Hands-on learning activities are excellent for enhancing learning and retention because they engage the senses. Unfortunately, despite the benefits of hands-on learning, the idea of implementing projects can feel stressful and overwhelming for many homeschool parents – especially those of us who don’t consider ourselves the crafty type.
Hands-on activities don’t have to be a huge production. Despite the fact that I am not a crafty person, I have thoroughly enjoyed utilizing hands-on learning opportunities over the last 13 years we’ve homeschooled.
Try these tips to make hands-on learning activities a stress-free part of your homeschool:
1. Don’t feel like you have to a hands-on project with every lesson.
One of the biggest hurdles most families face when considering implementing hands-on activities is thinking that doing so has to be a huge undertaking. It’s much more effective to do one quality project a week – or even one a month – than several mediocre projects that are slapped together due to pressure to complete them.
Are you studying a country? Complete a salt-dough map or design and sew a costume by working on your project a little each day of your study.
Don’t try to turn everything into a hands-on project. Just choose one aspect of your studies upon which to build an activity.
2. Look for opportunities to turn written work into a hands-on activity.
A second hurdle that many families face is coming up with project ideas. One simple way to overcome that is to look for ways to turn the written work that is already assigned in your curriculum into a hands-on activity. If your science book suggests that students draw an atom, build one with pipe cleaners and beads instead! If your history book suggests looking at pictures of log cabins, build one with craft sticks or pretzels and peanut butter instead!
Building models is just one way to turn written assignments into hands-on projects. Consider other alternatives such as creating a map, constructing a timeline, or acting it out.
3. Use games.
Games provide an excellent opportunity for hands-on learning. You can purchase games specifically designed with an educational component in mind or adapt games to suit your purposes. Many board games can be adapted for educational play by having the student answer a question before playing his turn. A correct answer means he plays his turn. An incorrect answer means the play goes to the next participant.
You can easily create your own games like bingo and matching (also known as “memory” or “concentration”). Draw a bingo board or use the table feature on your word processing program. Fill in the squares with the answers and use the questions as the call cards. For a matching game, write the questions on one set of cards and the answers on the second set.
4. Consider edible projects.
Edible projects are my favorites because they don’t require any storage. If you’re studying a country or a specific time period, prepare themed meals as a hands-on learning experience.
Make edible maps out of cookie dough or crispy treats topped with icing and candies to represent land formations, cities, or countries. Make edible science models such as atom cookies or an edible cell model with cake.
5. Take a field trip.
Taking a homeschool field trip is a fantastic opportunity for hands-on learning. Don’t just read about a place – visit it! Don’t just talk about how to do something – go watch it being done or even find an opportunity to participate.
As you can see, incorporating hands-on activities in your homeschool day doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, craft-based undertaking. Pick a few quality activities that mesh well with your student's interests and abilities (and yours!) and have fun!