3 Interesting Handwriting Activities for Kids

‘I don’t have a bad handwriting. I have my own font’.

I was thrilled when I came across this piece of writing the other day. This was so me! Now I have this really witty one-liner to say to any random soul who goes so far as to comment on my own ‘font’ of writing. Not that people get a fair chance to do that too much in present times, thanks to us typing away on a computer keyboard rather than weaving magic with pen and paper, like the yesteryears gone by.

For those of you not in the know (I was also a part of this group until today), January 23 is observed as National Handwriting Day. There is something known as the WIMA, short for the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, that was set up back in the year 1943. Its mission: ‘To bring together the voices of the pen, marker and mechanical pencil industries’. It is this WIMA which came up with the idea of what we know today as the ‘National Handwriting Day’.

Why not use the occasion as an excuse to introduce our kids to some interesting handwriting activities? Here goes.

Handmade Cards

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Day” by DWilliams is licensed under CC by 2.0

A clever way to get kids to do a bit of writing, sans writing worksheets or actual cursive writing practice – handmade cards. Simply ask the kids to do a bit of art corresponding to their ages – multicolored thumbprints or handprints for younger kids, or a paper pumpkin craft for an occasion like Halloween (our kids’ grandparents are absolutely ecstatic when it comes to anything handmade they receive from their grandchildren) for older kids who are adept enough to handle a pair of scissors. Now where does the handwriting part come in? In the messages that accompany or form a part of the art/drawing! Kids who are still learning their words can copy out messages whereas older ones can get to work composing their own greetings and wishes, making sure they write it out in neat cursive handwriting. We made handmade New Year kids this year and sent them out to loved ones.

Typing and Copying

Most young kids love tapping around on the keyboard and watching the characters appear on the computer screen. Ask them to copy out a fun short story word by word on a Word document. Then, after checking for any spelling errors, get a printout of the same and ask the kids to draw pictures alongside and copy out the typed story on a lined sheet of paper. This way, the little ones will get all of the below – computer keyboard typing practice, reading and drawing practice, as well as handwriting practice too.

A New Way to Write

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Office” by stux is licensed under CC by 2.0

The key here is to do something different from what your child usually does. For instance, if he generally uses a pencil to write, hand him a bright colored sketch pen; if she usually writes sitting down at a table on a lined sheet of paper, try handing her some post-it notes to be put up on the refrigerator for the menu for each day of the coming week; if she has always written in notebooks, hand her a spiral bound diary with speech bubbles (see how you can make them in a Word document here) drawn on pages to pen down her thoughts at the end of a day (I did that at home and now it has become my daughter’s prized possession). Try your hand at coming up with a handmade calendar with your kids, with the days of the week and the months of the year listed down in neat cursive letters with markers or sketch pens on each page of the calendar. The ultimate aim should be to get the kids to pen down text neatly, copied or otherwise, and eventually they’ll learn to form their alphabets the correct way with constant practice.

Do share your handwriting activity ideas too, would love to try them out as well.

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Virtual Reality versus Augmented Reality

Before we finish marveling at the newest innovation in the field of science and technology, yet another more fascinating element or feature comes up that we just cannot ignore. It is like this ever oncoming wave of e-transformations; no doubt we live in extremely exciting times! What is the latest innovation that is about to take the world by storm? AR, short for Augmented Reality.

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Virtual Reality” by ijmaki is licensed under CC by 2.0

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Wikipedia defines AR thus:

‘Augmented Reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented} by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.’

 Picture this: You are sitting in your favorite Italian restaurant. You take your phone out of your pocket and scan the yellow mustard sauce bottle placed beside the pizza in front of you on the table. Voila! No sooner did you click the picture that an entire elaborate recipe book shows up on your phone screen, replete with suggestions for dinner using the particular mustard sauce in question as an ingredient. Sounds too good to be true? Well, with augmented reality apps like Blippar in the market, this is but the reality.

As things are going, it won’t be long before almost everyone you see walking around the streets going about their daily lives will be perpetually plugged in to their Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. In addition to other virtual games in the market, take the instance of the immense popularity of a game like Pokemon Go, which has brought together virtual reality as well as brick and mortar businesses on the same page.

