2 Fun Back to School Activities for Kids

September means it’s back to school time. Although the phrase ‘back to School’ does not seem to fit along with ‘fun’ or ‘games’, here are two fun ideas related to both of the above.

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Back To School” by stux is licensed under CC by 2.0

Liven it up: Needless to say, a majority of the kids would still be in the holiday mood when they trudge back to school. In order to liven them up before getting down to books and other serious stuff, here’s a simple activity that can prep them up. Clap in a certain pattern and add a funny sound to it (say it aloud) intermittently. Ask the students to do the same along with you. In no time at all, the kids will all be giggling and clapping their way to become wide awake, minus any lethargy.

A Holiday Questionnaire: If a teacher asks kids to write out an essay about their holidays, it may not warrant the same interest as that of a questionnaire/worksheet with specific questions. For instance, ‘3 things that you enjoyed the most during your holidays’, or ‘What got you bored during the holidays?’ or ‘Name and describe a game that you played in your holidays’ etc. When everyone is done, the kids could come and read out their answers in front of the class. This could make it a fun exercise for every child.

The basic underlying goal is to get the kids opened up and active after a couple of months hiatus, and have fun in the process before getting down to homework and schoolwork.

Ways to Explain Solar Eclipse to Your Kids

The 21st of August will bring with it a complete solar eclipse in some places, while a partial solar eclipse in others. It is a good opportunity to introduce your kids to aid them in understanding the fascinating goings-on in the sky above. An eclipse in itself is a pretty complex phenomenon to explain to young minds, but there are a number of easy ways to introduce them to what it is all about.
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Planets” by basker_dhandapani is licensed under CC by 2.0

Act it out with a simple DIY experiment
It’s pretty simple to make your own crude version of a solar eclipse at home using simple objects. All you need is a large ball (basketball or beach ball), a smaller soft ball, a dark room (for instance, a garage) and a battery-operated torch or an electric flashlight, in addition to three people. Get one person to stand stationary with the larger ball in his outstretched hands. Tell your kids that this ball is our planet earth. Next, another person needs to stand in front of the one with the ‘earth’ and turn on a flashlight, such that its light falls on the earth. This represents the sun. The third person with a soft ball now should walk around in circles slowly around the earth (between the larger ball or earth and the flashlight or sun). After this, the ‘earth’ needs to walk in circles around the ‘sun’ as well, with the ‘moon’ continuing its motion. The ‘sun’ will remain stationary throughout, as is actually the case. There will come a time when the ‘moon’ is passing between the ‘earth’ and the ‘sun’ and creates a shadow when it lines up just right.

The idea of three different people holding balls and a torch, with two of them moving around in circles may seem a bit weird, but it can be a fun way to explain the concepts of revolution and planetary motion to your kids, followed by how a solar eclipse occurs. This idea comes from Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at NASA. She says: ‘It’s silly fun, but it’s a good way to visualize what’s happening and get a sense for how it works – especially for young children. The idea is that the earth is traveling around the sun here and the moon is traveling around the earth, and sometimes they line up just right.

Simple worksheets about the functioning of our solar system
For kids to grasp the basic science occurring behind a solar eclipse, they need to have a proper understanding of what planets are, how they rotate on their own axes and revolve around the sun, what natural satellites (like the moon) are and how it revolves around the earth, and so on. To introduce them to the concept of our solar system, it is a good idea to begin with solar system worksheets like these for kids. For example, one worksheet talks about the features of the sun in a multiple choice format, in which the children are required to pick the correct option to complete the facts. Another talks about the different phases of the moon (such as full moon, new moon and so on) that are visible from the earth.

Once the kids are familiar with these fundamental concepts related to the functioning of the solar system, they can proceed to the worksheets that talk about how an eclipse occurs and draw it out on a printable to gain better understanding. You could always test your kids’ understanding of a particular concept by verbal questioning after he/she completes a worksheet to gauge their level of learning.

Mainzer sums it up very aptly when she says: ‘I think the main thing is, just get out there and experience it. It’s really an opportunity to be reminded of the big picture we fit into as human beings on earth.

