After homeschooling for a while, you start to know which of your homeschooling purchases were successful — and which were failures.
Here is a short list of homeschool toys that are actually useful so you don’t waste your money on stuff your kids might not ever use.
You might even already have some of these already!
Introducing toys into the classroom is a great way to break up your homeschooling routine and add play into your curriculum. (Click the name or the photo to see the toy on Amazon.com*)
Basic Counting (1-100)
Our Chutes and Ladders board game has seen hours of play time. Children are required to count 1-6 when moving along the playing space. The board teaching basic counting 1-100. It’s a fun way to introduce the importance of counting and larger numbers to younger children.
- Tip: Reinforce the cardboard figures with clear packing tape to prevent damage.
Colors & Number Recognition
We actually own multiple versions of Uno. It’s a great game that children as young as two or three can enjoy, but even older children love it. (It’s one of the few kid’s games I can actually stand!).
- Tip 1: If your child doesn’t like the idea of the ‘Reverse’ or ‘Lose a Turn’ cards, you can always remove those for later on.
- Tip 2: Purchase a travel soap container for storing cards when they aren’t being played with so they don’t get scattered
Letter Recognition, Phonics & Sequence
This toy has stood the test of time. It’s sturdy enough that all six of my babies have waddled around with it throwing the letter pieces and the body piece on the floor without it breaking. It’s catchy tunes for the alphabet song, letter names and sounds has been one that I’ve used when I teach my children how to read. (I use Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.)
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I have to admit, I’m a bit of a Scrabble geek. Playing with my children is no exception.
When we play scrabble, I play as usual, but they help if my children are early readers or don’t know how to spell a longer word correctly. It’s a great way to reinforce phonics and gauge their spelling ability. (We use Spelling Power for our curriculum).
Early to Advanced Math
As much as I love the math manipulatives that accompany my math curriculum, I think Legos (TM) are a better choice.
Many math manipulatives won’t graduate into advanced math like Legos (TM) can.
Scholastic has a great article on How Legos Can Be Used to Teach Math from K-12 Grade.
- Tip: For addition face the Legos right side up, for subtraction turn the legos upside down so your child can visually see the deficit (aka the empty hole).
An abacus is a great tool for teaching counting, addition, subtraction, and place value. Due to the beads being fixed along a slider, the small balls can’t be lost.
If you don’t know How To Use an Abacus – Check out this YouTube video for further instruction.
I went to a science retreat for homeschooling moms in 2013. The founder of the Landry Academy (a nurse and homeschooling dad) held up a large biology textbook and said, “Reading this book is the last part of the equation. Experimenting is where the real learning happens. The information in a textbook is gathered after the experimentation. Without experimenting, there is no science.”
His words hit me hard. Partly because I HATE THE MESS OF SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS! But he is right. Reading about science can be interesting, but most kids LOVE the experimenting the most. The words of a science book will be reinforced by seeing it in real ilfe.
It comes with a few slides, but we have used it to view bugs, leaves and other items as well. I also bought a small box of slides to further our learning.
This human body model is a great hands on addition to your anatomy lessons. As a 3-D puzzle, it helps children understand where things go in the body. For tactil learners who learn best using their sense of touch, this toy can be especially rewarding.
Beware: it does contain small pieces that can get lost easily.
A flat map just doesn’t cut it when trying to memorize locations on a map. We own a wood puzzle similar to the one pictured below. This one also has the added benefit of listing out the state capitals and pictures a defining feature of the states to help children make the states more memorable.
I’m IN LOVE with this amazing States/Capitals song: Tour the States on Youtube.
I have come to adore playdoh. Sure, it can be messy, but it’s uses in a homeschooling classroom are endless.
- Are you supposed to draw a ziggurat or a suspension bridge? How about you construct one instead?
- Looking to teach about shapes? Made a cube or a flatten out a circle.
- Teach how primary colors can be combined to make a variety of other colors.
- Lightly drag a toothpick on the flattened dough to work on handwriting.