The Difference between AR and VR

Talk about virtual reality and you envision a world that is virtual in effect, a world that users can interact with. Effective virtual worlds are designed in such a way that users would find it difficult to distinguish between real world and virtual world objects.

On the other hand, augmented reality goes a step further – it blends together real life and virtual reality, thus having the upper hand over VR. Apps in AR are set with the real world as a backdrop, and virtual contents are blended in within that. Hence, the difference between real and virtual is pretty clear in AR, unlike VR.

Toys and Games go Hi-Tech

Online game and app designers for kids are trying their best to cash in on the growing popularity of AR. Here are three examples:

  1. QR Code Storybooks: This is all about fairy tales coming alive and talking to kids. Hidden videos in the form of Quick Response (QR) codes are activated by kids while reading – this is akin to using a touchscreen device.
  2. AR Jigsaw Puzzles: Move over the board game type jigsaw puzzles we pieced together in our own childhood; they are passé now. New AR jigsaw puzzles are all set to enthrall the kids. Say your child has just put together a jungle safari jigsaw puzzle; with AR, you could actually make your way virtually through the said safari riding on the back of an elephant!
  3. AR Coloring Apps: No points for guessing how this works… The page one colors virtually comes alive! The perfect mix of a physical coloring experience with the latest augmented reality technology.

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Image courtesy: An Eccentric Life

Coming from a person like Mark Zuckerberg, the day being talked about sure isn’t too far. What do you think?

Football in the Classroom

Math teachers are finding that using sport to teach math can wake up an otherwise sluggish classroom. When kids are young, teachers, parents and caretakers make the effort to keep the math interesting and fun. But then in middle school, the level of math is upped and the effort to make it interesting is not. This results in bored students and a dip in the interest in mathematics, which in turn results in disrupted classrooms.

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Learning by CollegeDegree360

Understanding that a pizza has four quarters is a real way to comprehend fractions. Kids sometimes don’t realize that a quarter is actually a ‘1/4’ in mathematics. Teachers now have also found that kids are better at understanding math, when taught via Fantasy Football.

Why Fantasy Football

The sheer numerical data that is generated from football games is mountain high. This data is ploughed through by experts, who make predictions about players, games and the game itself. At the end of the day this is a tornado of mathematics – statistics, percentages, predictions etc. With kids creating their own teams there is an excitement of building and owning teams, based on real live player statistics. How well these teams perform is also based on real life statistics. To play this, and to play it well, kids have to understand the mathematical information that is churned out.

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DSC_0468 by Brian J.McDermott

Understanding the Game

When a teacher introduces Fantasy Football in a class, she has to ensure that every kid involved understands the game. Not everyone enjoys football, but there is more to the game than what meets the eye, and this the teachers hope will get the kids interested. With every team training almost a hundred players in real life, it is sometimes confusing to see all the players on a field.

Dan Flockhart

The man who popularized Fantasy Football in the classroom is Dan Flockhart. The benefits are listed and it is a long list. Along with using online games and mathematical games to support curriculum, Fantasy Football is the new popular way to teach math. In his own words,

Students can make trades, draft any players they wish, and decide on their starting lineups each week…. They control their teams, and they enjoy the feeling of power that comes with managing a franchise. This independence helps them to build their decision-making skills, thus contributing to their social and cognitive development. 

Winding up

The trick to keeping kids interested, is getting them to see beyond football – the math, decision making, injuries, how players and others involved are compensated. Kids then understand the many facets of the game. They may start by playing Fantasy Football, but might go on to use the learning in very innovative ways.

Fun Ways to Learn Coding

Literacy is no longer confined to reading and writing; joining this duo is coding. In a world driven by technology where channels of engagement have changed, to learn or to at least understand coding and how it works is necessary. It will help children navigate different digital channels and even create new ones!

Coding drives most digital creations and the way they function, from games to websites. So where do children learn about coding? Naturally, the place where it all happens. This is what makes learning how to code fun. Imagine playing pet games and then the next thing you know you are learning to code as you go about creating pages for your virtual pets!

