Build Academic Skills While Having Fun

There are endless opportunities for learning all around, if only we are wise enough to seize the moment. Take advantage of everyday learning activities — from shopping at the store to washing dishes and making dinner. Our executive director, Carole Richards, shares more ideas for creative ways to encourage learning while keeping it fun!

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Build Academic Skills While Having Fun
by Carole Richards

Published June 2016

Often parents purchase workbooks to reinforce their child’s learning experiences. While I applaud any effort by parents to help their child, maybe there is another way.

My three-year-old granddaughter still has endless skills to master. My wise daughter takes any opportunity to use playtime for a learning experience. This summer, try to think “outside the school box” to make learning fun.



Money skills: Most kids love to play with money. Use pennies, nickels, dimes or dollars for counting and money sense. Teach your child to count by ones, fives or tens using coins. Help your child count the money for a fun trip to purchase something of their choice.

I send my granddaughter two one-dollar bills every holiday. She saves them and shops for what she wants. The last time she selected a less expensive backpack because she realized she could get three things instead of two.


Time skills: If your child is always asking how long until __?__. Using the timer on your phone; Set it for “five minutes until”. Once the five minutes time period is mastered, increase to ten minutes, then fifteen. My children could wait two hours when they were quite young. They had conceptualized “how long”.


Math facts: Lay fact cards out on the floor and your child picks up cards that are answered correctly. Or, your child could stand “x” feet away from you. Each time he or she answers correctly; take one step forward. Wrong answers, move back one. Make wrong answers ok by saying “whoops”, or “hurray, mistakes are ok”.

I had a math fact club after school for struggling fourth graders. They played the “x” feet away game because it was fun, their classmates wanted to stay and play, too.


Fractions: Conceptualize fractions with measuring cups. Bake a favorite recipe. You hold the “one-cup”, your child has the smaller sizes to count parts to the whole.

The “Pizza Pie Game” is a great way to understand fractions, let them make their own pizza. Cut it in fourths, thirds, or fifths.



Read to your child. Parents often think the child must now do all the reading in 1st grade. If reading is difficult, the child may begin to hate reading. Select books that are above their reading level. Why not read a chapter book? My favorite children’s author is Beverly Cleary, whose Ramona character is always in trouble for one of her creative adventures. She is so funny, your child may not let you stop reading.

Let your child pace in front of you if he can’t sit still. Ask simple questions, “Where is the character in the story?” “When do you think the story took place?” “How did the character feel?” Select just one question a reading so it doesn’t feel like school. Make your question and its answer a discussion.

Other ideas:

  • Create funny stories, child creates the ending.
  • Rhyming, Language and Vocabulary. Make up games in each.
  • Music like John Denver’s teach similes and metaphors.
  • Choral reading can include sound effects.


I can’t begin to share the endless possibilities that make learning fun and productive. Think of real-life experiences to improve specific skills while having fun. Throw away those workbooks, your kids have seen plenty of them. Find new and fun learning experiences. Happy learning!


Carole Richards is president of North Coast Tutoring Services, president/director of the Academic Fun & Fitness Camp at Lakeland Community College, and author of Richards Learning Systems®. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV. She can be reached at

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