Think your local hardware store only has the supplies needed to re-floor your kitchen or fix the caulking around your tub? Think again! The hardware store (or your garage or shed!) contains a handful of great odds and ends that can be used for early learning.
While there are so many high-quality products out there to help facilitate learning, it's great when you can re-purpose something you already have. The novelty of using these items often creates a fun gimmick that many kids really buy into. I used each of these ideas in my kindergarten classroom, and with my own children as well.
Poke around your garage or head into your local hardware store and try one of these ideas in the coming weeks. Kids are always attracted to new and interesting ways to learn.
Reading Phones -- PVC Pipe
Reading phones were always a big hit in my kindergarten classroom. I picked up half a dozen PVC pipe elbows for a few dollars. Beginning readers often need to read aloud or sound out words aloud. Whether you're in a full classroom or your family room, a reading phone can lessen noise output while helping a new reader concentrate. The curve of the pipe amplifies your child's whisper, allowing them to hear themselves read while not disturbing others.
Even when your child has outgrown the need for a reading phone, he/she may still enjoy the novelty of one. (My third and first grader each have one in their room!) Listening to yourself read not only helps as you learn to decode, but can ultimately build fluency and develop solid cadence and phrasing.
Reading Wands -- Dowels
Dowels can be used to create wonderful reading wands. You can jazz up your dowel to be as festive as you like. Grab some glitter paint, a fun pom-pom for the end, or simply leave the dowel as is. Young children will especially enjoy being given a "wand" to read with. (Make sure to discuss safety and expectations first!)
Children can use their wands to point at words they see around the home, in their books (using big books works best), or to words written on a whiteboard at home. Ask your child to point out specific letters, words, or objects.
Clapping Gloves -- Garden Gloves
Clapping gloves are a favorite with kindergarten teachers, and a fun way to help your child learn about syllables. To use the gloves, print or cut out a variety of simple pictures. Choose items your children will be familiar with. Tell your kids to select a picture, say what the picture is, and then use the gloves to help them clap the syllables. Help your children the first few times.
"This is a football. Let's clap the word football. Foot - Clap - Ball - Clap." Clap as you say each syllable.
Paint Color Swatches
When I cleaned out our junk drawer earlier this week, I came across a pile of paint swatches. Instead of tossing them, I realized what a fun tool they could be to help my preschoolers learn about colors and/or color words. Here are a few easy ways to learn with paint swatches:
? Use the paint swatches as color word flash cards. Write the color word on the samples.
? Glue a paint swatch to a piece of paper. Have your child hunt through magazines for other objects of the same color to create a fun "rainbow collage" book.
Many stores that sell large rolls of flooring often offer small squares of carpet remnants. These squares are great for helping kids learn about personal space. A square placed on the ground is perfect for designating a "spot" for your child.
Another fun idea is to use carpet squares as life-sized game board pieces. Set up the squares in the backyard, roll some dice, and allow your child to practice counting and turn-taking in a new way.
Teachable moments and opportunities for learning are everywhere. Even the things sitting around our garage can be used to help our children learn and grow. What will you find to repurpose or use for learning? If you have another hardware store item that can be used for learning, I'd love to hear about it. Send a tweet to @chasingsupermom with your ideas or share them on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.