Hands-on Learning, Part Three of a Three-part Series

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The great thing about incorporating hands-on learning activities on a regular basis is that it stimulates creativity in your children ... and in you, too!  

I won’t lie. It does take extra time and energy to prepare hands-on activities for your children. You might be asking yourself, “Is it worth it?” I believe the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Your efforts will undoubtedly yield a child who grasps information and concepts better, and who discovers that learning can indeed be fun! 

Proverbs 15:2 (The Living Bible) says, 

“A wise teacher makes learning a joy.”

Make a little card with this verse and hang it on your refrigerator or your bathroom mirror – somewhere you’ll see it everyday. It’s a great reminder of what’s possible! 

“If we succeed in giving the love of learning, 
the learning itself is sure to follow.”  (John Lubbock)

Here are some additional ideas to help you inspire your students to experience the joy of discovery.


ART activities

SKETCH/DRAW - Have your child draw a picture that represents something you’re studying. Go outside and explore. Give him or her a sketchbook or nature journal to sketch things they see.   Have your child do some additional research and write facts along with their sketches.

PAINT - Use watercolors and acrylics; do bubble painting and straw painting. Give your children different items to paint with – leaves, branches, feathers, cotton balls, and so on.

SCULPT - Make a model out of clay such as Sculpey® (i.e. parts of a flower, stages of a butterfly’s life cycle). 

MAKE MODELS - Build a ziggurat out of Styrofoam; assemble paper models of an Egyptian temple, the New York skyline, etc. (Dover Publications has a wide variety of Cut & Assemble books.)

MAKE A DIORAMA - Use a shoebox to create a 3-dimentional representation (i.e. the savannah, dinosaurs, ocean life).

MAKE A COLLAGE - Cut out pictures, shapes, and words, then assemble them in a collage on posterboard, canvas board, or wood. Adhere with a decoupage medium or white glue.

LAPBOOKS, MINI BOOKS, NOTEBOOKS, AND SCRAPBOOKS - Do a Google search to learn how to create lapbooks or do notebooking in conjunction with something you’re studying.   Have your children make a scrapbook with photos and journaling for a family vacation or something you’re learning about.  For example, if you grow butterflies or frogs as a science experiment, students can document the process with photos and notes about what they observe.

MAPS - Color and label maps. Make a salt-dough map. These are excellent enrichment activities when studying geography and history.

MAKE A POSTER OR DISPLAY - Allow your child to design a poster or 3-panel display to illustrate something they’ve learned. One year we did a U.S. geography co-op with two other families.   Each of the students created a display that showcased information about the region they were assigned. The parents and grandparents viewed the displays and asked the children questions. The kids had fun sharing what they had learned.

MAKE A GRAPH - This is a great way to consolidate and share information. Students can conduct a survey and then make a graph with the results (i.e. ask friends and family their favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite place to buy groceries, least favorite vegetable, etc.)  Or they can do research such as how many people put their grocery cart in the cart corral or how many people shake hands vs. hug when greeting someone at church.


Theatrical activities

ACT OUT A STORY - After reading a story, have your kids retell the story or act it out for you.

PUT ON A PUPPET SHOW - This is a fun way to retell a story or to create a new story. Puppets can be as simple as a drawing cut out and attached to a popsicle stick, or as involved as making sock puppets or even more elaborate puppets.

CREATE A WEATHER REPORT OR NEWS REPORT - Children can pretend to be news anchors and deliver a live report or videotape their report. When studying a particular region, state, or country, students can present a weather report describing the weather in that area. For a study of a period of history, a news report could be given as if the student were living in that time period sharing news that illustrates their understanding of that time in history.

READERS THEATRE - A Readers Theatre is a choreographed reading. Students read from a script, and reading parts are divided among the readers. No memorization, costumes, blocking, or special lighting is needed. Students read the text with expressive voices and gestures making comprehension of the text meaningful and fun for the student and the audience.


OTHER activities

COOK/BAKE/EAT - Use the senses of taste and smell to experience food from a particular region, state, country, or period in history.  Incorporates following directions, units of measure/math, and chemistry if students cook the food themselves.

MUSIC - Listening to music from a particular area or period of history enhances the learning experience.

WRITE LETTERS - Improve penmanship and communication skills through correspondence with friends and family. The act of writing letters and thank you notes also increases a child’s awareness of and care for others.

CREATIVE WRITING - Instead of writing a report, have your kids do a creative writing activity such as writing a newspaper article or journal entry from the perspective of a person from a period in history, of an animal or object, or of a character in a book. Add illustrations by hand or with computer clip art. 

MORE CREATIVE WRITING - Write a family newsletter. Create a dinner menu.  Write step-by-step instructions for how to perform a common activity such as tying one’s shoes or making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

GEOGRAPHY POSTCARDS - This is something we’ve done with friends who travel internationally, and our girls have found it to be a lot of fun. Ask a friend or family member who lives in another part of the country or is traveling to somewhere interesting to send your child a postcard from that state or country. Have them include on the postcard several geography or history questions about that place. Children love to receive mail, and they won’t mind doing research to answer these questions!   We had our girls write a letter back to our friends and answer the questions they sent about France and the Netherlands.

VIDEOS AND AUDIO BOOKS - Using a variety of media can make a study multi-sensory and more interesting. Rent or borrow videos and audio books for a low-cost alternative to purchasing them. It’s okay to just use segments of a video, too. Audio books are especially nice for road trips or lots of time in the car.



There are countless resources available to help inspire you with hands-on learning ideas.   Here are a few to get you started.  In addition, you can do an Internet search for “lesson plans” plus whatever topic you’re searching for.  

Ignite the Fire by Terri Camp
Creative Family Times by Hadidian and Wilson (preschool activities)
Preschool at Home: What Do I Do with My Child Before Kindergarten by Debbie Feely
Spelling Power Activity Cards by Beverly Adams-Gordon
Lyrical Life Science
Math for Fun Projects by Andrew King
Science for Fun Experiments by Gary Gibson
MathART Projects and Activities by Carolyn Ford Brunetto
Kids Learn America by Gordon and Snow
Activity Guides (i.e. Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome; Westward Ho! An Activity Guide to the Wild West)