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Games and Activities You Can Make at Home

Games and Activities You Can Make at Home
Posted on February 21, 2024 by CHS

Games and Activities You Can Make at Home

Homemade games and activities are creative and fun resources you can use to support your child’s learning. Games and activities made from other materials around the house also model important problem-solving skills such as resourcefulness, creativity, and ingenuity. Showing children how everyday materials can be changed into new materials, games, or activities also builds their resilience because they learn to see the possibilities and focus on creativity.

If appropriate for their age and developmental stage, invite your child to make these materials with you. Children are much more interested in using materials they have created themselves. The following are inexpensive ideas of activities or toys you can make to help support your child’s learning and development at home. They are grouped by age, but it is also important to consider your child’s developmental stage and interests.

Infants and Toddlers

  • Exploring Circles: Collect clean plastic or metal lids that do not have sharp edges and are too large to be a choking hazard. Examples of safe lids include those from juice bottles, outer metal rings from mason jars, and lids from tubs of butter, sour cream, or yogurt. Place them in a basket or box and invite infants to explore the lids’ different textures, sizes, and colors. Infants and toddlers also learn by filling up containers, dumping out the contents, and filling them back up. This promotes their cognitive learning about cause and effect. Toddlers can also count lids or organize them by size or color. Cut the side off of a cardboard box, place the lids on it, and trace around them with a marker. Now, toddlers can practice matching the lid to its outline on the cardboard.
  • Grasp and Pull Games: Activities that involve grasping and pulling objects help develop motor skills. One option is to make a grasp and pull board using a sturdy piece of cardboard, a hole-punch tool or scissors, and various ribbons or yarn scraps cut into about ten-inch lengths. Make small holes in the cardboard with the hole-punch or scissors, then slide one ribbon about halfway through each hole. Tie a large knot at each end of the ribbon to prevent it from being pulled completely out of the board. Invite infants and toddlers to pull the ribbon one way, then turn the board over so they can pull it through the other way. If you like to sew, you can make a washable version of this game by sewing button-holes into a small blanket, pulling the ribbons through the holes, and tying them off as you would with the cardboard. Another option is to stuff an empty tissue box or diaper wipe box with scarves or adult socks and invite your child to pull them out and stuff them back in.
  • Ball Games: Make your own soft, washable balls for playing indoors. For younger infants, you can simply roll two adult-sized socks together into a ball shape. Now you are ready to roll the ball to your baby. Place them on their tummy and roll the ball gently towards them. If they are able to sit, you can sit facing each other with your feet touching and roll the ball back and forth. If they reach a point where they are only interested in pulling the sock ball apart, you can create a sturdier ball using a pair of old nylons or tights. Cut off the foot or a piece of the leg from the nylons. Place the sock ball inside, and tightly tie the opening(s) on the nylons in a double knot.
  • Fun with Boxes: Collect boxes of various sizes. Invite your child to explore, stack, line up, or build with the boxes. Create a washable surface by taping the boxes closed and covering them with colored or patterned contact paper, which can be purchased at most dollar stores. Choose colors or patterns that promote conversations with your child.

Preschool-Aged Children

  • Spiderweb Tape Experiments: You will need painter’s tape and a variety of small objects. Use the doorway to your child’s room where they can access small toys or objects. Stick tape up across the doorway with the sticky side facing into the room. As you stick up strips of tape, ask your child to guess what you are doing. Place the tape so the strips cross over each other until the doorway looks like a spiderweb. Invite your child to stick small objects or toys on to the tape. Items can include toy cars, cards, small blocks, puzzle pieces, and more. Ask your child to guess whether or not an item will stick to the “spiderweb” and discuss why it does or does not stick. This is an opportunity to introduce the concepts of weight and gravity. Try making other tape spiderwebs between table tops with the tape facing up, and again with it facing down. Compare the results of the experiments by making charts together of which items stuck to the spiderwebs.
  • Lacing Cards: Use a pair of scissors to cut off the back and front sides of cereal boxes, and then cut each side in half to create large, sturdy cards. Your child can use safety scissors and help cut. Invite your child to draw a picture on the blank side of the cards, or you can draw simple shapes like a circle, triangle, square, rectangle, heart, or diamond. Use a hole-punch to make holes on the lines of the drawing. Use strong tape to attach a large piece of yarn or string to one corner of the card. Wrap a small piece of tape around the other end of the yarn so that it can easily go through the holes. Invite your child to move the yarn through each hole to build their motor skills and eye-hand coordination.
  • Ball Maze: You will need a couple of cardboard boxes, scissors, a pencil, glue, and a small lightweight ball (such as a ping pong ball) for this activity. Trim the sides of one cardboard box with scissors to make a shallow box with walls two to three inches high. Use a pencil to draw a maze at the bottom of the shallow box. Cut the remaining box pieces into strips and glue them to the bottom of the shallow box to form the walls of your maze. You will also need to glue the edges of the cardboard walls together. Make sure the distance between the walls is wide enough for the ball to roll between them. Once the glue is completely dry, invite your child to hold the box and gently tilt it from side to side so the ball rolls through the maze.
  • Sidewalk Chalk Courses: Sidewalk chalk can be purchased at most dollar stores, and is a wonderful tool for encouraging exercise outdoors. Make an obstacle course for your child to move through. For example, draw a long, straight line to walk on like a balance beam, connect it to hopscotch for jumping, connect that to a drawing of a spider and tell them that means they need to move like a spider, then follow that with a drawing of a spiral and let them know that means to spin in a circle, and end with a squiggly balance beam line. You can also draw a bike path that includes stop signs and parking places.

