Hands-On Play Activities and Learning Ideas for Kids

Give a man a fish, and he will live for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he will live for a lifetime.
 Hands-on play is an important part of a child's learning process.

Hands-on play is an important part of a child's learning process.

When it comes to the idea of learning, I always go back to these powerful and inspiring words. The concept of learning by doing has never been more emphasized than when I became a mother. Now, having hands-on play activities and discovering new learning ideas for the little one have become a priority at home.

But why is it important to expose children to hands-on play activities? One of the biggest benefits of hands-on learning is that it forces a child to think, rather than depend on an adult to feed them the lesson or knowledge. 

There are many scientific studies that support the value of the hands-on approach in learning, including a UChicago research led by How the Body Knows Its Mind author and one of the leading mind-body connection experts, Professor Sian Beilock. Published in Pyschological Science, the study determined that a hands-on approach to learning helps to activate the sensory and motor-related parts of the brain. This, in the process, helps children develop problem-solving skills while more likely to retain the lessons, all because they were able to physically experience the learning process through play. 

In an interview published on UChicagoNews, Beilock said: "“In many situations, when we allow our bodies to become part of the learning process, we understand better.”

 Current hands-on play obsession at home is this  Cubbie Lee toy Company Wooden Train Set .

Current hands-on play obsession at home is this Cubbie Lee toy Company Wooden Train Set.

Hands-on Play Through Building Blocks

At home, one of our favorite hands-on play activities is constructing things using building blocks. The little one is currently obsessed of her new Cubbie Lee Toy Company's Wooden Train Set. Okay, I'm not going to lie, the entire family is actually obsessed of this train set, primarily because it is made of premium wood—and nothing brings back nostalgia more than wooden toys!

For me, there's something so cathartic about building things with your hands, of being the creator who holds the power to build anything your mind could imagine. For the hubby, sharing the learning moment with the little one brings him back to his childhood days. "Oh, I remember how excited I was when I first built my first-ever train set! I was about your age," he recalls as we were all gathered on the floor trying to piece together the train set for the first time.  

For the little one though, aside from the novelty of a new toy, there's a sense of accomplishment to be able to sort out the 70 wooden pieces in this train set, follow general guidelines and successfully build a train set for the first-time in her life. For any six-year-old and given how elaborate this train set is (it even includes a bridge set), it's a major accomplishment!

"Look mommy, I did it! I helped build this train set and it looks so great!" she exclaims after the last piece was added. 

 The joy on the little one's face after successfully building this train set says it all.

The joy on the little one's face after successfully building this train set says it all.

Hands-On Play is Not Easy

Although hands-on play is highly encouraged, it's often not easy, especially for children who have the tendency to quickly get frustrated and impatient. In the course of building this wooden train set, the little one had her moments of frustrations. "But daddy, it's not fitting right!" she complains with a hint of frustration. 

"Try another piece and look how the wooden piece curves," her daddy offers helpful tips without completely taking over the experience for the little one. As a parent, it can be very tempting to step in and do the activity for the child to keep tantrums at bay or save you the sanity from the thousand questions that may come along with the experience of hands-on play. But building a toy yourself defeats the purpose of helping a child develop better problem-solving skills.

 Evoking childhood nostalgia, this elaborate train set comes with 70 premium wooden pieces.

Evoking childhood nostalgia, this elaborate train set comes with 70 premium wooden pieces.

But how do you keep a child from getting frustrated in the middle of a hands-on play activity? My mommy-tested trick involves being present while the little one is at play and helping her discover a solution to the problem for herself by asking her helpful questions.

For instance, to help her determine why pieces are not fitting right, I would ask questions like: "Why do you think it's not fitting right? Did you look at how the pieces are shaped together?"

By asking leading questions, I am able to guide the little one but still encourage her to continue to explore solutions to the problem. You'll be surprised at how kids often rise up to a challenge once they know they are being supported, so don't be too quick to feed them of a solution to a problem. 

 Creative play is important to help a child develop problem-solving skill sets.

Creative play is important to help a child develop problem-solving skill sets.

Fun Hands-On Play Activities

Aside from building blocks, there are many other fun hands-on play activity ideas to try at home, including Cubbie Lee Toy Company's wooden shape sorters, tea sets and puzzles for babies and younger kids, to do-it-yourself crafts and sensory play activities, such as the following:

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For more fun hands-on play activity ideas, I often visit education.com as they have a ton of great learning ideas to kick boredom out and help your little one enjoy creative play. How do you encourage hands-on play with your curious little ones? Which hands-on play activity does your kid enjoy the most? Let's share ideas in the comment box below.  

