My Favorite Educational Activities and Programs for Kids

magnetic letters are so great for teaching kids to read

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My kids go to a school that has a no-homework policy, so when they get home from school each day we’ve set up a daily schedule of a few educational things and programs they need to do. I give them 30 minutes of fun screen time (movies on netflix or games on the ipad) each day, but they cannot have those 30 minutes until their educational things are completed.

I share bits and pieces of it on my instagram stories from time to time, so today I want to share it all in one place. And I’m sharing a link to our daily chart at the bottom of the post if you’re interested!

our favorite computer program for teaching kids to type!
teaching kids to type is such a valuable skill
the very first program we used to teach my son to read
magnetic letters are a great way to teach your kids letters and sounds
my favorite workbooks for kids
learning to read with kids
teaching your kids accountability
my favorite workbooks for kids

Computer Programs.

Starfall.com. Ages 1 and up. We started using this one when B was about two years old, and it helped so much. We started with just the ABC’s portion, learning what all the letters said and looked like, and as he got older we moved to the Learn To Read section where you learn basic rules like “the silent e,” “vowel teams,” etc. Of course I knew how to read, but I didn’t really know how to teach someone to read, so this section was incredibly helpful for me.

There is an option for a paid membership, but we never signed up because there was plenty on the free version. The desktop computer version has a lot more free access, whereas the ipad or iphone version is very limited. So we’ve almost exclusively done this program on our computer.

TypingClub.com. Ages 5 and up. Typing is a skill that is super important for me, and I spent years doing Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. I found that her programs are pretty outdated now, so I’ve been on the hunt for a good alternative. I found TypingClub.com and I’m a huge fan. It’s a free program and I feel like it goes at a really good pace and in the right order. You can sign up with Facebook or your email to keep track of your progress.

We just started doing this with Fos because up until now his hands were just too small to use the keyboard. So I wouldn’t start any earlier than five years old. My only complaint is that I don’t think it has an option to track multiple children under the same account.

Studio.Code.Org. Ages 4 and up. This is the one I get the most questions about. It’s a fantastic free program that teaches the basics of coding. My sister told me about it and both of our kids love it. It’s really fun and interactive, and uses characters the kids recognize, so it’s appealing for them. As part of the curriculum, they have “Unplugged Activities,” and I just have to say we’ve never done those. We just skip over them and go straight for the videos and activities.

DuoLingo.com. Ages 7 and up. This is a great online program/app that my sister also told me about. It’s a free program that helps you learn another language. It has 25 different languages to choose from, but B chose Spanish and has loved learning the basics. He hasn’t gotten very far yet, but from what we’ve seen it’s a really user friendly program, and he’s picked up on the words very quickly.

 

Non Computer Educational Activities.

Magnetic letters. Perfect for ALL AGES. A friend gave us a pack of these magnetic letters for B’s first birthday and I immediately stuck them on our fridge. I started pointing out letters to him and he instantly picked up on them and we used them to learn all the letters, sounds, and putting together short words. Seven years later, we still have them, and I use them every morning with Fos (our current fridge isn’t magnetic, so we just do them on the table).

We spend about 10-15 minutes on them, and take turns: I spell a word and he has to sound it out, or I tell him a word and he has to find the letters and spell it out. Fos has made huge progress this year on his reading and these letters are the main reason for it.

I haven’t started using them with San, but I need to!

BrainQuest WorkbooksGreat for ALL AGES. Go up one level. I’ve purchased a ton of workbooks over the years because my boys like them a lot, and BrainQuest ones are my favorite. They’re around $10, and they have a really good variety of subjects. They run about a grade behind, in my opinion — Fos is doing first grade, and B is doing third grade. So go up one grade level.

Audiobooks. Ages 3 and up. Audiobooks are my secret weapon. We listen to audiobooks in the car during errands, at home during the boy’s afternoon quiet time, on roadtrips, or just anytime. It takes some skill to learn how to listen and follow the story, but once they learn they’re hooked. It’s a fantastic way for them to learn to sit still, and improve their language skills. I shared some of our favorites and some tips to get started in this post.

Reading AloudALL AGES. This must be mentioned because it’s a huge part of our family culture. My mom read to my siblings and me until we moved out of the house, and it’s my favorite thing to do with my kids. I read baby books to San during the day, but after he goes to bed, I sit in the boy’s shared room and read a chapter out of our current novel. We just finished both The Phantom Tollbooth and Wonder, and next we’ll read The Rescuers. You can choose whatever level you think is best for your kids, but I promise you they’ll understand more than you expect. (I also stop often and ask if they understand a word, or I’ll do a quick recap to make sure they’re catching the main points – this is very helpful for Fos who is not quite 5).

If you’re looking for good recommendations, my mom is such an expert and she just created a blog and instagram account with a bunch of her favorites. Seriously, she has read pretty much every worthwhile book out there and is such a good resource!

Piano Practice. Ages 6 and up. We started B in piano this year and it’s been so incredible to watch him learn. We require him to practice every day for 10-15 minutes (we don’t have a set amount of time, we just sit down together and he goes through all his practice assignments from his teacher), and he has a 45 minute lesson each week. It has opened up a new part of his brain and he adores it. He sits down on his own and plays, tries to plunk out songs he hears on the radio, and obsesses over memorizing pieces.

I’m sure all teachers are slightly different, but our teacher recommended starting them at 6, so we’ll wait another year for Fos.

Memorizing Scriptures. Ages 3 and up. This is the first year we’ve done this with our boys. We pick a new scripture each week and find a nursery rhyme or basic song that correlates (usually it’s a stretch, but it works). We print out a copy and put it on the wall in our dining room, and sing it before our prayer at every single meal. When it’s put to a song, my boys pick up on it SO quickly. If you’re not the scripture reading type, I recommend poems! Memorization is such a valuable skill, and it’s great to start them young — even your three year olds will pick up on it quickly even if they can’t say all the words properly.

 

We created a daily chart (you can see and download here if you’d like) based on the Family Economy system from Simply On Purpose, and it’s a really easy system my kids and I can both follow. 

They get paid each week for completing each day, and it’s a great way to get them in good habits, get extra education, and help them build their bank account. 

 

10 educational things I do with my children