resale shops for great prices. You can also ask parents to send in a small pillow or chair pad cushion (the kind you use on kitchen chairs) that can be used at desks for seated work. A reading pillow (the kind you typically use on a bed) works really well in a calm-down space, too.

Body Pillow- A body pillow can be an inexpensive way to add movement and positioning to the classroom or home. Add it to a futon or couch in the classroom or include it in a calm-down space.

Rocking Chair- An old-fashioned porch rocker is a wonderful addition to the classroom. There’s just something about rocking back and forth that brings back memories of quieting fussy babies during the night for this mama…but perhaps the calming effects of slow linear rocking can be just the thing to turn classroom fidgeting into focused learning. If the price tag of a traditional wooden rocking chair is a problem, consider adding a camp rocking chair or an upcycled nursery glider. You can find these baby nursing chairs on Facebook marketplace or in consignment shops for a great price.

Use a balance cushion as a flexible seating tool in the classroom.

Balance Cushion- Balance cushions can be used on a traditional desk seat or for floor seating. Adding this to your flexible seating line-up promotes an opportunity for attention and balance by adding movement to learning. Add more air or remove some from the cushion to provide more or less movement and stability required.

Use a beach chair as a cheap flexible seating option in classrooms.

Beach Chair- A beach chair is a super inexpensive way to add flexible seating options to a classroom. Set up an area with a few beach chairs for group activities or use them in circle time or morning meetings.

Use a camp chair as a cheap flexible seating idea for the classroom.

Camp Chair– A camp chair is another inexpensive option for alternative seating. The curved base provides a cozy and calming space for reading or listening to read alouds in the classroom or home. There are a lot of options on the market in the ways of camping chairs. From the basic camp chair to those with rockers, recliners, or loungers, the choice is yours based on needs in the classroom or home.

Stools- There are a lot of stool options out there. Using a stool in a flexible seating arrangement provides a variety of use for addressing various needs while making arranged seating easier to change out without much effort. Some ideas for stool use in the classroom include high-stools. These can be used at a high top table which also offers an opportunity for standing. They can be arranged into circle time or small groups while offering vestibular input. Other stool ideas include a small foot stools. These can be used at low tables, in circle time, in a small group circle, or at a low table. Try using them while writing on a paper hanging on a wall or at an easel for vertical writing, which offers more proprioceptive input and movement challenges. Stackable stools are still another option. These are great in place of traditional desk chairs in some cases. The great thing about using stools as part of an alternative seating system is that students can move and set up seating options, offering built-in heavy work.

Use a papasan chair in the classroom as a sensory seating idea for students.

Papasan Chair– A papasan chair or a lounger seat is great for the classroom. Quiet reading or group learning can be calm and focused with a supportive and cozy seat. You can find a great price on these chairs in big box stores or on Amazon.

A cube chair is a seating option that meets sensory needs in the classroom.

Cube Seat- This cube seat is an option that provides support for the back and trunk while containing and providing a boundary for seated activities. This cube seat option is nice because it can be used in one direction as a low seat and flipped over to allow for a higher height or for use as a table writing surface with visual blocks when visual attention is an issue.

Partially Inflated Beach Ball- Yes, it’s true. Grab a dollar store beach ball and blow it up just a little, so that the air in the beach ball provides a movable cushion. This seating system is appropriate for younger children, but it’s an option for testing out movement in the seat. You’ll find more about using a beach ball cushion in a previous The OT Toolbox blog post.

Cheap flexible seating ideas for the classroom include  camp chairs, beach chairs, bean bags, and pillows.

More Flexible seating ideas

What are your best tricks and tips for adding movement to the classroom while meeting the needs of various students? Flexible seating in the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Stop back soon, because we’ll have a line-up of DIY flexible seating ideas coming your way very soon.

Some of the ideas listed above are very budget-friendly, especially if you are able to find items second-hand or by upcycling items. Other budget-friendly seating options include using a cardboard box, cushions, or stadium seats, for example. We’ll have more budget-friendly seating ideas for you coming up soon!

Budget-friendly flexible seating ideas include camp chairs, beach chairs, carpet spots, and more.

Classroom Breaks and Behavior

Movement breaks in the classroom ideas and activities for the classroom

Adding movement breaks to the classroom can be a tool for helping kids focus and learn. Read below about some research related to classroom breaks and behavior, learning, and focus in the classroom. These are brain breaks that can be used as classroom breaks to take a short break from learning…OR used as a strategy to incorporate movement into learning activities!

