What comes to mind when you think about school? For most of us, when we reach back into our own memories, conjuring up images of learning, we tend to connect into a collective vision of what learning ‘looks like,’ and what tools we need to make learning happen. You know those images – the teacher in front of the chalk board, the story-time circle, the flip-charts. Chalk, markers, glue, books, paper, math-counters, writing instruments, and paint are all part of that ‘expected’ idea of what learning looks like and what we think we need to have on hand to make it happen.
Certainly, some of the best home-learning happens with no supplies in sight!
Alternatively, who can’t see the usefulness of the occasional flip-chart or a set of math manipulatives? But what about the learning supplies that you wouldn’t expect to pick up at your local teacher-supply store? Below you will find a collection of off-beat learning supplies that you could use to enhance your home-learning.
1. Duct Tape
This item, which you can now find in an array of colours and patterns, can be your best friend. You can use duct-tape to fashion just about anything you could think of including a spaceship, a canoe, or DIY shoes!
2. Nuts, Bolts, Screws & Nails
If you are homeschooling, you are probably already aware of how amazing any hardware store can be to your child’s learning. The possibilities are endless. Nuts, bolts, screws and nails are great with the younger crowd for counting, sorting, comparing, and contrasting. Additionally, the potential for fine motor exercises are many. Building projects that include screwing, threading, and nailing are all amazing activities that help children build both tactile and cognitive skills.
3. Plastic Tubs
Plastic tubs that range in size from Tupperware-type storage to giant Rubbermaid-type tubs are indispensable in any home-learning environment. From DIY sandboxes and sensory tubs to water-play, and they can double as inexpensive storage options for homeschooling resources – plastic tubs can be reused and recycled in endless scenarios.
Sticks are a wonderful addition to any homeschool environment. Not only do they add a beautiful aesthetic, they are also useful learning tools. You can paint them, build with them, use them in mobile making, pile them up, use them in pretend play, use them to make gifts, make a path with them, use them as math-counters, learn about engineering by using them as building materials, examine and compare them for nature studies, or just include them on your nature tables.
5. Bed Sheets
Bed sheets are wonderful and versatile additions to any learning environment. Sheets are great for pretend play, giving kids a chance to set-up a curtained ‘stage.’ Along the same lines, sheets also make great DIY capes, dresses, skirts, ghost costumes, and endless ‘scenery’ possibilities exist.
6. Glue Gun
This tool probably doesn’t register as an automatic ‘must-have’ in your home-learning supply kit, but it really facilitates so many wonderful learning opportunities. From an early age you can teach your child about glue-gun safety (and you can always use a low-heat glue gun), and remove the support and guidance you offer as they get older. Glue guns are brilliant for arts and craft based learning, but they are also wonderful for engineering and building and creative-exploratory play.
7. Wrapping or Toilet Paper Tubes
There are just so many possibilities with a good old paper tube. You could make a musical instrument, a marble run, a race track, or a stamp for printing hearts. Paper rolls are great for building castles and ramps; they are great ‘pots’ for seedlings, and a perfect vessel for organizing supplies.
8. Vegetables & Fruits
In addition to learning about farming, the food cycle, gardening, and cooking, food is also a great vehicle for other learning experiences. Use a pumpkin and some nails to get in some hand and eye coordination, or use cut vegetables for old-school food stamping. Why not decorate a gourd, an apple, or a cucumber? Make towers out of cucumber slices!
9. Dried Beans
These darlings usually live in the kitchen, but dried beans are an amazing homeschool supply. They work wonders in sensory bins, are a great replacement for sand in a ‘sandbox,’ are perfect for fine motor ‘transfer’ activities and who doesn’t love a good art project that involves dried beans and glue?
10. Needles & Thread
There is so much to be gained from activities that involve sewing. Many parents shy away from homeschool activities that involve sewing due to fear of needle-related injuries. Most kiddos over the age of three are able to take in sewing safety rules. Adult supervision is recommended until kids are over the age of eight, but there are so many opportunities to be gained from our kids spending some time with our sewing kits. Have your kids sew characters from their favourite story books, sew a finger puppet, make a card for the holidays; older kids can even start to dabble in designing and making their own clothes!
Want some additional suggestions? The issue was brought up on Facebook, and quite a few homeschooling parents weighed in with their own lists!