The best thing families can give young children is time and attention. You can be the catalyst for quality time and learning opportunities with some of these ideas.
Skills: reading, math, writing, science, responsibility, organizational skills
Directions: Each child will need a pocket folder. Trace around their “left” hand on the left pocket. At the end of each day children put artwork or other papers in that pocket and it is “left” at home. Trace around their “right” hand on the right pocket. Homework sheets, permission slips, and other papers to be returned “right” back to school are put in that pocket.
Create a weekly homework sheet to place in homework folders each week. Use some of the activities suggested on the following pages for interactive homework children can do WITH their parents. Remember, young children think having homework to do like older siblings is “cool.” You can develop responsibility and positive attitudes about homework that will stay with them in the future with exciting things they can do at home.
Sample Weekly Homework Sheet - Download a printable version here
Monday ________________ Tuesday ______________
Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments
Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments
Skills: reading, math, writing, social skills
Directions: You will need 2 or 3 lunchboxes and some individually wrapped snacks (pretzels, raisins, crackers, etc.) for this project. Each month look at your standards and think of an activity that parents could do at home to reinforce that skill. Place all materials needed to complete the task as well as a direction card for parents and a snack in the lunchbox. Rotate the lunch boxes through the class so each child has the opportunity to take it home during the month. Here are examples of skills and activities that would help parents understand what you are working on and how they could help their child work on the skill at home.
Hint! The snack seems to add the “magic” to lunchbox homework.
Books, words to finger plays, tapes of songs, recipes, art projects, science experiments, or games can be used for lunchbox homework.
Book Buddy Bags
Skills: print connections, motivation, parent education
Directions: You will need cloth bags and stuffed animals to create book buddy bags. Fill each bag with a book and stuffed animal that coordinates with the story. You can also add an activity sheet similar to the one below. Add crayons and paper, play dough, etc. for the activity suggested.
1. Read the book to your child.
2. Let your child retell the story to the stuffed animal
3. Ask your child to draw a picture of his or her favorite part of the story.
*When children return the book bag to school, invite them to sit in the “reader’s chair” or “teacher’s chair” and talk about the book. Hint! Designate a special chair in your classroom as the “reader’s chair.” Spray paint gold or silver and decorate with fake jewels and fur.
Skills: motivation to read and write
Directions: Put a teddy bear, diary/spiral notebook, crayons, pencils, and some personal items for the bear, such as clothes, a toothbrush, blanket, etc. in a backpack. Children take turns wearing the backpack home and having the bear spend the night with them. Write a note similar to the one below asking parents to write stories about the bear’s adventures in the notebook. The teacher reads the notebook to the class the following day.
Hint! Let the children name the bear. If the teacher “treasures” the bear and acts like he’s REAL, the children will love him as well!
Directions: Recycle old computer bags and briefcases into “discovery bags.” Fill bags with the items suggested below. If you create several of these, then each child will have the opportunity to take something home each week.
Writing - Put paper, envelopes, sticky notes, pencils, pens, colored pencils, Portfolio stickers, scissors, glue, and other writing paraphernalia in the bag.
Math Kit - Add a calculator, ruler, minute timer, counters, toy money, tablet, pencil, calendar, and other math related objects to the bag.
Science Kit - You will need an old white dress shirt (short sleeve) and safety goggles to make a science kit. Write “scientist of the week” on the pocket. Add paper, pencils, a magnet, magnifying glass, and book of science experiments to the kit. One child each week gets to be “scientist of the week” and take home the bag on Monday. They choose a science experiment and practice it at home with their parents. On Thursday, they return the kit and present the experiment to their classmates.
Game Bag - Put a classroom game that the children enjoy in the bag. Let them take it home and teach their parents/siblings how to play. Memory games, card games, or board games all work well.
Art Portfolio - Place construction paper, markers, crayons, glue, scissors, play dough, and other art media in a bag for individual creative activities.
Letter Land - Put magnetic letters and a cookie sheet or tin in a bag. Children can use the letters to spell their names, the names of family members, etc.
I Can Read - Spiral notebook, scissors, glue, pencil. Children look around their homes for words they can read on food boxes and other products. They can cut out and glue words they can read or write words they can read in the spiral notebook.
Proud Parent Book This book is a fantastic way to make children feel special and help your parents know how much you care! You will need a 3 ring notebook and blank paper for this project. Decorate the cover of the book with the title “The Proud Parent.”
On the first page write these directions:
“Today you have an opportunity to add a page
about your child in our PROUD PARENT BOOK.
Please put a picture of your child at the top of the page. Next, write a short description of your
child. You might want to include your child’s physical attributes (hair color, eyes, etc.), activities
your child enjoys, and things that make your child special.”
Have children share what their parents have written about them the next day in class. Hint! If you have a child of your own or a pet, model what you want parents to do on the first page.
Note: If you live in an area where it’s difficult to get parent participation for a project like this, then make a “Proud Teacher Book” and choose a different child each day to write about.
My Good Book
Skills: self-esteem, interest in print
Materials: copy paper, clasp folder
Directions: Punch holes in 10- 15 sheets of paper and insert them in the clasp folder to make books for each child. Let children decorate the front cover with a self-portrait.
Write “My Good Book” on the front and send home a note similar to the one below to parents.
“Catching” your child doing the right thing will help you
be the cheerleader that they need. When your child does something
that you want to encourage, take a moment to write it down in their
“Good Book.” Read over the book frequently and discuss their positive
Nursery Rhyme Book
Skills: oral language, print connections, phonological awareness
*Many parents don’t know nursery rhymes, so this is an excellent way
to familiarize them with poems their children are learning at school.
