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5 Hands-On Ways to Learn With Your 5-Year-Old

Award-winning teacher Kim Bouchie believes in hands-on learning experiences for children.

“Kindergarten is about connecting concepts and putting it all together,” says 2015 Early Childhood Educator Award Winner Kimberly Bouchie, who teaches 5 -year-olds at Stoneham KinderCare in Stoneham, Massachusetts.

In kindergarten, letters start to become words, and numbers start to add up to something bigger.  These important lessons prepare children for success in elementary school—but that doesn’t mean sitting at desks and filling out worksheets. What does Bouchie love most about teaching kindergarten? In her classroom, “everything is hands-on.”

Take a tip from one of our incredibly talented educators: Skip the flashcards and build a love for learning with these five hands-on ideas for your kindergartner:

Mixed-Up ABCs: Upcycled Yogurt Lids

Bouchie’s class collected yogurt covers and turned them into alphabet tiles, using construction paper, markers, and glue, to fix a lowercase letter on one side, and the uppercase letter on the other. Children use their tiles to explore sounds and letters, and practice putting words together.

Build Imaginations: The Great Cardboard Box

We’ll let you in on a little trade secret: Many a terrific teacher understands the power of a cardboard box, and Bouchie is one of the greats. During a recent lesson about home and family, she turned a large box into a house. Every child brought in a family photo to tape to the wall and the kids drew and then decorated frames around each photo. The instant 3-D learning space invites all kinds of imaginative exploration, from playing house to learning about other families in their community.

Finger Play: Pasta Strainer and Pipe Cleaners

Kids love weaving pipe cleaners through the holes of a colander or sieve. When the project’s done, they’ve got a wiry wig, a flamboyant helmet, or a fuzzy bowl! But this play is more than just good fun, it also helps children practice fine motor skills. “They need to be constantly reinforced for kindergarteners,” says Bouchie.  Having strong fine motor skills, makes it easier for children to learn and practice their handwriting.

Match Maker: Muffin Tin Sorting

Bouchie uses tweezer and colored cotton balls to make a sorting game in a muffin tin. Sorting the cotton balls by color teaches children matching and patterns—both of which are important math skills. (The tweezers provide more fine-motor practice!)

Graph Math: The Pet Project

Along the bottom of a piece of paper, Bouchie glues pictures of pets—dog, cat, parakeet, fish—with the animal’s name written underneath. She asks each child to vote on their favorite animal and marks each vote with a spot on the vertical axis of the graph, and the child’s name beside it. (If you don’t have a gaggle of children to poll on animal preferences, try sorting through your child’s favorite books and counting up the different animals you find there.) With the graphing, children can explore the mathematical concepts of more and less.  These five year olds are also learning to take data and translate it into a new format. “They’re learning some pretty advanced skills in Kindergarten these days,” says Bouchie.

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