5 Items to Have for Easy Hands-on Learning

04 December


We know hands-on learning has many benefits including more student engagement; if you aren't familiar with the benefits of hands-on learning, read more here. But when most people think of hands-on learning activities they imagine complicated projects with lots of parts and lots of mess!

And indeed those are hands-on activities and kids can learn a lot by doing them; however, not every hands-on activity has to be big or complicated or messy.

In fact a lot of quick, hands-on learning activities can be created with a few things you can easily keep (and probably already have) at home.


Currently our hands-on activities are limited to elementary students, so that is what these are most useful for.  But in a couple years I may find myself using the same supplies with middle school students!

Our Top Five Simple Hands-on Learning Tools



How to Turn Simple Supplies into Hands-on Activities

So now that you have seen our list, are you surprised? Other than science experiments, we use these 5 supplies for a large amount of our hands-on learning activities.

You are probably wondering how. Let's take a look at each one.



Sidewalk Chalk - Obviously, this one is more useful in warmer weather, but it is so simple to turn learning into a game with sidewalk chalk. Had it been warmer out our alphabet hop would have definitely featured sidewalk chalk. Use the chalk to write letters, numbers, countries and then have kids hop on them.  What kids doesn't like to hop?

This can go beyond just recognizing letters and numbers too. Seriously we have practiced rhymingmultiplication, continents, and even musical notation plus numerous other things. Sidewalk chalk is my go-to hands-on learning supply when we are working on memorization.


Dot Stickers - Stickers are magical things. Kids can use them to cover up facts as they practice them like we did here or even fill in dot marker pages. But you can also have even more fun with stickers, especially the dot ones that you can write on.

We have mainly used these for letters, but there is no reason you couldn't do the same with numbers or words. We have practiced the alphabet, recognizing vowels, and matching cursive and print letters.

These are great for when you need an indoor activity. We could have easily used them for our basket ball addition too.

And they work with toddlers too!



Play Dough -  Like beads, play dough is great for increasing fine motor skills, and it is also great for hands-on learning. Even my big kids love play dough. You can cut letters and numbers from it, or make play dough ropes and form letters and numbers.

We have also used it for counting, learning about bones, and some art appreciation. You can find tons more ideas for play dough here.

Beads - The obvious thing you can do with beads is craft, which is indeed a hands-on learning activity. But you can also use them for counting, learning the calendar, and science projects.

These can also be used for sorting (like we used buttons), as bingo markers, and if you have the letter beads, spelling!

Really, with such variety you are bound to come up with a learning activity to use them for.



Legos - Legos are so versatile. There are the obvious uses for STEM learning, but they are also great for math. Count them, measure with them, practice multiplication with them.

You can also use Legos to build historical buildings or scenes or retell a book. And if you used dot stickers like I showed you above, you can now use legos (well duplos) for spelling! Tons more information on learning with Legos here.



Runners-up for Favorite Hands-on Learning Supply

More hands-on learning supplies we love, but are just not as versatile, are not used as often, or do not qualify as simple. 

  • Toobs
  • Magnetic Letters
  • Vinegar/ Baking Soda
  • Craft Supplies
  • Board Games
Toobs - We love these, but they can be pricey if you want them all. They are great for sensory bins and we have used them for animal classification (along with sidewalk chalk). The landmark toob is fun for geography too.

Magnetic Letters (or other moveable alphabet) - These are great for practicing letter names, sounds, and spelling. There are magnetic numbers too.

Vinegar/ Baking Soda - It is no secret we love science experiments here, and vinegar with baking soda is a favorite. And you can change it by adding food coloringdish soap, or glitter. So many options!

Craft Supplies - Here comes the mess. Craft supplies are definitely great for hands-on learning, but I couldn't narrow it down to any specific ones as they all have value for different projects. They have obvious uses for arts and crafts, and also for projects like a Body Map or making cute Pop-up Letter Books.

Board Games - So much can be learned from board games. In fact there is as much variety in what kids can learn as there are board games! I definitely think they are must for kids (read more here), but there is no specific one that all kids need.


So there you have it; our 5 must haves for simple hands-on learning activities and 5 must haves for not as simple hands-on learning. I am curious to see how our most used supplies change as we move into the middle school years.

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