TV-Free Ideas for Early Elementary Kids

Have Fun Outdoors

Go on a Bug Hunt: Can you find any ants in your neighborhood? Ants can teach us how some insects work together as a community. Ask your child to observe the ants and to figure out if the ants eat their food on the spot, or carry it back to their anthill? Did you know that when an ant finds food, it runs back to the hill to "tell" the others. As it runs, it leaves a trail that other ants in the hill can smell. The ants find the food by smelling their way along the trail.

Research Spiders: Find out what the difference is between an insect and a spider. Why do spiders spin webs? What are webs made of?

Collect Leaves: Go for a walk and collect a variety of shapes and color leaves. Make collages, tracings, try to identify the types of leaves.

Search for Birds/Flowers: Talk about the special features of the birds and flowers you encounter.

Organize outdoor games. Try hopscotch, kickball, follow the leader, obstacle courses, sidewalk chalk, baseball, tennis, etc.

Indoor Stimulation

Napkin Fractions: Make fractions fun. Fold paper towels or napkins into large and small fractions. Start with halves and move to eighths and sixteenths. Use magic markers to label the fractions.

Weigh Me: Teach estimating skills. Ask your children to guess the weight of several household objects: a wastebasket, a coat, a full glass of water. Then show children how to use a scale to weigh the objects. Next, have them estimate their own weight, as well as that of other family members, and use the scale to check their guesses. Some brave parents get on the scale, too.


Make a Dictionary: Improve vocabulary and strengthen memory. Staple several pieces of paper together. Encourage your child to write down five new words a day. On the back of each sheet, she/he can paste a picture of the word (cut from a magazine) and/or together you can write the definition on the back. At dinner time, he/she can read the five new words to you and you can make sure you include those words in a sentence throughout the evening.

Make Bookmarks: Provide your child with a 6" x 2" piece of cardboard. On one side of the bookmark, have your child draw a picture of a scene from a book he or she has read. On the other side, ask your child to write the name of the book, its author, publisher, publication date, and a few sentences about the book. After making several of these bookmarks, you might ask the child to send them to friends and relatives as gifts accompanied by a short note.

Looking at Advertisements: Take a closer look. Help your children improve their thinking and writing skills by looking carefully at newspaper and magazine advertisements. What is the main point of the ad? What details does it use to communicate its message? For example, a strong, handsome man holding a soft drink in an expensive car with a beautiful woman at his side is telling us something about the soft drink.

Focus on Geography: On one of your days without TV, you and your children can focus attention on geography. Show your children north, south, east, and west by using your home as a reference point. Perhaps you can see the sun rising in the morning through a bedroom window that faces east and setting at night through a kitchen window on the west. Once children have their directional bearings, you can hide an object, then give them directions to its location: "Two steps north, three steps west ..." You can go on a walk and collect natural materials such as acorns and leaves to use for an art project. Map the location where you found those items. You can create a treasure map for children to find hidden treats in the yard or inside your home.

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