## Secret Code For Kids { Math Activity }

My son loves math and spies so this secret code for kids activity is right up his alley. Math is one way he bonds with his dad .In our 45 Ways To Show Dad You Love Him #29 is ” Do math drills together”  and they really do love doing it. I prefer more playful ways to teach math and I hope between mom and dad my son has a good foundation of support as he learns. This math activity is geared towards kindergarten through 2nd grade but you could adapt it to your child’s level easily. Check out the steps below for my suggestions how to adapt it.

1. Gather your materials. All you need are 2 pieces of paper as fancy or as plain as you wish, a marker and pencil.
2. Start by deciding what secret message you are going to write out. and places dashes on the paper. For older children make more complicated phrases and include punctuation. For younger children make sure that you are creating a secret message they will recognize like their name.
3. Write out the key.
4. Write the clues. For my son I used simple math equations but for younger children you could just use numbers that match up.
5. Time to crack the code!
6. He had a blast – there were a lot of equations and while some were simple, some were tough. I like to balance out challenges with easier ones that help create a sense of confidence.  You may want to have some manipulatives on hand for your child to use . We grabbed some googly eyes for my son to use for some of the clues.
7. Getting my son to practice handwriting is tough so sneaking it in with math is my secret weapon. After figuring out a few clues he discovered he had to write his letters more carefully so he could read the message once he had all the clues. This made him slow down which is a challenge at the best of times.
8. He did it ! Being the just kid that he is he flipped it over and included his own message.

How do you sneak learning in with your kids during the summer?  For more summer learning ideas check out our Pinterest Boards . I pin new ideas daily ( sometimes hourly… )

## Book

Detective Camp by Ron Roy is a perfect book to read with this activity. My son and I just finished it tonight. In this easy read chapter book three friends are off to summer camp but it’s not just any summer camp it’s Detective Camp!  I really love this book because not only does it talk about summer camp , friendship and solving mysteries it also introduces kids to Grandma Moses and art forgery. There is even a hidden message that readers must piece together . My 6 year old loved it and even though he is not a reluctant reader the hidden message would be a great motivator for kids who are less excited to read.

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## Spell with Alphabet Beads and Build Fine Motor Skills

I think I have shared how much my son loathes drawing . He’s a bright kid and most things come easy to him so when something doesn’t he like many of us tries to avoid it instead of attacking it. When a child has trouble with penmanship or drawing one of the first things I would suggest is to find low stress ways to get them to draw and write more ( like playing with an easel , make your own mini chalk boards or design your own cards ) and the other is to work on their fine motor skill development. Building with Lego and squeezing Play-Doh are two of our favorites but when I was sent these alphabet beads from craftprojectideas.com I knew I could mix spelling (something he loves) with developing his fine motor skills ( not as much fun as spelling for him). Here is what we did.

1. Gather your materials. You could make a printable with clip art but I just grabbed some stickers because I had 10 minutes to throw this idea together before we had to grab him from the bus stop.  You will also need some tape, pipe cleaners and of course alphabet beads.
2. Pop the stickers on . Cut the pipe cleaners into small sections.Tape on . Give the tape a good rub to make sure it sticks.
3. If you want pop on the first letter to get your kids started.
4. Separate out the letters needed to complete the words and then add in a bunch of random ones.
5. Add your kiddo and go for it.  He had no trouble spelling any of the words but threading the letters on was a little challenging. He had to press hard but not too hard or else the pipe cleaner would buckle. 8 words was exactly the right amount any more and frustration would have set in.

For more simple learning activities to do with your school age kids after school check out our whole Learning After School series.

## Long & Short Vowel Sorting with Snakes

by Allison McDonald

Getting kids to learn after school can be hard. Bribery, delayed rewards even punishment seems futile because we want them to WANT to learn. Making it a game or using some novel tools for learning are my son’s favorite ways to learn after school.  These little slimy snakes are favorites around here . I find them all over the playroom so I decided to use them for a quick lesson in long and short vowel sounds. Learning to distinguish these sounds is an important skill for reading and spelling.  Have fun with learning after school activities and remember that these aren’t in place of homework they are in addition to. Use them as you see fit . My kindergartner usually does 2-3 a week and they are all pretty quick lasting between 5-15 minutes.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, markers, scissors and plastic snakes you can cut. **If you don’t have access to these try gummy worm candies, ribbon, or yarn.
2. Start by writing out pages of simple words with long and short vowel sounds . Remember that long vowels say their name (o- open , a-grape, i- bite) . I would work on one letter at a time.
3. Invite your word detective to the table and ask him or her to help you cut some of the snakes into short pieces . My son thought I was joking and was excited to be doing something destructive. Is it a boy thing?
4. Use the short pieces to indicate a short vowel sound and a full snake for the long vowel sounds. He was pretty into it. It was sorta silly but that worked in our favor because he loved it. The combination of a concrete object to show a concept that is not concrete can really help some kids grasp these tasks better than just saying words and having them listen and decide.
5. You can see how he was sounding the words out as he read them. Teach your child to read the words slowly exaggerating the vowel sound. He liked to stretch the sound the same time he stretched the snake. Make multiple sheets but don’t worry if they want to work on them one or two at a time.
6. Clearly he was having too much fun to be learning! At least that is what he thought.

