Indoor Winter Activities: Sand Play

There are so many ways to play and learn with sand when you bring it indoors. Contrary to angry people on Pinterest, when sand gets out of the indoor sand box, you can vacuum it up and it does not ruin carpet. An indoor sand table or box is one of our favorite indoor winter activities. 

winter activities for kids

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I’ve had this sand play area set up in  our water table  for quite some time now, simply because the kids play with it almost every day. In addition to free play, we incorporate it into our learning. While I read to them about ancient Egypt, they played with the  Ancient Egypt TOOB figures in the sand table.

Next to the table filled with sand, we keep lots of fun things:  A container of plants (from the dollar store) and a container of animals and people.

indoor activities for kids in winter We also have gems, crystals, hearts (all from the dollar store), shells we’ve collected at the beach and a box of  fine motor tools.

Winter Indoor Activities for KidsWe leave the table out in our sunroom, ready for play at any time. My kids are 8 and nearly 6 so the issue of throwing sand has long been resolved. Occasionally, if we have friends over with a toddler, we have the option of covering the table up. We also do not have cats, so that is a plus. People often feel the need to remind me that open sand containers indoors are not a good idea if you have cats. I get it. Cats and sand are a no no. Ditto babies and toddlers. 

Indoor activities for kids in winter More ways to use a sand/water table indoors:

LEGO Math Games: The Number Line Game

Step out of the workbook pages and into LEGO math games. If your child is learning to count, learning to add or subtract, working on negative and positive numbers, why not make it a game?   The LEGO Number Line Game uses what you already have to make math fun. 

LEGO Math Activities for Kids


{affiliate link}  Long sheet of paper from a roll of easel paper

Assorted LEGOs and a LEGO figure

LEGO games for kids 

This game can be played at any math level.  We’ve used it in several ways.

  1. Learning to count from 1-10, 1-30, 1-50, 1-100.  
  2. Adding and Subtracting. Call out equations to your child (or to the LEGO mini-figure) and have them move the LEGO figure along the number line. (“What’s 3+4, LEGO Man?”)
  3. Working with Fact Families.  “How many ways can LEGO Man get 10?” (5+5, 6+4, 8+2 and so on).
  4. Working with negative numbers. Draw your number line to include negative and positive numbers. Give your child numbers to add and subtract that moves them along both the negative and positive parts of the number line. 

LEGO hands-on math activities for kids 

What other ways could you use the LEGO Number Line? I’d love to hear your ideas. Post them in the comments below.

Follow Julie Kirkwood, Creekside Learning’s board Hands-On Math on Pinterest.

Gifts for Minecraft Fans

Minecraft is here to stay. All three of my kids continue to play it but my 10-year-old is absolutely obsessed.  I’m betting you have some young Minecraft fans in your house, too.  From finding that perfect gift to purchase or making a great DIY present, here are my top (kid-approved) recommendations for gifts for Minecraft fans. 

Minecraft Gifts

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 Minecraft: Essential Handbook from Scholastic  There are actually four books in this series. Each time my 10-year-old son has received one, he has buried his nose in it for hours and carried it around for days. He continues to use them as reference books when playing the game. I’m like, “Yay, he is reading!”

Minecraft books

Image source: Amazon


LEGO Minecraft There are several LEGO kits available with the Minecraft theme. When my son has used up his screen time for the day, I often find him building with LEGOs. He cannot wait to get Minecraft themed LEGOs.

Minecraft Legos

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Minecraft Retro Creeper Shirt For some reason, all the 8 to 10-year-old boys I know can’t seem to have enough Minecraft clothing. Now that it’s winter, we’ll have to add a long-sleeved version to the wardrobe. Or perhaps a scarf. There are also socks. Endless fashion options, really. 

Minecraft long-sleeved shirt

Image source: Amazon


Minecraft  Action Figures  I’m thinking these creepy looking things would make great stocking stuffers. 

Minecraft stocking stuffers


Minecraft Building Ideas eBook At $2.99, you can’t go wrong with these downloadable instruction books. These Kindle books can be loaded onto any smartphone, tablet or computer. They really helped my son take his creative world to the next level.  He had to pay very close attention to these clear but detailed step-by-step instructions. We bought him the first one as a gift, downloaded it to our iPad mini and wrapped the mini in a gift bag with a note to see what was newly downloaded. He then used his allowance to buy several similar books. 

Minecraft gifts

Image Source: Amazon

Minecraft Papercraft  It’s Origami Minecraft. Yet another screen-free option.

Minecraft Gift Guide

Image Source: Amazon


DIY Minecraft: Gifts You Can Make

DIY Creeper Christmas Ornament from Totally The Bomb.

Minecraft Creeper gifts

Make your own Minecraft Creeper Shoes from Candace Creates.

Minecraft gifts you can make

DIY Diamond Sword and Diamond Pickaxe from Vinobaby’s Voice.

Make your own Minecraft Creeper t-shirts from Jamie of Southern revivals guest posting on L’il Luna.

Felt Minecraft Toy tutorial from Attic 24.

