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Tip Sheets

IEL Tip Sheet: Things to Do While You’re Waiting: Learning Activity Kits About

It's happening again! You're running errands with your children and suddenly you're stuck—in traffic, at the clinic, in the checkout line. Homemade learning activity kits can engage a child who hates to wait.

All of these kits

slip easily into a purse, glove compartment, backpack, or diaper bag. The kits are for ages 3 and up. Cost depends on what parents include. Every kit needs:
  • a zipper pouch or resealable plastic bag big enough to hold everything
  • smaller bags to organize the parts of the kit
  • pencils or pens
  • a memo tablet for notes, counting, games, lists, drawings (NOTE: To make your own tablets: Cut pieces of blank scrap paper the same size. Staple them together across the top. Add a piece of stiff cardboard to the kit to support the tablet while in use.)

A math kit

lets your child play with numbers and problem solving. You might include:

  • a lightweight tape measure
  • an assortment of items to count and sort—coins, beans, buttons, coupons, checkers, game pieces, playing cards, dice, dreidels, etc.
  • a list of favorite fingerplays and action rhymes that involve numbers
  • puzzles made from cut-up postcards or magazine photos glued to thin cardboard

An art and literacy kit

encourages creative expression. A child can practice making letters, write and illustrate a book, cut out paper dolls, or play games like Tic-Tac-Toe. You might include:

  • gel pens, washable fine-point markers, or crayons (Don’t leave crayons in a hot car.)
  • transparent tape or washi tape
  • stickers, stencils, or stamps
  • colorful paper (such as bright magazine pages) for folding or cutting
  • scissors—safe but not frustrating to use

A science kit

encourages children to look at the wider world. You might include:

  • a small, inexpensive magnifier
  • paper and a marker or pencil for sketching specimens
  • pipe cleaners
  • sandwich bags for collecting specimens
  • an assortment of items to study—keys, pebbles, seeds, nuts and bolts, etc. (NOTE: You can change the assortment from time to time.)

A music and sound kit

helps you and your child investigate sound. You might include:
  • small plastic containers with seeds or buttons inside for shaking
  • a variety of rubber bands
  • small scarves or 24-inch ribbons to wave
  • a paper towel roll (for a mini-drum or a "voice changer")
  • a list of favorite songs and poems
December 2015


Find hints on making inexpensive activity kits for your child at these Web sites:

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The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.

The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.