Disclosure: *This post is sponsored by Cubbie Lee Toy Company, makers of premium wooden toys. We work only with brands we love, so we offer only honest opinions and reviews. To learn more about these wooden toys, check out their website or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

Storing Memories: Smart Ideas to Organize Your Kid's Keepsakes

Here's a little confession: I'm a teeny-weeny bit of a hoarder. I hoard lovely wrapping papers, used boxes, recyclable ribbons and even craft-worthy empty wine bottles. It drives my "toss this away" husband crazy, but I've always felt a little guilty about throwing things I feel I can either recycle or transform on a good craft day. 

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This slight hoarding problem has exacerbated now that I'm a mom. Each time the little one comes home from school with a new artwork or a card she created, I feel the urge to stash it away in an album of keepsakes. But after a while, the keepsakes could quickly pile up! So what's the best way to organize your kid's photos and artworks? Here are at least three smart organizing ideas I've learned along the way:

1. Organize and store keepsakes online.

This is probably my most valuable tip! Finding an online tool that helps organize kid's artworks and photos has been a game-changer in my quest to streamline the organization process at home. It has allowed me to save the little one's creative drawings without being buried in a pile of paperwork that's likely to just gather dust in boxes that take up storage space. 

I had my "aha!" moment when I first discovered Keepy, an app that smartly stores, organizes and shares kid's photos, artworks, videos and voice recordings to family members. The app's basic package includes five free photo and video uploads every month. For an unlimited access to all its features for a year, there's an investment of $9.99, which, in this hoarding mama's opinion, is a small price to pay for the promise of a more organized home life!

The app is simple and intuitive to use, something I love since the little one's Mamaw and Papaw whom we share photos and artworks with usually steer clear from complicated technology. The voice, video and text comment feature is a nice touch as family members are able to interact, record videos and give encouragement to the little one even when miles away. It's a feature I value the most because, with family members living either a state or continent away, it's a great way to keep everyone privately up-to-date on the little one's mischiefs and adventures.  

 The little one channeled her inner wizard and drew Harry Potter.

The little one channeled her inner wizard and drew Harry Potter.

2. Label, categorize and put things in buckets.

When organizing, there has to be some kind of order. To do this, I put labels and categorize things in their own little buckets. Yes, I still sometimes do the old-fashion folders and envelopes to store the little one's drawings because, despite having the app, I still keep a few original copies of my personal favorites, like her adorable Harry Potter drawing.

With the app though, it's super easy to sort out things into categories like Art, Award, Birthday, Field Trip or Family Outing, to name a few. Putting them into categories makes it easier to search and ensures that your feed is clutter-free.

The app makes for a great long-term storage and backs up all photos and videos in its original quality. It also syncs to Dropbox, a feature we like as we personally use Dropbox to free our smartphone or laptop of valuable storage space as we tend to run out when we get trigger-happy when taking photos of the little one. 

 Keepy, an app that smartly organizes, stores and shares kids artworks and photos, is a life-saver to moms who need to simplify and organize.

Keepy, an app that smartly organizes, stores and shares kids artworks and photos, is a life-saver to moms who need to simplify and organize.

3. Turn them into a scrapbook or photo album.

Storing kid's artworks shouldn't be a boring process of stashing them away in albums or boxes. Instead, add a creative touch to the concept of storage by creating a scrapbook that combines all your favorites from among your kid's photos and keepsakes.

Not exactly the crafty mommy? Thankfully, when storing on Keepy, the app allows you to turn photos and artworks into a photo book so you are able to customize and print all your favorites easily in a single custom album—no extra artsy skills needed. If you subscribe to its unlimited plan, you also get to avail of 50 percent discount on all orders via the Keepy store. The store offers other products like custom-made beach towels, canvas, ottomans and phone cases, making it a great Mother's Day gift option which is fast approaching! Goodness, where did April go?

In addition, it syncs up with Facebook, allowing you to easily pull archived images so you can either store them all in one place or include other images when ordering a customized product.

Do you have other smart ideas to organize your kid's drawings, school work, photos and mementos? I'd love to exchange mommy notes if you comment down below.