Time to put on our special viewing glasses and look up to the heavens above with the kids!

5 Classic Outdoor Summer Games for Kids

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Children” by martinedehart is licensed under CC by 2.0

Some games are evergreen – they haven’t lost their charm or element of fun even though we played them way back in our own childhood! Come summer, and it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce them to your kids (that is, if they are not familiar with most of them already). Here you go.

Hide and Seek: First and foremost on the list. Leads to a whole lot of giggles, develops problem-solving skills and helps kids learn all about the importance of teamwork.
Hopscotch: All you need is a solid floor and a piece of chalk. Hopping on one foot is fun, helps younger children learn how to maintain balance and improves hand-eye coordination.
Marbles: Drawing a circle in the sand and trying to knock each other’s marbles out of it – it’s as simple as that. Helps to develop fine motor skills, counting ability and hand-eye coordination. (Not suitable for toddlers though).
Tag: One child assumes the responsibility of becoming the all-important ‘it’ and chases the other kids around, trying to make them ‘it’. Helps keep them physically active and fit.
Simon Says: The ‘Simon’ of the group issues instructions to the others (for example, ‘stick out your tongue’) and they are required to follow it only when preceded by ‘Simon says’.

A hint of nostalgia, anyone?

Going Beyond 'Educational' Video Games

“Video games can be very powerful stimulants to children’s brains. That’s why kids often prefer playing video games to playing outdoors or playing a board game,” says the author of The Big Disconnect Catherine Steiner-Adair, who has written about how the digital revolution profoundly impacts childhood and family relationships.

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Gaming” by JESHOOTS is licensed under CC by 2.0

As a parent, it is a good idea to take the initiative and say, choose which video game to play with your kids (not necessarily educational). The mere fact that you’ll be playing with them should be enough for the kids to agree to your choice (at least for the time being). While you’re bound to have fun and bond while playing – there’ll be moments of laughing, teasing, fighting or whoops of joy through the game - it is important to not let the child have the upper hand and emerge a winner every time though. They should get the idea that winning and losing is all part and parcel of playing.

Another positive opportunity for parents and kids to communicate freely while playing video games arises as a result of the role reversal factor which is bound to occur. Needless to say, your little one will probably be way better than you at the game. Querying about the nitty-gritties and asking open-ended questions about the game will help your kids don the role of a teacher and open up to you.

The icing on the cake? Speaking from personal experience, some video gaming sessions yield unexpectedly deep conversations with the kids without them realizing it; the game controller in their hands somehow makes it easier for them to converse.

To conclude, author Catherine Steiner-Adair couldn’t have put it better when she said: “If you have a child who loves video games, make sure they maintain their capacity to get pleasure from games that aren’t video games. What you don’t want to have is the magic of the iPad delete the magic of the playground.”

The Periodic Table Battleship Game

Most of us have played Battleship at home at some point in our lives – the opposing player has a fleet of ships that you need to destroy, with you calling ‘shots’ at your opponent’s ships. A homeschooling mom of four kids, Karyn Tripp, who has been a teacher to her children since more than seven years came up with an ingenious idea – she converted the periodic table into a Battleship game of sorts. Here’s how she went about it.

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Image courtesy: Bored Panda

Four identical copies of the periodic table were printed out and the rows labeled in an alphabetical order. Gluing each of the four to hard re-foldable cardboards or file folders, the tables took on a laptop-type of form which could be opened and pinned together at the top while playing in order to create ‘barriers’. The rules are simple: Players play by calling out coordinates, after circling rows of two, three, four and five elements to mark the positions of their ‘ships’. Whoever finds the elements first, circles it and wins the game.

“I came up with the idea because we play Battleship a lot at our house. I was studying chemistry with my kids and we were trying to think of a fun way to memorize the elements. So it just came to me!” says Karyn.

Who could’ve imagined something as exciting as Battleship and as dry as the periodic table could go so well together?
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brionnasimpson

Author:brionnasimpson
I am an assistant teacher and my aim is to curate unique learning tips and techniques customized towards kids.

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