Classroom breaks add an opportunity to boost learning skills and reduce behaviors that interfere with academics. These movement activities and classroom breaks can be incorporated into the classroom and are evidence-based.

Movement Breaks

I was thinking about the cold weather we’ve been having recently. My kids have been cooped up in school and when they get home from school, it’s been FREEZING. Sure, we can bundle up and run around the yard for a bit (and I try to get all the kiddos to do this)…but it is downright cold out there. We can’t last too long when the wind chill is -4 degrees F!


Not only that, but many schools aren’t having outdoor recess when it’s this cold. Some are getting their kids bundled up and outside, but for the most part, it’s been indoor recess for many kids.


So when the school day is an indoor affair all day long, kids can become antsy!


Research on Classroom Breaks



Research tells us that activity breaks in the classroom can improve classroom behavior and can increase students’ overall physical activity.


We know as therapists, that behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the sign that something bigger is causing the behavior we see. It might be anxiety, worries, sensory needs, communication issues, emotional concerns, social situations, or a myriad other underlying areas that lead to the behavior we see. 



So, to know that science tells us that a brain break can help get out of that rut of behaviors is huge! It’s a strategy to help reduce the behavior and move toward focused learning and attention. In fact, there’s been some findings indicating physical activity during the school day improves attention-to-task in elementary school students. 



The evidence suggests that increasing physical activity may improve academic performance, in the forms of recess, physical education class, and physical activity in the classroom. But if indoor recess is the only option this time of year, and gym class occurs every one day out of 6 in a classroom rotation schedule, or even one day/week, where does this leave us? Movement and learning and classroom breaks seem to be the option left!



In my research of the available evidence-based practice scenarios out there, I found some interesting points related to learning and specifically executive functioning skills and overall cognitive functions related to learning. 



Here is some more information on physical activity and brain structure such as brain white matter and brain function. 


Executive function is related to learning

It seems that executive functioning skills play more into learning that just having a neat and tidy desk space or remembering homework. 


In fact, executive function plays very much into the use of those mental skills in learning and classroom tasks. These skills can play a big role in attention levels and impulse control of kids in the classroom. They play a part in learning in many ways. Here are just a few examples:

-Arriving to class on time
-Staying on task in an assignment
-Staying focused when completing minor tasks such as retrieving a pencil. Here’s a scenarios you may have seen before: A student drops their pencil. They bend to retrieve that pencil and then get distracted and lose focus on the assignment they are working on. Sound familiar?
-Visual attention in order to scan a math worksheet and going through the assignment part by part without skipping sections or getting distracted or overwhelmed

Activity and Learning

  • Evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the classroom subjects topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These academic areas depend on “efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness”.
  • Executive function and brain health are the basis of academic performance. The cognitive functions of attention and memory are essential for learning. These executive function skills are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.

Physical activity and behaviors

It seems that when physical activity is used as a break in the classroom, whether as a brain break or , during gym class, recess time, or during active learning, attention, on-task behavior, and academic performance  improves as well. 

How to add more physical activity to the school day 

Some ideas for adding physical activity into the classroom in order to improve behaviors include:


1. Offering physical activity breaks within the curriculum or learning activity


2. Allow students to stand at the student’s discretion. This strategy should be used with a training period and even a contract signed by the student that says they will not move away from their desk and that they will perform the work that’s asked of them while standing at their desk.
 

3. YouTube Videos- Here are our recommendations for YouTube brain breaks that can be added into classroom breaks. Some of these would be great for an indoor recess dance party, too. 


4. Print off a collection of brain breaks and pull them out at different times during the day or as a transition activity. Here are some printable sheets of brain breaks: Bear brain breaksSquirrel Themed Brain Breaks apple themed brain breaks

5. Add a beach ball or bean bag to group activities. Toss while naming the answer to questions. 


6. Jumping Jack Spelling Words- This is a whole-class exercise drill that gets the brain and the heart moving!


7. Make indoor recess an active time. Here are indoor recess ideas to get the kids moving. 

Use these classroom movement ideas to help with behaviors, learning, and to promote academic skills like math and reading.



References:

Grieco LA, Jowers EM, Bartholomew JB. Physically active academic lessons and time on task: The moderating effect of body mass index. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2009;41(10):1921–1926. 



Mahar MT, Murphy SK, Rowe DA, Golden J, Shields AT, Raedeke TD. Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006;38(12):2086.



Donnelly JE, Lambourne K. Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Preventive Medicine. 2011;52(Suppl 1):S36–S42. 

Following Direction Activities

These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and learning! 