If this Learning After School activity isn’t exactly what you need but you want to keep learning with your school age kiddo check out our other posts in this series here.

## Learning Games For Kindergarten

These are simple learning games for kindergarten one focusing on breaking down syllables the other is math but they use the same materials from the dollar store. Learning After School at our house is all about doing quick and simple games that reinforce what my son is learning in Kindergarten. These lessons or games need to be fun, active and not too long. This isn’t homework ( he gets some very simple but useful homework) it’s in addition to it. What I love best about these activities is you really get to see how much your child has learned and while we play he will naturally open up and tall me about school.

1. For both activities you will need a pen, some foam craft sticks ( wood would be fine too ) in rainbow of colors and green foam shamrocks.
2. Start with the syllable break down by writing one, two and three syllable words on the craft sticks. You will want one word per rainbow color stick per shamrock. I had five one syllable, five two syllable and 5 three syllable words each.  Our list was as follows 1: mop, mom, pan, run, son  2: color, garden, panda, super, open 3: umbrella, telephone, dinosaur, butterfly, elephant
3. Write the numbers ( 1, 2, 3) on the different shamrocks.
4. Play! Set out the words and shamrocks. Ask your child to clap out or breakdown the words into syllables and place it on the shamrock with that number. He was way faster at this than I could have imaged.  Each shamrock has one craft stick in each color. My son didn’t need the prompt but had I been doing this at his age I would have welcomed the hint that the colors give without having to ask for help. If your child is struggling you can say ” Does the number 3 shamrock have a red stick yet?” * Also there is no shame in googling ” 2 syllable words” or ” How to break a word into syllables” as a parent it’s probably been years since you have clapped out a word .
5. Adding in a little lesson about rainbow colors I had him place the words in proper rainbow order after he’d sorted them.
6. This is when he said ” Ok now can we make it math?”
7. So I flipped the sticks and wrote out simple equations. Again making sure to have one of each color matching the answer on the shamrocks.
8. He loved this . He decided he wanted to write the answer on each which slowed it down but I was so happy since writing is still not his favorite activity but is something he is doing in class right now. He didn’t finish all the equations. That’s OK!  15 equations is a huge amount in one go .  This game can be played over and over again .

## Make Math Drills Fun – 2 Quick Math Activities

Math is important and practicing facts and skills after school doesn’t have to be major undertaking. A quick trip to the dollar store and you can get all the materials for both of these activities that are easy to adapt as your child masters the material.  These activities are not geared to teach your child the material but to practice facts they know for speed and accuracy. Yes this is the realm of flash cards ( go ahead and giggle) and the perfect example of when they work. Subitising ( recognizing amounts without counting )and addition up to ten are both facts that need to be recalled not figured out by the end of Kindergarten and practice like this is a fun way to do it. Do not worry if your kids count at first that’s fine and natural just keep playing, keeping it fun and practicing until they recall it instead of counting.

Clip In The Blanks

This is a novel way of working on a not so novel exercise. The clothes pins also add in a little fine motor work that children in the early grades can always use as they strengthen their skills for writing.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some foam sticks ( large tongue depressors or simple cardboard will work too) , clothes pins, markers and a kiddo ready to practice.
2. Write out equations that equal 10. Starting with 1 + _ = 10 up to 9 + __ = 10  .
3. Write the numbers on your clothes pins.
4. Set them out of your child. If you are just starting to work on these facts choose a few in order . Then next time move to all ten in order. We aren’t trying to get them to work it out we are trying to get them to respond automatically. Once they can do it in order easily mix it up the next time.
5. My son loves math and quickly clipped them when they were in order. “This is easy.” So I mixed a few up and while he did it well it took him a little longer. As we play more it will get faster and faster.

Self Correcting Flash Cards

Not all of these flash cards are working on subitising but most are. For those of you unfamiliar with subitising it’s the ability to recognize amounts automatically without counting. Tally marks, dots like on dominoes and numbers represented by hand signals are the most commonly used. These simple folded flash cards lets kids practice alone if they want.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some sentence strips a marker and a kiddo.
2. Write out equations, make dominoes or tally marks on the first third of the strip.
3. Place the answer on the 2nd third and then fold. I made 14 for my son and he flew through them. I am making him 20 next time.
4. Press the folds tight so there will be no cheating!
5. Play. Clearly he thought it was fun . I was so happy to see that!

Even though we are working hard to practice I am still not a fan of drill drill drill so keeping it fun, novel and as positive as possible is really important. This side of math is my most hated and is what killed my joy for it as a child so I really want to make these activities as dynamic, light and interactive as possible so my son’s passion for math isn’t squashed.