Disclosure: *This post is sponsored by Keepy. Follow them on Facebook to keep up-to-date on the latest about the app. All opinions are my own.*

 

 

5 Ways to Help Your Child Become a Better Reader

Oh, the joy of reading! For any kid learning to read, there is magic in the written words. There's the adventure of being onboard a pirate ship sailing in unknown seas, the magic of riding a rainbow unicorn or the delight of meeting new friends in enchanted forests. But for some kids still learning to read, it can sometimes feel like being asked to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider backwards—ridiculously difficult!

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Now that the little one is in pre-school, she's learning a new appreciation for books as she's able to read her favorite bedtime stories mostly on her own. It's exciting to see her lit up with joy after conquering a new or big word. Today, for instance, while reading I'm Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney (published by zonderkidz), a new book we received in the mail, the little one discovered the words "beyond compare." These are big words for any six-year-old, so there was imaginary confetti and much jumping for joy after she sounded it out and successfully read them.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are days when she gets frustrated or when I find myself running out of patience. But there are ways to help support your child so they may become better at reading, and here are five mommy-tested tips to try: 

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Mommy-Tested Tip #1: Find age-appropriate books.

There's nothing more frustrating than to be told to read a book that is too challenging. Letting your child read a book that does not match his or her reading level is setting your child up to feelings of failure and discouragement. As parents, it is our responsibility to support our kids in this learning process, and that starts with guiding them in finding the right books to read. To do this, use the 5 Finger Test

Mommy-Tested Tip #2: Let your kid choose his or her own books.

When you have identified the right books for your kids, encourage them to choose the ones they really love to read. Before we received I'm Going to Give You a Bear Hug, the little one has first seen this book at a local bookstore and completely fell in love with the beautiful illustrations by Tim Warnes. She loves the whimsical rhyme which helps her pay closer attention to letters as she discovers that similar spellings tend to have similar sounds. "Tight looks like night, except it starts with T!" she was quick to point out.  

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The book has also helped her spot the "sight words" she has learned in school. "We just learned the word 'that' in school today!" she reported to me, after spotting it in the book. Several times while reading, she giggled at the pig with curly tail giving her a big, big, BIG hug or gasped in awe at the thought of a giant whale hug! 

The book is a delight to read and the idea of fun animals giving her a snuggly hug makes for a great bedtime reading.

Mommy-Tested Tip #3: Create an awesome reading nook.

Creating a cozy reading nook inspires the little one to go on a corner and get lost in her books. Set the mood for fun by throwing in a lovely rug (we got our polka dot rug at IKEA), pillows and stuffed toy friends. On this particular day, the little one enjoyed reading a story to Peanut, her Lalaloopsy friend.

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Mommy-Tested Tip #4: Make it a habit to visit a local library.

The library is one of my happy places as a child. I love the idea of being surrounded by books and being able to freely pick any story I want. To share this childhood memory with the little one, we make it a point to bring her to a local library at least once a month and let her read books or check out the ones she wants to bring with her home.

Mommy-Tested Tip #5:  Have a reading routine.

Although most parents prefer to read before bedtime, I find it more helpful to read with the little one early, such as while doing her school assignment. It helps her to easily recall her "sight words" as they are still fresh on her mind and ensures we don't rush at night as she needs to get to bed early to get her full night's sleep.

What has been some of your mommy-tested ways to help and support your little reader? Let's exchange ideas in the comment box below.

GIVEAWAY! When you comment below, you will be automatically entered in a giveaway drawing to win a copy of I'm Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney. It will make a lovely surprise for your little one!

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Disclosure: I received the book I'm Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney from The Blythe Daniel Agency to review. All opinions are my own.

Life Lessons: Let's Talk About Our Body

BE OUR GUEST WRITER! We invite you to write for The Gospel of Beauty and share your beautiful musings to our inspired readers by connecting with us at thegospelofbeauty@gmail.com. Here, Thao Nguyen, editor-in-chief of polaritymagazine.com, takes an honest look at double-chins and muffin tops, and how the idea of body perfection is making us love ourselves less.   

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When I look in the mirror, I know my body wouldn’t be considered “perfect” by societal standards. I have small boobs and thick thighs (every pair of jeans I own has a hole at the inner thigh), but it has never got to the point it bothered me nor made me want to hide parts of myself. In fact, I can say with confidence that body image has never really been a struggle for me.

