Playing for Parents: Grade 4 and Older

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Children have lots of free time during holidays and over the summer. There are plenty of activities and games mentioned in this handout to keep them occupied and learning at the same time. Most of these activities do not require anything more than things that you already have in your home.

Remember, these activities can also be adapted to fit children that are older or younger than the age ranges mentioned in this handout. With any of these activities, your attitude towards the activity will usually determine how much fun your children/grandchildren will have with the activity. Make sure that you have plenty of fun, too!

String activities

There are little games that you can play with string, such as Cat's Cradle, Jacob's Ladder, Cup and Saucer. You can also have your children/grandchildren string things like buttons, pasta, Cheerios, or other things together to form chains or necklaces. If you have yarn, you can have the children work on braiding the yarn or rolling it into a ball (if you are a knitter).

Paper and art activities

There are tons of arts and craft activities that can be done with paper. We have a lot of books on these at the library in the 745.5 area.

One thing to do with just one piece of paper is to create paper doll chains or snowflakes. The good thing about snowflakes is that they can make any cuts that they want to create their own unique snowflakes.

Some good websites for getting patterns for these is the Origami Resource Center for paper dolls and First Palette for snowflakes.

The children can also try making "fortune tellers" by folding a sheet of paper. A pattern for this can be found at DLTK.

Another art activity that can be done with just a single sheet of paper is a "scribble picture." The children can write their name (without lifting the pen or pencil off of the paper), keep scribbling in more lines, and then color in the different spaces that the lines created

Creating art can also include just giving them a blank sheet of paper and some paint and have them mix colors together to create a picture.

Children can also take a bunch of different shapes cut out of paper (they should probably be lots of different colors, too) or pictures from magazines to create mosaics or collages.

To work on their reading skills, you can also have them make up a story with the images they find in the magazine that they can tell you when they are done creating their picture.

Pointillism is a technique that creates a picture with lots and lots of little dots, such as the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat. You can challenge the children to give this a try with a pencil or markers, or make it a little easier on them with paint and Q-tips. Children can also create pictures using paint and their thumbprints (this will be a lot messier, though).

Another good craft activity (that is also a tasty one) is creating things with toothpicks and marshmallows (you can also use gumdrops, but they are stickier). You can challenge the children to create something with a theme (such as a house or rocket).

Two final activities that can be done with paper are playing Hangman or Tic Tac Toe. In Hangman, you chose a word or phrase and draw out the number of letters with blanks, and then the child/children guess a letter that fills in the blanks. You draw a piece of a stick-figure hanging from the rope for every letter they guess that is not there. If they cannot fill in all the letters or guess by the time you have drawn the man hanging, then they lose.

Verbal games

One good verbal game to play with older children is to build a story together sentence by sentence, or by telling the story until you are ready to hand it off to someone else.

Another good verbal game (especially if you have a bigger group) is Telephone. A person on one side of the room tells a "secret" to the person sitting next to them. Then each person has to tell the secret to the person sitting next to them, and then the last person tells everyone what the secret was.

You can also challenge your children/grandchildren to come up with a sentence that ends with a word that rhymes with the word you give them.

In another game you can come up with categories, such as U.S. cities or states, countries, colors, names, and many others, and go one by one naming one that starts with a letter of the alphabet (for example: Austin, Buffalo, Chicago, Denver …).

There is also the game Twenty Questions. One person thinks up a word, and the others have twenty questions that they can ask to figure out what it is.

Finally, you could try a game of Charades or Pictionary (or you could mix the two for more fun).

Cards

Most homes have a least one deck of cards on hand. There are several card games that work on counting skills and memory skills, as well as being a lot of fun. One of these games is Concentration. You lay all of the cards face down on the ground. Then you have to match cards two a time (for example: two 9s, two queens, two aces, etc.).

Another game is Go Fish. Your child has to know how many of each kind of card is in their hand. Finally, there is Old Maid. When playing with regular cards, usually the Ace of Spades is the Old Maid (but you can choose any card).

Sorting and counting

A good way of working on sorting and counting skills for older children is to hand them a large container of coins. The children can separate the different kinds of coins and add them up, as they go along.

Moving games

There are a couple of suggestions for things that require movement that can be done either inside or outside. These games include Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. You can also make things more interesting and try Red Light, Green Light with music.

Musical Chairs is another game that involves music and movement for children.

Hopscotch is a good game to try if you are outside (you can play this inside, if you want to use paper as the squares).

Activities for all ages

Pull out the boxes of old photographs and look at them together. Children enjoy seeing how they looked when they were younger, and they also enjoy seeing the people they know when they were younger. You can even make the activity into a guessing game.

Working in the kitchen is also a great way of keeping busy and learning things. You can have the children help with the stirring, mixing, chopping (softer things like bananas), or spreading (butter or peanut butter onto bread). Turn creating the meals into a lesson (why you need to mix certain things together, what certain foods are made up of, the different types of food, etc.).

Reading: A great activity for children is listening to books. You can have a group reading together time, where you tell the story or do the reading, or you can have the older children take turns reading to the younger children. Audiobooks are also great. If you need to make dinner or get set up for a new activity, you can turn on an audiobook and let the children draw or color while the book is going. Fiction books will take a while, so this can be done several times throughout the day or week.

Some books on the subject

Games for Learning: Ten Minutes a Day to Help Your Child Do Well in School / 372.13 KAYE
The Treasury of Family Games / 793 GLENN
A Lithgow Palooza!: 101 Ways to Entertain and Inspire Your Kids / 793 LITHGOW
The Ultimate Indoor Games Book: The 200 Best Boredom Busters Ever! / J 793 GUNTER
Rainy Days & Saturdays / J 793.01 HETZER
The World's Best String Games / J 793.9 KALTER