We’ve shared directionality activities before that help kids navigate and use maps with movement. 

Following Direction Activity

These direction following activities can help kids learn directionality such as left/right awareness, laterality, and directions needed for navigating.

Teaching kids to follow the directions they need to physically move right, left, up, down requires development of spatial concepts such as spatial reasoning. This can be a real challenge for some kids! 


Following directions and understanding of spatial concepts is a foundation for understanding and utilizing compass directions or the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, and the use of maps. 

Left Right Confusion Direction Challenges

It can be a real challenge for some kids who struggle with the spatial understanding of following directions, or understanding their left from right in a subconscious manner. 


Have you come across the child who is told to raise their right and and they take a five second count to stop, think, and then raise their hand? They might hesitate when raising one hand or the other and still be uncertain whether or not they have held up the correct hand. Then, when the teacher, parent, or anyone else really, says the inevitable, “Your other right hand…”, the child feels a sense of discouragement and self-consciousness that doesn’t drive in the underlying need to really know the right from left! 


That’s where a directionality activity or following direction activity can come into play. Adding a physical component to learning directions and the difference between right, left, up, and down and what that looks like in relation to the child’s body can be such a helpful force in driving home this concept. 

Why work on directions with kids?

Working on the ability for kids to follow directions and spatial concepts is so important for kids. The direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else (beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around,  through, last, etc.) are very important when teaching math and handwriting concepts. Directionality and the ability for kids to follow physical directions is important for discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects. This translates to following directions when getting from place to place by following a map or the cardinal directions.


When kids picture a scene in their mind’s eye and use that image to draw a map on paper, they are using higher thinking skills and spatial reasoning.

Directionality Activities

Amazon affiliate links are included below. 


The fun idea below comes from a new kids’ activity book that we’re devouring. It’s the new Playful Learning Lab for Kids, by the occupational therapist and physical therapist team at The Inspired Treehouse. It’s a book full of whole-body and sensory activities that enhance focus, engagement, and learning through movement and interaction.

Playful learning Lab activities for kids to learn through whole body movements



We used just a few materials to create this following directions activity:


Playful Learning Lab for Kids Book
Cardstock
Marker
Scissors

Use arrows to work on following directions and learning directions or directionality.



This is a simple activity (perfect for the classroom or homeschool when teaching directions!). First, draw and cut out large arrows from the cardstock. 


Next, place them along the floor in a path and start playing! 

Teach kids about directions and left right awareness or directionality through whole body movements with arrows!



There are so many ways to use these arrows to work on following directions and directionality:

1. Place the arrows on the floor for a fun brain break or sensory walk that uses directions as the kids work on following directions to stand in the direction the arrows are pointing. 

Direction following activities with arrows are a fun way to teach kids directionality and teach left and right with movement.



2. Name a cardinal direction or spatial direction and ask the child to point to the corresponding arrow. 


3. Place the arrows in a compass rose on the floor and ask kids to “step into a map” on the floor as they move north, south, east, and west.

Teach spatial concepts and spatial reasoning with arrows.

4. Stick the arrows to a wall using tape. Ask the students to write out a list of words that describe the directions the arrows are pointing (left, right, up, and down).


5. Hold up a sequence of arrows pointing in different directions. As the child to remember the pattern or order as they complete a series of side steps, front steps, or backward steps to follow the directions they see. 


6. Work on left/right directionality by holding up an arrow pointing in either the left or right directions. Kids should call out “Left!” or “Right!” when they see the direction the arrow is pointing. 

Teach kids directions and north, south, east, west using arrows and directionality concepts.



All of these following direction activities are ones that can be completed as on an individual basis or with a whole group. It’s a great mini brain break for the classroom and can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum by working on cardinal directions. 



Want to grab more movement-based learning ideas that you can start on today? You will love the bright pictures, sensory-based activities, and whole-body activities in Playful Learning Lab for Kids


It’s available now and is the perfect way to add movement to learning to improve attention, focus, brain function, remembering and learning!


This book will shift your entire mindset so you can begin to replace sedentary, one-dimensional lessons and worksheets with whole-body, multi-sensory activities that can instantly create a classroom or house full of active, engaged learners.


Playful Learning Lab for Kids is available on Amazon.

Play Dough Math Activities

If there is one thing we love, it’s play dough.  Another thing we love is creative learning.  Today we’re sharing creative math ideas using our favorite sensory and fine motor medium: Play Dough!  These 9 play dough activities have one thing in common, and that is creative ways to practice math skills and concepts.  Kids will love to practice math with play dough.  Now, which to try first?
Ideas to use play dough in math.   Kids love this creative way to practice math skills and concepts.

