Tuesday, September 13, 2016

8 Back to School Activities for Kids Using a Box of Pencils

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Simple back to school activities for kids using a box of pencils.

Ah, back to school season is here...and that means back to school shopping!

Which also means I ended up with lots of pencils to label, as well as lots of leftover pencils to save for next year.

However, before I labeled all of the pencils, though, I though it might be fun to let the kids play and explore with the pencils.

Together with my boys, we can up with 8 simple back to school activities for kids using a box of pencils. We used these pencils to explore letters, numbers, math concepts, fine motor skills, and more!

Simple back to school activities for kids using a box of pencils

A version of this post originally appeared on the CBC Parents website.

About these Back to School Activities & Boredom Busters for Kids

You might be surprised how much learning (and fun) can be accomplished with a box of pencils. And we didn't even get around to sharpening them!

Below you will find 8 boredom buster activity ideas that require basically zero prep (much like our other boredom buster activities). So, go grab some pencils, ideally unsharpened ones, (and a few other household items along the way) and you're good to go!

A stack of pencils

1. Build Letters, Shapes, &/or Numbers

Start things off by challenging your kids to build different letters, shapes, and/or numbers using the pencils. It's the perfect activity idea for hyperlexic learners in particular as they love all things letters and numbers. Even shapes is a common interest (see here).

The letter H made out of pencils

You could even encourage your kids to make their name using the pencils, assuming you have enough pencils on hand, of course.

2. Play a Game of Pick Up Sticks

I loved playing pick up sticks as a kid! Have you played it before?

Well, if you're not familiar with this particular game, what you do is drop a pile of sticks - or pencils in this case - on a flat surface. So, the game could end up looking like this once the pencils are dropped.

A stack of pencils

Then you take turns trying to flip a stick off of the pile using another stick. However, no other stick can move in the process. So, if you flip a stick and another stick moves, then you don't get to collect the stick.

As you can see, four year old K was more than happy to assist with the dropping of the pencils to create our pile for our game of pick up sticks. He probably would have been happy to keep dropping the pencils over and over again, though...so consider that a bonus activity, I guess!

Close up of a small child holding a bunch of unsharpened pencils

3. Make a Pencil Maze

My six year old is really into mazes at the moment so he came up with this activity on his own. Seriously, he loves to make mazes on the floor using the pencils as the walls of the maze. Then he traces his finger along the floor through the maze. Once he solves it, he creates a new maze.

4. Explore Tally Marks & Counting

Another idea is to use the pencils to work on counting and making tally marks.

You could either pick random numbers for your child to represent in tally marks or ask them a simple math problem to solve using tally marks. Or, you could grab some dice, roll them, add up the number of dots, and form tally marks to represent the sum.

Exploring tally marks using a box of pencils

5. Play Tic Tac Toe

Here's a back to school twist on a classic childhood game. Simply make a grid using the pencils (see below). Then grab some counters or other small items such as coins, marbles, mini erasers, wood blocks, or bingo chips to use as your markers.

Playing tic tac toe with pencils

6. Explore Angles & Math

For this particular back to school activity, you will need

  • Protractor
  • Two pencils
  • Rubber band

Attach two pencils together with the rubber band (see image below). The pencils can now stretch to make angles.

Exploring angles with pencils and protractor

Simply encourage your kids to make and measure different angles using the pencils and protractor.

Exploring angles with pencils and protractor

My kids really enjoyed this activity. But that's not surprising given that they also really enjoy all things math related.

7. Build 2D & 3D Shapes

For this shape building activity, you'll need:

  • Pencils
  • Play dough

Use small balls of play dough and pencils to build some 2D or 3D objects. For instance, you could challenge your kids to build a cube or pyramid. Or see if they can build an octagon or a triangle.

8. Pencil Poking Fine Motor Skills Practice

This activity is a bit random, but it was really engaging. It all started when my boys spotted an egg carton tray while playing with the pencils.

I asked them if they thought they could push the pencils through the peaks of the egg carton tray. Since the pencils are unsharpened, this activity took a fair bit of strength, but they were able to easily manage the task at hand. The kids also counted each hole that they made.

Poking pencils through an egg carton

Poking pencils through an egg carton

Don't have an egg carton laying around? You could substitute a piece of styrofoam or a cardboard box. You could also roll out some play dough or use kinetic sand and poke holes in those materials instead. Feel free to get creative!

Speaking of getting creative...perhaps you can think of some other fun back to school activities for kids to try using a box of pencils. There are lots of possibilities, I'm sure!

Simple back to school activities for kids using a box of pencils