Fall 2011 Student Hackathon CodingFall 2011 Student Hackathon Coding” by hackNY.org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Benefits of Coding

Children with an interest in technology-oriented careers are not the only ones who need to learn coding. There are several ways in which coding benefits kids. Here are a few –

  • Coding encourages logical thinking.
  • Children can work on problem solving by simplifying a complex issue into smaller steps.
  • There are opportunities aplenty for creative thinking as kids try to come up with solutions to get past hurdles.
  • It allows kids to create apps, games, websites and more on the digital platform, and turn ideas into reality.

Sublime WowSublime WoW: Website Code over 1000!” by Lord James… is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Learning to Code

Children can learn to code via games, online tutorials and courses. Here’s a list of resources that teach basic concepts.

  • Lightbot Jr. – Ideal for kids between 4-8 years. Teaches concepts like writing instructions, debugging and loops.
  • Code Monkey Island – This is a popular board game that teaches kids concepts in computer science.
  • Kodable – Through mazes and Fuzzes, this app teaches kids between five and seven the basics of programming.
  • Code Combat – It is a multiplayer fantasy game that teaches programming languages like Python and JavaScript for beginners.

 App Kodable

app – Kodable” by auladetecnologia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Machineers – This is a puzzle game that is said to help users learn the way a programmer thinks as they solve the puzzles.
  • Bee-Bot – Based on the Bee-Bot floor robot, this app teaches directional language and programming.
  • Scratch – Created by MIT, Scratch is a platform where kids can learn to program stories, games and animations.
  • Hour of Code – An initiative by Codeacademy, this is an iPhone app that teaches kids to create and run a program within an hour.

Smart Game CodingSmart Game Coding” by Harris County Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Coding is a behind-the-scenes task master who drives the way we engage digitally. With a growing reliance and demand for digital products, knowing even the basics of coding can help kids grow more comfortable with the digital medium as consumers or creators.

Choosing Online Virtual Games to Educate Children

Online virtual games have redefined games as technology continues to reduce the gap between the real and virtual world. With growing awareness of the benefits of online virtual games for learning, educators are trying to adapt to this trend. Virtual games cannot replace some of the established learning methods completely. However, they gain value for being a good educational supplement.

Identifying the right virtual game for the right age is crucial to its success as a learning tool. By outlining the learning objectives, educators can measure the effectiveness of using game-based learning in classrooms. Understanding the ways in which these games benefit children can help you maximize its advantages.

LegoLego.com…” by IvanWalsh.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Context – Virtual games are unique because they promote learning within a well-defined context. Children can learn through simulated experiences. This can be very useful in areas where safety is a concern like driving. Students can safely try out many choices before they master a skill thereby reducing the error rate in real life.


Learning through context also increases the level of engagement. Apart from the focus subject, children also learn to navigate through the virtual world while constantly making sharp observations. This can indirectly train them to respond to situations in real life quickly and accurately.

MabinogiMabinogi G9…” by Shadoe Landman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Practice – Children don’t mind repetitive steps within the virtual world. They learn by doing things and experimenting with the different ways in which things can be done. They also have to participate actively by making choices based on their own judgment and interacting with the game as it is played out. If one choice fails, they have to try another one. This helps them retain the information they learn for longer.
  • Achievement – Educators don’t have to worry about preparing a separate round of assessment to measure a student’s success. Online virtual games are designed with different levels that move from simple to complex. At each level the progress made by kids is captured and rewarded. The rewards give kids a sense of achievement and can be encouraging.

On the LooseOn The Loose!” by Joonie.. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

  • Social – Virtual worlds are also popular because they offer a social environment and multi-player game options. This can lead to collaboration. Children also learn to communicate and share information online.

Yet another reason for you to explore online virtual games as an education tool is the learning styles they cater to like auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. By setting objectives and choosing the right games, virtual games can be used effectively in education.

Essential Rules to Keep Kids Active

Physical activities help children to not only grow strong bones and discover the world around them but also to maintain a healthy weight. It’s required of children to be active for a minimum of two hours in a day so that they remain fit and active. Follow the essential rules below to help kids stay active.