Creative Math Ideas Using Play Dough:



Search and count play dough like School Time Snippets.


Count apples with this play dough activity based on the book, Ten Apples Up on Top.


For more counting, print off this apple play dough mat from The Preschool Toolbox.


Teaching kids to count with playdough is fun with this counting activity from The Stay at Home Mom Survival Guide.


You could also use rocks in play dough for counting, adding, and subtracting like we did.


Practice subtraction with a play dough smash activity from Mama.Papa.Bubba.


Or, if addition is what you need to practice, try this adding activity from Simple Fun for Kids.


For basic math skills, explore numbers with play dough like Simple Fun for Kids did and The Farm Girl Initiative did here.


Looking for more ideas?  Try using kinetic sand instead of play dough.  We used our own homemade kinetic sand with dominoes math.


Play Dough can be very inexpensive to make, using ingredients you probably already have.  Some of our favorite homemade play dough recipes would be perfect in these math ideas.  Try these in math for free (or almost free) learning at home:
Orange Zest salt dough recipe
Little Blue and Little Yellow Foaming Dough
 Crayon Play Dough
Glitter Glue Salt Dough Recipe


This post is part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home), and is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Vegetable Quesadilla Learning with Cooking

 Cooking with the kids in the kitchen is such a wonderful learning opportunity.  The sights and smells of new and interesting foods and the textures and tasks of cooking provide children with a rich  experience.  Then there is the awareness of accomplishment.  Kids can help to prepare the food that feeds the family.  Kids can learn the steps of cooking a meal from start to finish.  This week in our Cooking With Kids A-Z series, we are exploring Mushrooms.  We made a vegetable quesadilla while learning along the way.

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

This post is part of our month-long Learning with Free Materials series where we are sharing learning ideas for homeschoolers and school-extension activities using items that are free or mostly free (i.e. CHEAP or you already have in the home), and is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.  While the food needed to create this meal is not free, you do need to feed your family.  So, while doing the chore of making dinner, why not learn along the way?  The educational oppourtunities that go along with cooking are a free lesson in math, process, direction following, listening skills, and safety.

This post contains affiliate links.
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!


How can kids learn when cooking?

When cooking with kids, there are so many learning opportunities.  Create a list of steps for the recipe and have your child read as they work.  Children can check off completed steps.  Stress the importance of completing the recipe in order.  Oral and verbal direction following are worked on while kids cook.  Kids can learn about safety while cooking.  Shredding cheese with a grater, using a knife, and cooking at the stove are opportunities for safety lessons. 

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!


We began our Vegetable Quesadilla recipe by shredding a cup of cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese. Put these aside on a plate.

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe

Ingredients:
2 Tortillas
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc)
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
salsa, ranch dressing, or sour cream to dip 

Chop, dice, and slice green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, onion, and mushrooms.  The nice thing about a vegetable quesadilla is that you can substitute and add any vegetable.  Add in tomatoes, squash, beans, hot peppers, or eggplant…your produce department or garden is the limit!  
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Next, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan.  Saute all of the vegetables except the mushrooms.  After 2-3 minutes, add the mushrooms to the pan.  Continue cooking until soft.  Teach the kids about safety with the oven at this point!

Warm a Quesadilla Maker and place a tortilla on the bottom.  Spread out the cooked vegetables over the tortilla.  Sprinkle cheese all over the vegetables and layer a second tortilla on top of the cheese.  Close the lid to the quesadilla maker and allow it to cook until the light changes, indicating done-ness (about 4-5 minutes).  
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Slice the quesadillas along the section lines using a pizza wheel.  

Serve with salsa, sour cream, or ranch to dip.
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!

Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!
Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and two kinds of cheese, a great dish for kids to eat and make in the kitchen.  Cooking with kids is a great learning opportunity in so many areas!



With a vegetable quesadilla, children get the opportunity to try new vegetables that might be new to them.  The hand-held finished dish is a fun one to eat.  Dipping the quesadilla slices into ranch, salsa, or sour cream may encourage your child to try this recipe and new tastes.  Have fun experimenting with vegetable combinations!






Want to cook healthy foods for your family?  Grab Yum! Deliciously Healthy Meals for Kids, a cookbook for busy families that want healthy meal ideas. 