Endless crafty possibilities with pearler beads and Minecraft patterns from What Rose Knows

Follow our Pinterest board, aptly named Minecraft Obsession.  
Follow Julie Kirkwood, Creekside Learning’s board Minecraft Obsession on Pinterest.

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Handwriting Activities for Kids Who Hate Handwriting : 35 Ideas

Do you have a child who loves handwriting? That’s wonderful!  I have three who aren’t so crazy about it so I spend a lot of time thinking about new handwriting activities for kids who hate handwriting. We rarely use worksheets, mainly because my kids react to them as if they are covered in germs. 

Last week, a friend asked for “practical, real world applications”–not worksheets– for her 7-year-old daughter “who hates handwriting practice (but needs it).”  She posted her query on the Creekside Learning Facebook page and she got some really awesome responses.  Here they are, along with more things I’ve done with my own children, and links from some awesome bloggers who have also written about the topic. 

35 non-worksheet ideas for kids who hate handwriting

Here’s the Facebook thread  where some of these awesome ideas came from. Thank you to those who responded with great suggestions! You all are part of a great community that helps each other and it makes me smile. 

Handwriting Activities for Kids Who Hate Handwriting

      1. Find a pen pal. (Great place to find your child a pen pal:  your Facebook friends list!)
      2. Make lists: grocery lists, lists of favorite t.v. shows, favorite types of dogs, whatever is of most interest.
      3. Write with fingers on a cookie sheet of shaving cream, flour, rice, or salt.
      4. Write on a dry erase board or a chalkboard.
      5. Write in the air with fingers.
      6. Rainbow writing:  write a word and then trace it with different colors.
      7. Keep a book journal. Write a sentence or two of their choice from a book they choose and draw a picture to go with it.  (from Rebecca at The Golden Gleam)
      8. Write letters to grandparents, family or friends far away.
      9. Mad Libs!
      10. Q-Tips, chalk and water writing.
      11. Use window markers or dry-erase markers on windows or mirrors. 
      12. Bath crayons in the tub.
      13. Write with glue.
      14. Use disappearing ink or invisible ink to write secret messages.
      15. Sidewalk chalk on the driveway.
      16. Window tracing.
      17. Set up a writing center. 
      18. Use a paintbrush and water on a chalkboard or outside in the driveway (and more ideas).
      19. Use your finger to write in the carpet (and 11 more ideas).
      20. Write with spaghetti. 
      21. Have an older child teach a younger child how to write something specific.
      22. Keep a conversation journal: Parent and child write back and forth to each other.
      23. Make gift tags to practice writing names and Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, etc.
      24. Make a fancy feather pen like Fancy Nancy.
      25. Write with a stick in the dirt or in sand at the beach.
      26. Create a mini joke book.
      27. Sensory salt tray with ginger and cinnamon.
      28. Start Nature Journaling.
      29. Use a drawing app on a tablet and write words with your finger or a stylus.
      30. Fill a ziplock bag with paint or hair gel and write with your finger.
      31. Draw a map of your house, neighborhood, or town and label places on the map.
      32. Make birthday cards or holiday cards.
      33. Play pretend restaurant and make a menu (plus 6 more great ideas). 
      34. Write on a AquaDoodle or MagnaDoodle.
      35. Use a Family Mailbox to write letters to each other.

Handwriting activities for kids who hate handwriting

My 5-year-old practicing handwriting in a tray of sand.

Handwriting practice for kids who hate handwriting

This was a hard photo to capture, but I am outside writing letters on the glass door and my 5-year-old is inside tracing them. We’re using dry-erase markers.

 Do you have a learning question to ask our community? Hop over to our Facebook Page and post it.

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Essential Science Equipment: Digital Microscope

Without a doubt, one of the best pieces of equipment we’ve purchased for our homeschool has been our digital microscope. It has been a very good investment and we use it frequently. We love hands-on science and the microscope fits right in.

How to choose a microscope for home use.

Here’s what we love about our home microscope:

–It has a screen, which is so much easier that looking through the little scope/lens, especially for younger kids.

–It is a serious microscope! This will take us through our entire homeschooling journey, beyond high school even.

–You can easily hook it up to a t.v. screen for even better viewing.

–It has a digital camera! You can use the touchscreen with built-in stylus to take a photo of what you’re viewing. It saves to the included memory card and can easily be transferred to your computer. 

–It’s sturdy.


how to choose a homeschool microscope

–It has a hard-shell carrying case with super duper padding inside to protect it during transport. We’ve taken it onsite to a pond study and I was confident that transporting it would not result in breakage.

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This is the Celestron LCD Digital Microscope.

I also recommend getting a box of blank microscope slides and square glass covers. The covers prevent small objects from sliding off or lighter objects from being blown away while moving the slides to the microscope. 

The depression slides are great for liquids. They have a slight indentation in the center of each slide to nicely hold a few drops of liquid. We’ve used this for looking at pond water, as well as blood (you know you have a true homeschool friend when she offers to check her blood sugar levels to manage her diabetes, conveniently during science time).

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