2847422081_f7d765719c_zImage Source – https://www.flickr.com/photos/grandmaitre/2847422081/

Think beyond organized sports

Though there are multiple benefits of playing pet games online, nothing can really beat running around with a pet in real life and burning calories. Agree kids don’t need to burn fat but they do need to stay active. Slumber is just as harmful for kids as it is for adults. So think beyond organized sports like baseball, basketball, etc. and engage kids in activities such as watering the plants, running around with pets, playing “Red Rover, Red Rover”, asking them to fetch you things you need from the floors above, chasing butterflies, etc. Not many kids like participating in the regular spots events and classes in school, so it’s a good idea to help them stay active with other equally beneficial physical activities.

No TV

Every home must have a TV deadline for kids. However schedule the TV deadline keeping in mind the child’s favorite shows. For example, if your child loves watching a certain TV program at a certain time, don’t forcefully take that time away from her routine. Instead accommodate that in your ‘TV deadline rule’. The main objective is to prevent lethargy from creeping in your child’s life, so don’t make TV disappear from your child’s life but try and curtail it so that she gets time to step out and indulge in playtime with peers.

Make play fun

Don’t worry too much about the rules. In other words, making rigid rules in a kids’ game is the worst possible mistake one can make and the best possible way to ensure kids aren’t active. Parents must be contended as long as kids are running, hopping, jumping and have fun because that’s the best they can do to their health at their age. So oversee your child’s playtime but avoid becoming strict disciplinarian.

Never reward food

Avoid proposing food as giveaway for any game. It’s no wonder that juvenile obesity is so prevalent today. Most parents teach their children to eat healthy on the one hand and also give them junk food sometimes as rewards on the other hand. Promising a cotton candy or a fast food burger form your child’s favorite joint for completing her homework on time drives home a wrong message and should be avoided. Instead reward them with extra playtime or a book.

Plan holidays

Avoid planning your family holidays where there aren’t many activities for the kids to engage in, examples being historical sights, mountains, etc. Instead head to beaches, riversides, or another city that has plenty of activities for children. Parents would certainly want to avoid cranky children on family trips and children would also want ‘anything fun but studies’ from their holidays. Ill-planned holidays will make kids reluctant to play around and have fun.

Things to Remember While Getting your Child Into Sport

Child sports is encouraged in the US, much more than in any other country I’ve visited so far. Having grown up in a family that lived and loved sport, I grew up in a competitive environment and most activity we did together was done outdoors. We were always running about, playing some sport or the other and when we were too few for organized sport, we’d make up our own game.

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When I first had kids, my wife and I struggled with the role sports played in our lives. She was from a family who preferred more intellectual pursuits during their free time. The wife is fiercely independent and self-motivated. She was, at first, overwhelmed by the number of sports themed clothes and toys for the toddlers and then slowly got into the groove of balancing sports and education. It was a struggle but we both reached a compromise.

There are plenty of parents who have the same struggle. I’m no expert but if I were to list a few things that helped us grapple with child sports, it would be these!

Being Realistic – Child sports comes with its share of aggression, bullying and injuries etc. If the negative if focused on too much, you will lose out on the opportunity to nurse other skills that come with playing sport – skills like compromise, understanding and playing as a team etc. Your job will be to talk through the positives to reinforce these lessons and to prepare yourselves and them for mistakes and setbacks.

Being Supportive – In your encouragement of your child, watch yourself for an signs of being pushy or sending your child the message of your expectations (they tend to build it up to be bigger than it is)

Highlighting Choice – Forcing your kid into sport is the worst thing you can do. There’s no need to rush them into it or make them feel like they have to learn it. While the ‘competitive edge’ argument is a powerful one, encourage exposure to different sports over pushing them to make a decision and stick with a sport.

Encouraging Effort – While talent is important, not everyone is a natural. Some skills come with practice and rather than focusing on talent, praise effort. Children need to know that you appreciate and are proud of any and every effort they make.

Throw out Comparisons – It’s so easy to compare your child to another. It happens so seemingly instinctively that you sometimes don’t even realize you are doing it. If you have to compare, compare against their own personal bests, their own milestones.

What are some of the tips you would give to first time sporting parents?