If you’re a parent trying to juggle work and home learning, or a teacher trying to keep your virtual class engaged as we approach three months in lockdown, you might be struggling to find new ideas and inspiration for keeping your little ones busy and learning. These products and projects for young creators may help! All of these activities help build curiosity, creativity, motor skills and language, so even if some of them seem more like play than work, rest assured; children will be gaining a lot from them. They are aimed at ages 4-7, but could definitely be adapted for older age groups too. In fact, they’re perfect for joint projects with older siblings! 

Build and learn with The League of Young Inventors

My friends at the League of Young Inventors have launched a series of online lessons to encourage children to explore and build using simple resources like popsicle sticks, paper, tape and rubber bands. The lessons take children through each step of the process, meaning they can work independently while learning STEM skills. New lessons are being added all the time, so keep checking back!

Become a cardboard engineer

If, like me, you’ve been ordering a lot of supplies online recently, hang onto those cardboard boxes! The MakeDo sets of plastic saws, screwdrivers and screws let children easily assemble forts and dens, space stations, armor and more. I loved using this with kids so much that I’ve ordered my own set for home. The kits range from single person sets to full class, so these are definitely worth exploring if you’re an educator looking for a way to bring large scale engineering projects into your classroom. You can start with a prompt (“How might we build a space capsule to let an astronaut land safely on the moon?”) or let children do some free building and see where their imagination takes them.

Take your devices outdoors

Tech use and screen time don’t have to happen inside. If you’re feeling like your child is having too much ‘consumption’ screen time, encourage them to use an iPad or tablet to interact with the outside world. This could be in your yard if you have one, or on a walk you go on together. Here are some suggestions for ways to use technology to help children to engage with nature:

  • Take a photograph of a natural object like leaves or a tree. Use Markup or a drawing app like Sketches School to turn them into imaginary creatures.
  • Choose some favorite toys (animals work best!) and place them in the sun at different times of the day. Use a device to photograph the shadows that they create at different times and talk about why they change.
  • Make a mini nature documentary using the video camera or a video creation app like Apple Clips – this could focus on animals or plants in the yard or at the local park, track the growth of seeds or use toy animals like dinosaurs. 

Learn what goes on inside a computer

Hello Ruby is a lovely book that introduces children to computer science and also happens to have a website with lots of activities designed to help children understand what happens inside computers and how apps work in creative, fun ways. A lot of the activities are printables that children can then get stuck into away from a screen. You can find play activities here and teaching activities here.

Make a Rube Goldberg Machine

This is a great way to do something new with those unused boxes of toys! Rube Goldberg (or chain reaction) Machines help children to understand physics and are a brilliant way to develop perseverance and patience when things don’t work so well the first time. Start with a simple example of a line of dominos falling into each other, and then let children’s imaginations run wild! There are some ideas and links to videos in this old but very good resource from Tinkerlab

Have fun, and remember that young children gain so much from all types of play – whether it’s role play with toys and dolls, building dens or digging holes in the yard.

Let us know how you get on if you try the ideas above and I’d love to hear about your ideas too; just drop me a line at faye@readylearner.one.

Faye Ellis is an elementary STEAM digital learning specialist and is Director of Special Projects at Ready Learner One. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Google Certified Innovator, and has previously worked led digital learning in London schools and at the British Museum. You can find Faye on Twitter at @fayenicole

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