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Time4Learning Demos

Creative Activities

Useful and Usable Creative Items

By Ann Zeise

Q. I have been schooling my children at home from the beginning. My daughter is 13, my son is 7. I would like to teach my children through creation, not books only. I want to make with them usable items, not crafts. Do you have any suggestions?

Do you have room for a garden? Start planning for the spring. Plan to have some fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers for the tables.

Construct a simple 2-Shelf Bookcase. The kind Home Depot sells to assemble yourself: all precut and drilled, but offers some challenge to the novice. My tip: use wood glue before joining sections.

Consider having someone show the kids how to upgrade the computer: add more memory, install a larger hard drive and move files to the new drive, maybe add a card for a new monitor. Learn to network all the family computers and printers and such. Apple stores have all sort of free classes!

Show them how to create what they think they need to buy from a store. Make simple toys. Attach chair wheels to the bottom of a board to make a skateboard, for example. (Warning these aren’t as sturdy as the real thing, so they need to ride them with helmets and kneepads!)

Those electronics kits they sell at places like Radio Shack can be useful. Once you’ve made the model with the kit, and it works, go back to the store, buy the parts and a small box to put in the circuit. our son once made a water level detector that would sound an alarm inside our house if the pool level got too high… or some raccoon was splashing around in it!

Many on my site love my Crime Scene Investigation page and suggestions for doing a little sleuthing around the house and neighborhood.!

Food! What kid doesn’t like to eat?
Food Chemistry
Cooking Kids

Help take care of the family car. Make storage containers for things they like to have when on a drive. Learning to check the fluids, wash windows, check the air in the tires, etc. Starting to learn the rules of the road. We used to play “Spot the Drunk Driver” – having the kids help spot an erratic driver could save everyone!

Is sewing an option? Do you have a sewing machine? Learn to knit! Knitting is “in” right now. There is even a homeschool group on Ravelry.com.

I love to refinish wood, but the solvents aren’t always safe for children. Find old furniture and ask about safe paints at a GOOD paint store, such as Kelly Moore Paints. Ask about the steps for refinishing furniture. Remove old finish (You may have to do that.), sand or “rough up” the surfaces so new paint will adhere, then paint a THIN layer at a time so there won’t be obvious drips.

Stores like Home Depot and Michael’s often have short classes for kids on Saturdays.

See if there are volunteer opportunities in your community where you all could help out. Your daughter is old enough for CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team.) Ask at your fire department emergency services if they have such programs. Have everyone learn how to use a CB radio. Any emergency training could be very useful some day. I had a friend as a child who had learned a little first aid, and saved another friend from bleeding to death when he was badly cut while they were playing.

Brainstorm with your friends and neighbors. See if their interests or hobbies are interesting to your kids, too.

Help them to start a small business selling their creations or services. This will teach them a great deal about business and life skills. Our state association always has a “store” at the big conference where homeschoolers sell their wares. One family makes the best honey! One large jar lasts me about a year, so I look forward to finding them each summer.


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