Which is why, when a random woman came up to me in the locker room at the gym while I was standing in my sports bra and yoga pants, placed her hand on my stomach and asked if I was pregnant, I was initially more concerned about the fact that a stranger touched my bare stomach than that I apparently looked pregnant. However, I guess her words did get to me in some way.

That night, I found myself in front of my full-length mirror scrutinizing my body. I normally check myself for moles (I’m a hypochondriac and melanoma is my biggest fear), but on that day, I focused more on my shape and imperfections. I saw my muffin top, the double chin that shows up when I smile, and for the first time, inklings of doubt about my body began to creep in.

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For the rest of the week, I went ham at the gym. I ran faster, lifted heavier weights, did more reps. And every night, I would check in front of the mirror for signs of change. But the only thing that had really changed was my mind. Thankfully, it only took a few days of eating less than I usually do to become angry at myself. This wasn’t me being hungry, it was disappointment. I couldn’t believe a 10-second interaction had pushed me toward being obsessed with how I looked. I quickly realized my body was damn fine the way it was. Just like all of yours are! Because it’s truly all in how you look at yourself.

Five simple words (“You have a little baby?”) had managed to completely curtail my view of myself in a short period. This goes to show how powerful words are. If we take to heart the words of others and the images imposed upon us in all the forms of media we have access to, chances are, our self-image is going to suffer from time to time. Make it a point to be kinder to yourself and be more careful with your choice of words.

I used to make the mistake of making offhand comments about bodies all the time, never truly believing what I was saying. “Oh, her body is perfect! I wished I looked like her.” Or “Yowza, that guy is gorgeous, he’d never be interested in someone with thighs like mine!” I didn’t think anyone took what I was saying too seriously, because I wasn’t being serious myself. But when I found my six-year-old sister weighing herself one day, I made a vow to myself to never speak about bodies like that again.

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That was four years ago, and she’s more confident than a lot of her classmates are now. When they come to our house for play dates, I hear them make little comments about how they don’t want to eat too much snacks, or how they are worried about their clothing not looking right. Those are things I’ve never heard my sister show concern about. I’m not sure if this is entirely due to the way I and my family changed the way we talked about bodies, but I’m positive it didn’t hurt how she views herself either. This is why it’s important to make the distinction between showing concern when someone is being unhealthy versus making “harmless” comments about someone’s weight. We have to learn to love and accept ourselves, and verbalize that, so that everyone looking up to us can learn to do the same.

Dear Tooth Fairy: I Kept a Treasure for You Under My Pillow

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Dear Tooth Fairy,

Whee, how exciting! This Sunday while at church, I lost my first tooth. It was rather unexpected. Well, let me take that back. It was somewhat expected since, the night before, I accidentally got my front tooth loose while trying to open my spy toy with my teeth. Okay, okaylesson learned, never be a hero and use your baby teeth to open toys!

I must admit, at first I was horrified! I ran toward Mommy and Daddy after I realized my front tooth got loose and discovered a teeny-weeny blood on my lipbut then it dawned onto me. This is exactly the moment I've been waiting for! I will be able to soon leave a treasure for you under my pillow.

Thank you for making this otherwise horrific experience of losing my first tooth anything but traumatic. Boy, it sounds like it could easily scar me for life! But the thought of having a Tooth Fairy visit me while I lay asleep and leave me a few dollars so I could buy a toy is rather fun, playful and comforting. So yes, I was brave and was not a bit afraid! In fact, when I lost the tooth at church, it didn't hurt one bit. I was simply chewing a gummy worm andviola! just like that, the tooth fell off! I think Mommy was more horrified than I was!

As you can tell, I was excited to leave a treasure for you under my pillow last night. Thank you for the $2 you leftI was super pumped to have earned this money so I can add it to my toy allowance. Is that the going rate for a baby tooth, by the way? I heard my classmate Gabriella got $5 per tooth, maybe you could raise your tooth rate next time. (LOL!) I hope you were pleased with my treasure. I try to always floss and brush my teeth well before going to bed so every tooth I leave you will be sparkling clean. 

By the way, I visited the dentist today and, like #theboss, I was calm, cool and collected like it's another day in the play area. She even said I was her best patient of the day! Whoa! And oh, she also told me I might have another treasure for you in a few more weeks as I'm ready to lose another one of my baby teeth soon. Hmmm...guess you'll be visiting me more often now! And while you are sneaking into my room to get my treasure and leave me my payment in return, can you perhaps also leave me a little sprinkle of your pixie dust? 

 

Love and Kisses,

A

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