Materials: three ring notebook or pocket folder, crayons, markers
Directions: Each child will need a 3 ring notebook or pocket folder to decorate for their “Nursery Rhyme Book.” Select a different nursery rhyme each week and write it on a large poster or pocket chart. Also, prepare individual copies of the rhyme for each child. Increase the font size and double space between the words to accommodate the children’s visual needs.
Here are some ways to use the rhyme during the week:
Monday Introduce the rhyme as a shared reading experience. Reread the
rhyme several times. Let children use pointers to find letters or
words they can recognize. Call their attention to words that rhyme.
Tuesday Give children individual copies of the rhyme. Let them illustrate it and then hole punch it and put it in their notebook. Hint! Do not put illustrations for the children to color. Let them use their imaginations and create their own pictures.
Wednesday Use the poem for skill work during your small group. Can you find the top of the page? Where is the bottom of the page? Give children pointers so they can practice tracking words from left to right.
Thursday Children bring notebooks to large group and reread this week’s rhyme and review previous poems.
Friday Children read rhymes independently or with a friend.
Weekend On Friday, let children take home their nursery rhyme notebooks.
Homework Ask children to read or sing the rhyme to someone in their family over the weekend. Encourage parents to sign their name and write their comments and compliments on each poem.
Skills: print connections, small motor schools, parent interest
Materials: pocket folders, paper, hole punch, crayons and markers, date stamp
Directions: Make a “journal” for each child by punching holes in 20 sheets of paper and putting them in the pocket folder. Let the children decorate their folders with markers and crayons. Set aside a special time at the end of each day to discuss what you did, what the children learned, and what the children liked best. Let them draw pictures of what they learned or liked best in their folders. Children can date their papers with the stamp and then dictate a sentence to the teacher to go with their picture. (The teacher should read over the sentence tracking the words from left to right.) Children take home their journals and discuss their school day. Parents sign the picture and write their comments before returning it the next day.
Hint! The book below is a meaningful way to help parents understand the value of “hands-on” learning and play.
It Looks Like I’m Playing But…
Play IS the child’s work!
First, take photographs of the children engaged in the various centers in your classroom. Put a photo on each page and write a caption similar to those suggested below. Put the pages together and make a cover that says, “It Looks Like I’m Playing But…” Send the book home with a different child each day to share with their families.
Dramatic Play – It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing social skills, emotional skills, independence, oral language, my imagination, responsibility, and the executive function. I may use these skills as a mother, father, safety officer, or politician one day.
Blocks - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing motor skills, math concepts (number, size, shape, space), oral language, social skills. eye-hand coordination, self control, and my imagination. I may be a builder or architect when I’m grown.
Art – It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing my creativity, small motor skills, problem solving, sharing, cooperation, independence and responsibility. I may use these skills as an artist, illustrator, or designer one day.
Math - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing oral language,; social skills, small motor skills, concepts about quantity, shape, size, pattern, and an interest in math. I may use these tools as a computer programmer, accountant, or mathematician in the future.
Library - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing alphabet knowledge, oral language, print knowledge, listening skills, eye-hand coordination, concepts about the world, and the desire to read. Maybe I’ll be a publisher, author, or librarian when I grow up.
Science - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing a curiosity about the world, sensory skills, problem solving, language skills, and experience with the scientific process (observing, predicting, experimenting, recording, reporting). If I’m a doctor, lab technician, pharmacist, or landscaper I will utilize these skills.
Table Toys - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing small muscles, eye-hand coordination, attention span, social skills, and concepts about size, shape, color pattern. I might use these skills as a chef or dentist one day.
Language – It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing oral language, alphabet knowledge, print connections, phonological awareness, visual skills, book knowledge, phonics; motivation to read. No matter what I become when I grow it, it will be important to know how to read.
Writing - It looks like I’m playing, but I’m developing eye-hand coordination, small motor skills, alphabet knowledge, self confidence, vocabulary, and an interest in print. I might use these skills one day as a journalist, administrative assistant, or poet.
Send home seasonal cutouts for children to decorate with their families. Parents will be as excited as the children to see their creations hanging on the walls and halls! Click here to download patterns for Art Projects.
Encourage the children to name their art projects and discuss how they made them with their parents. You could also save these each month and give them to the children at the end of the year as a special keepsake. Here are sample shapes you can download for each month. Hint! Enlarge the shapes or cut them out of tagboard or cardstock to make them easier to decorate.
Brain Tickets - Click here to download printable version
Skills: oral language, memory, parental involvement
Directions: Purchase a roll of tickets or download these brain tickets. Each day before children leave school ask them to think of something new they learned. Hand them a brain ticket as they recall the day’s events. Explain to the parents that they should expect their child to bring home a “brain ticket” each day. The parent’s job is to ask what their child learned to earn it. *Hint! Make tickets a different color each month.
Conversation Starters - Click here to download printable version
Skills: oral language, home-school connection
Directions: Download copies of the conversation starters. Cut them apart and place them in a bag. Children draw one as they leave the classroom and give it to their parents to encourage them to talk about their school day. (Thanks to Joy Micheletto for sharing this idea.)
Sometimes notes get lost between school and home. This “Special Delivery” can will help make the connection. You will need a canister from tennis balls or potato chips. Cover the can with construction paper and write “Special Delivery” on the side. When there is a note that requires a parent’s attention or signature, roll it up and place it in the can. Explain to the child that you have an important mission for them. They are to take the “Special Delivery” home and make sure their parents read the note inside. They must return the can to you tomorrow to complete their mission!
A quick way to communicate with families is a “remember bracelet.” Take a strip of colored paper (1 ½” x 8 ½”) and write the reminder on it. For example, “Please return your library book.” “Early dismissal tomorrow.” Tape the bracelet to the child’s wrist for a visible clue. Hint! You can also write reminders on address labels and attach them to the child before they go home at the end of the day.