10 Experiential Learning Activities for Non-reading Kids

Gardening is a fun and rewarding activity for kids and adults alike.

Experiential learning is, quite simply, learning through experience. These hands-on learning experiences are a great way to engage the minds and bodies of children and adults, alike.

As psychologist David Kolb, one of the people who proposed the theory of experiential learning said, it is the “…process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.”

For kids who have not yet started reading, those who struggle to read, and readers alike, experiential learning offers a way to learn, teach and transform our experiences by further engaging in them.

Some of these experiential learning activities and projects can be found in the children’s section of most libraries. Here are 10 of our favorites to get started:

1. Paint Sample Strips

Paint sample strips, or paint chips, which are found in home improvement stores, can be used for a number of experiential learning activities. Two fun and easy ones to try are:

  • Create a matching game where your child finds the matching colors on another card.
  • Take the strips outside and color match them with things you find in the natural world.

2. Nature Scavenger Hunt

A nature scavenger hunt could include looking for objects such as rocks, leaves, pine cones, bark, sticks, or feathers. You can look for items classified by shape (circle, triangle, square), color, or texture (smooth, soft, rough). Photos of items can be glued or drawn on a piece of paper, then glued to a bag for gathering.

3. Locate Local Landmarks

Print a photo sheet of places or objects around your neighborhood to be “found” when out and about. Places may include libraries, parks, government buildings, community spaces and historical buildings. Objects may include statues, points of interest, fountains, park features, a specific tree, or animal, etc.

4. Grow a Small Flower or Herb Garden

Whether you have an outdoor plot of land dedicated to a garden, a small space on a kitchen counter, or even just a window sill, you can garden with kids. It’s a fantastic way to learn about soil, the lifecycle of plants, caretaking, harvesting, and eating what you grow. A windowsill herb garden or plant is also a fun way to help children learn about cooking and food preparation.

5. Composting With Worms

Composting bins come in all shapes and sizes, but you don’t have to purchase anything to get started. Start with a clear plastic bin with a lid, dirt, leaves or shredded paper, add fruit and vegetable scraps, and, of course, worms. Spray the compost with water and in no time you’ll see the results of your composting project: fresh, nutrient-rich soil. If you want to learn more, many community centers and libraries offer free composting workshops.

6. Blanket Tents

Blanket tents are fun to play with and educational because they require planning. Tables, chairs, lightweight pieces of wood, PVC pipes, sheets, and blankets can all be used to create a tent where kids can hide away and play. By providing the necessary materials, you can inspire exercises in design, planning, and collaboration, as well as independence and placemaking.

7. Make a Loom for Weaving

Looms can be simply and inexpensively made out of a number of household items, including paper plates, cardboard, straws, wood, nails, and string. Weaving materials over and under to create patterns and sometimes usable items, such as potholders, offers opportunities to talk about colors, patterns, and design planning, as well as developing hand-eye coordination and counting skills.

8. Make Slime Letters, Numbers and Shapes

Slime, the gooey shaping and play material, is all the rage with young people right now. Make slime or, if you prefer, PlayDough with kids then use the opportunity to talk about shapes, sizes, and colors. You can create simple math challenges, make the letters of their name, write simple words, create number shapes and lots more.

9. Make Sidewalk Chalk

As with slime, chalk art is an opportunity to learn about colors, letters, numbers, shapes, and words. Take chalk art a step further by making your own sidewalk chalk. This will also provide lessons in measuring, mixing, gathering materials, and using molds.

10. Games with Dice

Dice can be used for a variety of activities. Besides just being generally fun to roll and play with, they offer opportunities to talk about math, to practice matching, and to learn numbers.

What are your favorite experiential learning activities for kids? Please share in the comments.


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