School-Aged Children

  • Board Games: The side of a cardboard box, or a file folder can be used to create a board game. You and your child can use markers to draw a series of board game squares that have a starting and finishing point. Use colored pencils to draw pictures that create a theme for the game, and write directions such as “Skip one turn” or “Move forward two squares” in the boxes. Color small stones to make the game pieces, or use small toys, cars, or plastic people to be game pieces. Children can roll dice or make a spinner board to determine how many spaces each player can move. Encourage your child to create and write directions for the game (they may need adult help with some of the writing). Creating board games encourages children to practice math skills and explore the concepts of being fair and including everyone.
  • Puzzles: Encourage practicing math skills by making puzzles. Cut pictures of people, animals, food, or landscapes out of magazines, or invite your child to draw pictures of people or things they are interested in. Glue the pictures onto sturdy paper or thin cardboard (like the sides of cereal boxes). You can make them last longer by covering them with clear contact paper. Cut the pictures into various pieces to make puzzles. Work a puzzle with your child, or you can each work your own puzzle and race to see who finishes first. Store the pieces in sealable plastic bags.
  • Mystery Boxes: Practice deductive reasoning with mystery boxes. You will need two or three boxes with lids, such as shoe boxes. Place an item in each box and tape the lid or wrap the box so it does not open easily. Invite your child to gently move or shake the box to listen to the sound of the object inside. Ask your child to guess what might be inside each box. If they are struggling with guessing what it might be you can offer clues. For example, if the item is a wooden spoon, you might say, “This is something you use with a bowl when you cook.” Write down your child’s guess on each box, and then let your child open the box to see if they guessed correctly.
  • Burlap Sewing Squares: For this activity, you will need burlap cloth (this is a loosely woven brown or tan cloth), yarn, a plastic yarn needle, scissors, and strong tape. These materials are available at most craft stores. Don’t forget to check the store’s website for sales or coupons before you shop! Cut the burlap cloth into ten-inch squares. Because it is a loosely woven material, it may begin to fray or unravel on the cut edges. Ask your child to help wrap each edge with the strong tape to create a border that prevents fraying. Cut the yarn into long pieces of about twenty inches. Thread the yarn through the plastic needle and tie it in a knot. Tie a larger knot in the loose end of the yarn. Show them how fabric’s loose weave creates square holes when gently pulled. Your child can sew any design they like on the burlap by passing the plastic needle through the holes. When they are done, they can keep the sewn square as it is, or take a photo of it, and then cut the end of the yarn to pull it out and start a new picture. This activity fosters creativity, strengthens motor skills, and improves eye-hand coordination.

There are many other games and activities you can play with your child that don’t require any materials at all. You can play I Spy to encourage your child to search for objects based on clues you give them while you go for walks or wait in a line. For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that is red and white. Can you guess what it is?” The answer would be a stop sign. You can also sing songs together, dance to music, or play handclapping games. The resources below can provide you with more ideas for creating games and activities that support learning at home.

References and Resources for More Learning Ideas

A Collection of Old School Children’s Games by Playvolution HQ

Activities to Learn about Gardening by Kids Gardening

Book: Do-It-Yourself Early Learning: Easy and Fun Activities and Toys from Everyday Home Center Materials by Jeff A. Johnson and Tasha A. Johnson (Red Leaf Press, 2006).

Book: Making Toys for Infants and Toddlers: Using Ordinary Stuff for Extraordinary Play by Linda G. Miller and Mary Jo Gibbs (Gryphon House, 2002).

Book: Making Toys for Preschool Children: Using Ordinary Stuff for Extraordinary Play by Linda G. Miller and Mary Jo Gibbs (Gryphon House, 2002).

Book: Making Toys for School-Age Children: Using Ordinary Stuff for Extraordinary Play by Linda G. Miller and Mary Jo Gibbs (Gryphon House, 2002).

Creative Clay, Dough, and Modeling Experiences by MaryAnn F. Kohl, posted by Community Playthings (includes homemade dough recipes)

Distance Learning Activity Sheets by CHS (español)

Games and Activities that Build Self-Regulation Skills by CHS (español)

Homemade Instruments to Make Music by TinyBeans

Indoor Gross Motor Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten by The Measured Mom

Learn How to Make a Mud Kitchen with this free book in multiple languages from MuddyFaces (español)

Make a Cardboard Mini Library by PBS

Practicing Math Games with Your Child by CHS (español)

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) booklet by CHS (español)

Teaching Your Child about Managing Money by CHS (español)

Ten Classic Hand-Clapping Games to Teach Your Kid by Today’s Parent

Ten Prop Box Ideas: Mini Learning Centers at Home by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Thirty-Six Upcycling Ideas for Kids: Recycled Crafts & Activities for Kids to Make by Hands On As We Grow

Twenty Classic Ball Games for Kids by VeryWell Family

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