17 Fun Learning Activities for Kids

Want to increase your kid's knowledge and improve their social-emotional development? Check out these 17 games, crafts, and activities that incorporate active learning into everyday life.

Summer learning to prevent brain drain or summer slide.
Photo: Shutterstock

Play can take many forms. From riding your bike to using your imagination, there are many different ways children learn. But did you know play can be educational too. It's true. These activities will keep your child busy while helping them develop and grow. Oh, and don't worry: We've included activities for kids of every age, because play is important for children aged 2 to 20.

Sun Printing

Boy in striped shirt printing dinosaur toy on piece of construction paper
Photograph by Ryan Liebe

In this easy learning activity, sunlight causes a chemical reaction on construction paper. It teaches the power of ultraviolet (UV) rays—and encourages kids to wear sunscreen!

DIY Rainstorm

child doing science experiment
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

Kids create their own stormy weather—and play with shaving cream—doing this simple science experiment. They'll also learn about lab techniques and earth science, while building fine motor control skills.

Feeding the Birds

Girl looking out window at bird feeders
Photograph by Julie Bidwell

Get crafty by making a DIY bird feeder out of a half-gallon carton. Encourage kids to keep a journal with a running tally of feeder visitors, sketches, and observations. This active learning strategy will teach her about nature science and classification.

Twist and Count

Two girls playing Twister
Photograph by William Geddes

Got an old Twister game in the closet? Give it a smart spin by playing "Twisted Math." Write numerals on sticky notes and set them on the dots at random. Call out a number (say, 24), then challenge kids to place their hands and feet on a set of numerals that can be made to equal that number using addition, subtraction, or multiplication (4 + 2 x 4). Players who make a math error or fall over are out. The last mathlete standing wins!

Constellation Tracker

Boy holding constellation viewer
Photograph by Allie Cottrill

With their awesomely strange names—we're talking to you, Cassiopeia!—and back stories spun from myth and legend, constellations are a stellar way to spark an interest in astronomy. This simple DIY viewer lets your child see "stars" by day (by peering through a cardboard tube) or at night (by using a flashlight to project formations on a wall). Your child will get a healthy dose of astronomy, cultural history, and observation when using this craft.

Hook, Line, and Thinker

Girl on edge of tub
Photograph by Allie Cottrill

Let kids reel in the fun—and catch on to numbers—with this "math tub" game. To make a fish, sandwich a steel washer between strips of duct tape, then cut the tape into shape. Mark each with a digit from 0 to 9 and release them in a partially filled tub. Tie a string to a dowel, then sandwich magnets over the string's end to serve as a hook. To play, a young child can fish for a certain number; an older child can try to hook the answer to an equation.

(Remember to supervise children around water and when using small magnets.)

Track Your Trees

Tree map on wall
Photograph by Tim MacKay

This learning activity for kids teaches basic concepts of natural science and mapping right in your own backyard. Using simple supplies, kids can figure out what trees are around their home, then document their findings, charting the grounds and creating a lovely keepsake. It's a perfect project for introducing dendrology (the study of trees) to a budding naturalist.

Egg in a Bottle

Glass bottle with flame inside and egg on top
Photograph by Jennifer May

A boiled egg may seem unassuming, but under the right conditions, it can be a powerful thing. In this classic demonstration of how a vacuum must be filled, the egg withstands a mighty force of nature (at least for a little while), until the experiment's surprising—and kid-pleasing!—conclusion. This learning activity teaches physics, earth science, and observation.

Book Bingo

Book Bonanza
Photograph by Michael Piazza

Here's a surefire way to build excitement around the written word: A book-bingo that rewards frequent and wide-ranging reading. Whether your kids are born bookworms or reluctant readers, they'll get a kick out of earning prizes through their bookish pursuits—and never suspect that they're also boosting their literacy skills and vocabulary!

Build 3D Shapes

Straw shapes
Alexandra Grablewski

Sometimes the simplest learning activities can demonstrate the most profound ideas. Using humble materials to build a 3-D shape, kids can begin to understand how the things around them—from soccer balls to supermarkets—are made of forms mathematicians call polyhedra (Greek for "many faces"). They'll also get a dose of spatial reasoning and manual dexterity.

Backyard Spelling Game

Letters on the Lawn
Photograph by Joe Polillio

This game puts a super-size spin on Scrabble—and boosts basic literacy skills—by transforming word-building into an active learning challenge.

Homemade Barometer

Homemade Barometer
Photograph by Andrew Greto

The weather channel often talks about how high- and low-pressure systems affect the daily forecast. This simple homemade barometer lets kids observe changes in air pressure and make some weather predictions of their own.

Jump Rope Spelling Game

child jumping rope
Photograph by Kinzie & Riehm

Forget flash cards! Next time your child has a vocabulary list, head to the driveway or sidewalk for this jumping game. Kids will let out some energy while learning to spell.

Bulb Growth Charts

Growing plants
Photograph by Andrew Greto

This learning activity for kids works with numbers—and gives a close-up view of spring's arrival. Inspired by the wall markings used to track kids' height, these simple bulb growth charts let young ones adopt a bulb and track its progress. They'll hardly notice they're learning math and science along the way.

Calculator Hopscotch

Calculator Hopscotch
Brent Hale

We all know that exercise is good for kids' health, but according to a growing body of evidence, it can also improve their academic performance. This brainy variation of a blacktop favorite will help your kids get a jump on addition, subtraction, multiplication, division.

Here's how to set it up: Using sidewalk chalk, draw the calculator hopscotch board with boxes about 1 foot square (skip the multiplication and division signs for younger kids). Jumping can be done with one foot (trickier) or two feet.

Literary Museum

Alphabet Museum
Ed Judice

This active learning activity was inspired by the alphabet boxes often used in Montessori classrooms. Simply raid your pantry for boxes and line them with colorful letter printouts. Encourage letter recognition and reading readiness by having your kids fill the boxes with items that match the letters.

Label Mapping

Label Mapping
Andrew Greto

Want to teach your kid about geography and the world? Seek out a wall map that clearly shows the borders of countries. Have your child place the labels from clothing, toys, and produce on their countries of origin. This learning activity might result in spirited discussions about how and why we're all connected to the wider world.

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