Eight Surprisingly Useful Home Ed Resources
Get creative with everyday items and make everlasting memories.
Discover How Useful Your Random Stuff Can Be
Today I want to share with you what I consider to be the most useful resources on our home educating shelf. This list doesn’t include the basic resources like pencils, scissors and glue which many of us already have. Instead, this list comprises of resources which may be overlooked but have surprisingly shown themselves to be really useful time and time again.
When I am collating resources, I try to think carefully about what we really need and what can be used more than once. Where possible, we save recycling materials to reuse in our experiments and craft activities.
Keep Those Cardboard Boxes Handy
Boxes are great not only for building houses and castles, but also for performing experiments such as investigating light or creating a plant maze. I try to keep a few sturdy boxes of different sizes ready for when we just really need a box! However, storing them can be a problem. Shoe boxes are particularly useful and well made. I have been to a shoe shop without making a purchase and asked for shoe boxes in the past. Generally, they seem quite happy to get rid of them.
The shoe box photographed above has played an integral part in supporting creative writing over the last few months. We turned this shoe box into our story box. Once a week I will place different items inside and invite the boys to create and write a short story about them. The items might relate to a theme, topic, season, event or celebration. The items themselves range from figurines, stickers, toys, magazine pictures and sometimes even a starter sentence to help Teddy and Harry to get going with their ideas.
Get Going With A Clipboard
Yes, a clipboard! When the boys were younger, they loved when I said we would use a clipboard for an activity. A number of our activities take place outside and encourage children to observe the world around them. Nature hunts and checklists can help children to focus on a specific element and stay engaged in the activity. A clipboard can keep bits of paper organised and protected.
TOP TIP: You can reuse an activity sheet by placing them inside a plastic wallet and using a dry erase pen to write on. This also protects the paper from any rain!
Here are some of our activities in which a clipboard can be very useful:
Hula Hoops, More Than You Expect!
Who would have thought a hula hoop could come in so handy! I bought two hula hoops a few years ago for the bargain price of £1 each and we still use them today. I have found that hula hoops are not only great for twirling (which we rarely use them for if I’m honest), but also for supporting the boys in staying focused on a specific concept. For example, place the letter A inside a hula hoop and invite children to find objects beginning with this letter. Suddenly we have a great vocabulary game!
For a more advanced activity, use two hula hoops to create a Venn diagram. This is a great way for children to visually and physically compare and classify objects. Most recently we used a Venn diagram to compare the physical differences between different rocks the boys had found. Simply place the two hula hoops on the ground, one overlapping the other to create a third section. Place two contrasting adverbs within each circle, for example ‘rough’ and ‘smooth’. The boys then feel the texture of the rocks in their collection and place them into the appropriate hoop. Rocks which were both rough and smooth were placed in the middle section.
Get Yourself A Roll Of Paper
A large paper surface can be very inviting and I will often cover the floor or a section of wall using a roll of a white paper. When the boys were younger the large paper surface was great for mark making. It also helped them in developing their fine motor skills by using different mediums to make marks on the paper. This would include paint, crayons and chalk. I would tape the paper on the floor and leave it out for a couple of days so they could continue to develop and add to their ideas.
Recently we have used rolls of paper to make a story timeline. This helps Harry and Teddy to think about the structure of a story visually. I will read a short book and invite them to illustrate the details and events important to the story, including the beginning, middle and end. A long roll or paper provides space for them to show their ideas and clearly see the order of events.
Who Doesn’t Love A Post-It Note
I know I love post-it notes, in all different colours and sizes! I find these really useful for labelling and identifying in a variety of activities. In explaining the concept of measurements to my nine-year-old recently, I wrote down a measurement on various post-it notes in mm (millimetres), cm (centimetres) and m (metres). His challenge was to measure string and cut it at the correct length. He then arranged the post-it notes with the corresponding length of string in size order.
Get Yourself Some String
You would be surprised at the number of times we use string in our hands-on activities. In-fact, string has to be one of our most useful resources. It has come in particular use while measuring objects which are not straight. For example, the perimeter of a tree trunk. We place the string around a tree truck and then cut it where the two ends meet. We can then measure and compare the length of the string to see which truck has the largest perimeter.
We have also used string to create observation areas to look more closely at a micro-habitat, soil and even to explore our own archaeological site. We do this by tying the string around sticks to mark a specific area. The boys observe only what they see in this section.
Food Colouring Is Not Just For Cooking
Food colouring is another resource to always have handy in the cupboard. When experimenting and exploring with water, a couple drops of blue food colouring not only makes the water clearer to see, but makes the whole activity more exciting thanks to the visual enhancement.
We have used food colouring to make a water xylophone, to change the colour of white carnations and measure the capacity of different containers. In the photograph above we used coloured water to represent the depths of the ocean and show the different creatures living in each layer. This model was effective in demonstrating the amount of light each depth receives.
Upcycle Your Glass Jars In Loads Of Ways
Another one to keep from the recycling box – glass jars! I cannot tell you the number of times I have hunted the cupboards for a near enough empty glass jar. Jars are just perfect for a number of experimenters such as mixing colour through light . On top of our cupboards hidden away are loads of cleaned and emptied honey, mayo, mustard and all other sorts and sizes of jars.
TOP TIP: Sometimes it can be frustrating when the sticky residue from a label on the side of the jar just won’t come off! Here is a great tip to remove this. Mix 2 tsp of cooking oil with 2 tsp of baking soda to form a paste. Cover the sticky area with the paste and leave for 10 mins, after which just wipe the paste off. Your jar is now perfect for all those experiments.
I hope you have found this list useful and you may even find you have many of things already in your home. Why not try out some of our hands-on activities using these resources!