Healthy recipes for kids

Learning Ideas on Windows and Glass Doors

When the weatherman calls for rain or the kids need a little something special to do, you’ve got the perfect learning surface right in your house for creative learning.  Today, we’re sharing learning activities that can be done on windows!  Using a vertical surface in writing is a beneficial way to incorporate muscles of the hand and arm.  It is a strengthening task to hold the arm up and manipulate a writing utensil like window markers or a pencil.  Learning and movement go hand in hand, so these standing and moving learning ideas are sure to be a great way to creatively practice some skills that you might need to cover.  Use the windows in your house for math, literacy, handwriting, and more with these creative learning ideas.

Learning math, literacy, spelling words, handwriting, colors, shapes on a vertical surface with windows and glass doors.


Learning using Windows and Glass Doors


Creekside Learning shares how to do math on the window.
These monster math window clings are a fun way to practice math skills.
Move and learn with a hundreds sticky chart on the window or glass door.
You can practice letters with a seasonal theme, like Mom Inspired Life.
Or, make an alphabet tree on the glass door like Fun-a-Day did for Pre-K Pages.
Practice handwriting like Coffee Cups and Crayons, using window paint.
Therapy Fun Zone shares more about handwriting on the door.
The Jenny Evolution practiced writing on a vertical surface, too.
Modern Preschool practiced handwriting on the window using shaving cream.
Kids can learn shapes and colors on the glass door, like Adventures of Adam.
Or, use paints to explore colors like Simple Fun for Kids.
Discover the colors of the rainbow by building a rainbow on the window like we did.
What better way to hold your paints, pencils, and window markers, than a homemade window easel like the one Picklebums made.
Practicing spelling words?  Make it mess-free sensory window spelling like we did.


This post is part of our month-long series: Learning with Free Materials series, where we share ideas to learn at home using free (or almost free) materials.  It’s part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Learn with Board Games You Already Own

It can be fun to introduce learning into a summer day or after-dinner evening with the family during Family Time.  Pull out board games that you’ve played a thousand times and add a learning component to them for a new twist on the game.  A math, literacy, history, or any educational spin can be made to board games to make them appropriate for your child’s age and interests.  See how we’ve made modifications to board games:




Use board games like Guess Who, Kerplunk, Zingo, and more in learning  extension activities: math, literacy, and educational ideas based on your child's interests. Perfect for homeschooling, classroom, and home extension activities.



Learn with Board Games:

This post contains affiliate links.

Some of our favorite rainy day activities are board games.  When you play a game 500ish times, they can become boring (Board-ing Games?) and go back on the shelf for months before they are played with again.  We’ve got some ideas for extending the play with your favorite games to make them an appropriate (free) learning tool.


Use board games like Guess Who, Kerplunk, Zingo, and more in learning  extension activities: math, literacy, and educational ideas based on your child's interests. Perfect for homeschooling, classroom, and home extension activities.

Practice Math with Guess Who
:
We added a piece of paper to our Guess Who
game.  Write numbers on the paper inside the windows and on the top.  Slide the sheets into both boards.  Game players can take turns asking questions like, “Is your number 3+3?” or “Is your number 17-4?”.  The first player to determine the other player’s number is the winner.  Adjust this game to meet any educational needs.  Learning presidents?  Write them in the windows.  Kids can guess the answers based on facts or dates.  Learning States, science, or historical facts?  Write them in and adjust the game based on the interests and needs of your child or student.

Practice Sight Words with HedBanz
:
Simply write sight words on post it notes and stick them to the headband pieces.  Participants can act out the sight word.  Other options are molding the sight word out of play dough or drawing the sight word.  This game can easily be adjusted to meet any topic.

Practice Math with the game, Zingo:
A fun way to introduce coding to kids is to create simple decoding activities.  Assign the card pictures from the game, ThinkFun Zingo
to specific letters.  Players keep the cards that they capture by playing the game with the game boards.  They then have to use the letters they’ve accumulated to form a word. 

Literacy Practice with Ker Plunk Game
:
As the marbles drop in the game, say the letters of the alphabet outloud. It will be tricky to say all of the letters when the marbles fall quickly once the game goes on.

Math with Checkers
:
We recently posted our favorite way to practice math with checkers.

Math with Uno Card Game
:
As the game of Uno Card Game
is played, add the numbers that are played.  Depending on the players ages, you can add just two cards together keep adding.


This post is part of our month-long series: Learning with Free Materials series, where we share ideas to learn at home using free (or almost free) materials.  It’s part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips as we blog along with other bloggers with learning at home tips and tools.

Love these ideas?  Pin it!  You will want to check out our our Playful Math Pinterest Board for more fun and learning ideas.