The smart and fun way to help give your grandkids a leg up in school
By Remy Agee
Two figures you should know: 70% and 99%. Why? Because school-age grandchildren spend 70% of their waking hours outside of school, and 99% of school principals think grandparents are important to a child’s success in school.
Leave formal lessons to school or home-school teachers! Instead, engage your grandkid(s) in play activities that teach or reinforce basics — reading, writing, math, science, history—or that develop or improve life skills such as problem-solving, working cooperatively, and following directions.
Following are two fun learning activities, one outdoor and one indoor, to consider.
This new twist on treasure hunting is one of the world’s fastest-growing outdoor activities, with over 6 million geocachers around the globe. “Geo” refers to geography; “caching” refers to locating a hidden container holding a treasure. “Geocachers” locate a cache using their own GPS or GPS-enabled mobile device and GPS coordinates from the Geocaching site. Caches vary from a logbook, to collectible coins, to special promotional “Trackables,” such as Dinosaur Train caches (from PBS). When found, add your name to the Geocache logbook and report your experience online.
You can get everything you need free at Geocaching.com. Annual memberships and mobile apps enhance the experience at additional cost but aren’t necessary to enjoy geocaching.
To watch the video What Is Geocaching?, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4VFeYZTTYs
Make Your Own Board Game
Making a board game is fun and easy as 1-2-3:
- Choose a topic that your grandchild wants or needs to learn about — ABCs, counting, dinosaurs, friendship, manners, nutrition, opposites, sea creatures, solar system, etc.
- Design the game (just sketch it out on paper to begin with) and decide the rules together.
- Find a free board-game template online and craft your game.
With some board-game templates, you can use a program like Microsoft Word to add your own images and words before printing the board. With other templates, you print a blank game board and then draw/write or cut and paste images and words onto the board. Find free clipart sites or major sports team websites to cut and paste computer images for your game. Another option is to use stickers for the images on your board and cards. Craft stores carry lots of inexpensive stickers on many subjects. To personalize your game board, use family photos (reduced in size) of grandchildren and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family pets.
You may want the game to include question-and-answer cards, matching cards, or action cards (for example, “Go forward 3 spaces”), which you can make yourself. Creating two sets of questions for younger and older players makes the game more fun (and fair). Using two-sided business cards, you print the questions on one side and answers on the reverse side. Another option is to simply handwrite the questions and answers on the cards. Remember, the cards can include words and images, or only words, or only images.
For a sturdier game board and to keep images/stickers firmly in place, print the board (and cards) on cardstock and cover with clear contact paper. Or you can have the board (and cards) printed and laminated at an office supply store, which charge $3 – $5 to print and laminate one game board.
Here are some examples of rules associated with “landing space” on a board game my grandson and I made together:
- Baseball: Answer a question from the “Baseball” cards. Correct answer: move forward one space. Incorrect answer: move back one space.
- Orioles team player photo: Go ahead one space. The Orioles are a great team!
- Cast on leg (injury): Go to DL (Disabled List) and lose one turn.
- Batter’s helmet: You forgot to wear it and got injured! Go to DL and lose one turn.
- Water bottle: You remembered to hydrate during the game. Go forward one space.
- Baseball bat: You hit a homerun! Go ahead three spaces.
- Baseball mitt and ball: You caught a fly ball and made an out! Go ahead two spaces.
Game rules can be modified any time, as long as the changes don’t occur in the middle of a game! We found that playing the game a few times helps us develop the best rules. My grandchildren often change rules, for example, after learning through personal experience that losing three turns is a bit too harsh. But that’s okay! Part of the learning experience and fun is experimenting with different situations and making appropriate rules.
Here are a few sites offering free board-game templates for kids:
- Love to Know Board Games
- Ready-Made Board Games
- The Game Crafter (for more advanced game designing)
Some of my favorite resources for making game boards and question/answer cards are:
- iPhone/Android App to purchase: A Fact Every Day
- Fact Monster: Variety of interesting facts for kids
- Sports Science Facts for younger to older grandchildren
- Sports Trivia for older grandchildren
It’s amazing how much kids learn from applied-learning activities that are both fun and age-appropriate. All the better when the grandparents are their guides and playmates.
Remy Agee, a retired communications director of a large family and children government agency, writes articles on school readiness and early childhood partnerships.