A new school year is upon us, and it's time to yet again gather resources, teaching tools, books, and maybe even some fun surprises to help get our kids excited about starting a new grade.
Here are 3 School supplies that grow with your children that can be used for years and years and will grow with your children through the lower grades.
1. High quality writing utensils and craft supplies
Yes, it is worth splurging on quality paper, pencils, and colors that your children will use at home. It may be tempting to grab the super cheap options, but the difference between the cheapest quality and even a mid- level brand can be huge and well worth the extra dollars in longevity, performance, and even results. For instance, really cheap pencils don't last nearly as long because break very easily, and though for class supplies that everyone shares it may not be worth it, not to have to sharpen a pencil at home every 5 minutes could prevent many a meltdown over the course of the year. We want to do everything we can to make the experience of learning smooth, enjoyable, and use supplies that will hold up to the task.
2. Open-Ended learning resources/toys for creative/sensory learning
For kids in pre-school and early elementary, connecting what they are learning on paper to play and real life experiences is key for brain retention. Having a small amount of versatile toys or items they can use to teach you back the material helps information go from short to long term memory. Some great open-ended learning tools to invest in are:
- Wooden blocks or magnet tiles for building and counting as well as cause and effect.
- Roads and cars for re-creating real locations as well as practicing shapes and letters on a larger scale. These are an especially great tool for kids who have a hard time sitting still and listen better when they can move. Let them set up a scene from a book while you read it to them and they can act out the story with a small world set-up.
- Dress-up clothes for acting out every day things, stories, and role play. These items can be used in and out of school and can provide endless fun for helping to process information.
- Picture books - Though the methods of school vary as much as children do, great picture books are universal and are a fantastic resource to use with any learning activity and very often can be the foundation of much of the learning itself. The next time your lesson is stuck...stop and read a picture book and watch the magic happen.
3. Small dry erase boards and chunky dry erase markers
Never underestimate the power of a simple dry erase board for kids to use instead of paper for a sensory activity to practice reading, writing, and even math. the novelty of using big fun markers and erasing answers over and over breaks up the writing enough that they get tiny breaks in-between and is often just the ticket for a change of pace from pencil and paper. Call it a learning "game", and save the dry erase boards for those time ONLY to make even more special. A few simple ways to use them:
- Quiz Game - Have kids write a letter, number or word you call out and hold it up when they are done. You can even play with going fast or slow or writing big or small to keep it interesting. Another variation is for YOU to write something that they read and then let them wipe it off for you (the best part for them).
- Special Lingo - Come up with fun words together like a gameshow where someone calls out simple words like "READY", "DONE", or "ERASE". Get even more creative and make the words silly and let your kids help come up with them to help them feel ownership in the learning games. Maybe use an inside joke or a word you know they love and suddenly it seems like a fun game rather than a monotonous practice session.
- Get Active - One of the absolute best ways to switch it up especially if kids are getting restless is to get them moving...while learning. Make it part obstacle course, part learning activity and have them do a few hops, crawls etc to get to the board and then answer the question as fast as they can. There are endless variations to this, and adding a little movement in can help control the wiggles and engage multipule parts of their brain so they stay engaged and energized. Remember, many kids learn BETTER if they are allowed and even encouraged to move.
An open mind
While it's not technically a school supply, it might be the most important component that can make or break any other ingredient. It's almost a guarantee that be it school at home, playschool, or after school homework, our best laid plans very often do not go according to plan. As a mom myself, I know that the times I get the most frustrated are when I have a specific idea of what order things should go in or detailed ideas about the amazing learning that will take place. If we remain flexible and even teachable as students ourselves (of our kids), they will let us know what works best for them, and with great tools at our disposal and a heavy helping of patience, we can help faciliate a love of learning in an environment that honors they unique ways of learning. At the end of their years, how they felt while they were learning and the tone of the atmosphere can be THE key ingredient to helping them foster a love of learning.
Enjoy the Journey!