School in a Book: Essential Skills: Other Educational Recreation

Ideas for enjoyable, educational activities aren’t hard to find. The trick is to remember them when the time comes. Here is a catchall checklist for learning activities not presented elsewhere in this book. My goal is to try each of these activities at least once with each of my kids. Hopefully, a few lifelong hobbies will be discovered.

Classes and Clubs

  • Scouting or wilderness survival clubs
  • Instrument lessons with performance
  • Singing lessons with performance
  • Drama lessons with performance
  • Art lessons
  • Sports lessons, teams or recreational leagues
  • Educational clubs (book clubs, science clubs, gaming clubs and more)

Science Projects

  • Building science-related structures and models with mixed media
  • Building science-related structures and models with Lego (such as solar system models, lifelike animal and vehicle replicas, etc.)
  • Block building
  • Train set building
  • Playing with magnets
  • Breaking open and identifying rocks
  • Building circuits
  • Taking nighttime walks
  • Watching astronomical events (like a lunar eclipse, shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis)
  • Using a telescope and a microscope
  • Attempting to decompose various man-made and organic materials in bags (to compare rates of decomposition)
  • Making homemade environmentally friendly house cleaners (using borax, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and more)
  • Learning computer programming basics
  • Growing crystals
  • Using a compass
  • Making a water filter with sand, rocks, clay and charcoal
  • Making a model of our solar system
  • Making a balloon rocket
  • Making a volcano using baking soda and vinegar
  • Making a bottle submarine
  • Making invisible ink
  • Hunting for fossils
  • Making a rainbow
  • Making and testing a hypothesis and using the scientific method
  • Reading a map
  • Identifying the four directions
  • Identifying plants, animals, climate type, time zone, seasonal changes in local area
  • Making a bat house
  • Making a birdhouse
  • Making a birdbath
  • Making a bee home for honeybees
  • Making a foam-and-cardboard planetarium
  • Nature collecting

Board Games and Puzzles

  • Scrabble
  • Chess
  • Checkers
  • Go
  • Maj jong
  • Monopoly
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Complex strategy board games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic or Settlers of Cattan
  • Other educational board games
  • Card games
  • Crosswords
  • Sudoku
  • Logic grid puzzles
  • Mazes
  • Map/geography puzzles

Micellaneous Educational Activities

  • Listening to educational podcasts
  • Listening to audiobooks of classic literature and interesting nonfiction
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Memorizing important poems and passages
  • Listing life goals, dreams, and future plans/activities
  • Writing longhand letters to friends
  • Doing home improvement projects
  • Making a historical timeline
  • Making a family tree
  • Holding show-and-tell times
  • Holding family meetings
  • Doing service work in the community
  • Job shadowing
  • Planning and throwing parties
  • Planning a trip on a budget
  • Starting a small business
  • Holding a garage sale
  • Putting on a talent show
  • Planning and leading scavenger hunts
  • Learning how to shoot a gun
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Visiting the aquarium
  • Visiting the zoo
  • Visiting the children’s science museum
  • Tidepooling
  • Traveling locally and globally

Simple Homemade Learning Games (for Use with the Checklists in this Book)

The List Game

How to Play: Players choose a fact list and print out one copy per player. Players read over their fact lists. Then they compete to see who can list the most items on the list in an allotted time period. (Inspiration: Scattegories.)


How to Play: Players create their own BINGO boards using words from the same School in a Book checklist. Then they write all of the words from the list on separate pieces of paper (like flash cards) and put them in a container. To play BINGO, they draw from this container until someone wins.

Twenty Questions/Who Am I?

How to Play: Players choose a fact list and print out one copy per player. Players silently select a person, place or term from their fact list of choice. Then they take turns trying to guess the other person’s selection by asking simple yes or no questions. The winner guesses the term in the fewest questions, or guesses the most terms correctly in an allotted time period. This game works well with any checklist except foreign-language vocabulary lists, and is especially interesting with history timelines if you play the role of an event or person. (Inspiration: Twenty Questions.)

Do-It-Yourself Crossword Puzzles

Instructions: Print out grid paper with large boxes and create crossword puzzles using the terms you want to remember. The clues can be written on a separate sheet of paper. Crosswords using foreign-language vocabulary words can be easiest to create, since the native-language word can be used as the clue.

Do-It-Yourself Historical Timeline

Instructions: Using a simple template, create your own historical timeline with the key dates you want to remember. Hang it on a wall for easy reference.

The Math Puzzle

Instructions: Create a simple 13×13 grid. Number the vertical and horizontal rows from 1 to 12. Choose whether to multiply, divide, add or subtract the numbers, then in each box, write the value of the two numbers whose lines intersect at that point. Notice the number patterns that form. This game is especially useful for memorizing multiplication tables.

The Money Game

Practice addition and subtraction by creating your own fake money and playing “store” with a friend.

Do-It-Yourself Map Puzzles

Color a map of the world (or of a country or a continent). Cut it into puzzle-like pieces, then reinforce the back of each piece with cardboard.

Do-It-Yourself Dot-to-Dot Drawings

Print out simple photos of important world landmarks or works of art. Place a piece of paper over each, and trace them with dots. Number the dots as you go. Then try to redraw the picture by connecting them.

Educational Coloring Sheets

Challenge yourself to color and label the parts of a plant, the human body and much more. The possibilities are nearly endless for people who like to color.

Pretend Play Scenarios

Camping; Store; Restaurant; Post Office; Theater/Play/Music Play; Art Gallery; Grocery Store; Zoo; Toy Store; Gardening; Making Pizza or Muffins; Teddy bear/animal hunt; Car wash; Forts; Pet Hotel; Tea Party; Hospital; Cops and robbers; Superheroes; Star Wars; Vet Clinic; Lions and deer; Monster and townspeople; Alligators and swimmers; Fireman; Motorcycle, race car, truck drivers; Airplane Voyage; Submarine; Astronauts; Queen, king, servants, hosts and guests; Tea party host and guests; Library; Aliens; movie and TV show scenarios (like Star Wars), and much more.


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      1. I have always liked Risk. I know it’s a war game, global domination played with dice, but it’s also a good lead to managing resources and figuring things out.
        And, personally, though it may not fit here, there are lots of video games for all ages and for all styles and likes.