Hands-On Activity Ideas and Homeschool Teaching Strategies

This post has a wide range of different hands-on activity ideas and teaching strategies that might inspire you in your homeschooling!

This time of year, our homeschooling can start to feel a bit stale. That’s when we have to shake things up and try approaching things from a different angle.  We all  have homeschool teaching strategies that we rely on, but it’s really great to change those up from time to time.

What kinds of engaging, hands-on activities can we do in our homeschools?

Our family has done simulations (the kids really liked the one we did on the Black Plague and the one we did on feudalism), plays, power point presentations, posters, dioramas, pin maps, dough diagrams, and played all kinds of games. In fact, you might want to check out this list of 30 Math Activity Ideas! I’ll share many more ideas down below!

Here are a couple of examples of teaching strategies we’ve been using the past week or two in our homeschool:

In biology, the kids are learning about the basic building blocks of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and so forth.  Because this is the first time they’ve learned about this material it has taken quite a bit of review. I made up a quick set of matching flashcards so they could review this material on their own (below left).

Review Strategies - Matching Cards - Bingo

In German (the kids’ foreign language), the kids have been learning more challenging vocabulary. One recent unit was on tools, another was related to the environment.  As you can see above, I made two different bingo games – one had pictures, the other just had the English word.  I would say the German words and the kids had to find the correct picture/word and mark it off on their bingo cards.  It made reviewing more interesting and the kids were quite happy to go over the list several times!  We also use an online app called quizlet that also allows teachers to make flashcard sets. You could do this for any subject! ?

When we are stuck in a rut, I try think about these questions:

  • What kinds of activities can I use to take this lesson further?
  • Is the activity meaningful?
  • What does it add to the lesson?
  • Is this activity age appropriate? Are the kids too young or too old for this activity?

Then I think about some of the different teaching strategies I’ve used over the years and see if we can approach the materials in a new way. I often come back to the teaching strategy list I put together (continue reading below)… and think about what might inspire and engage the kids.

I’m sure you have your own personal repertoire of teaching methods and learning activities, but here is a list of engaging activities you could consider:

1) Songs such as Rock the Capitals, South America, USA Presidents Song, 50 States that Rhyme Song and this works effectively in foreign languages too (Grün, grün, grün sind alle meine Kleider in German)

2) Scavenger Hunts: You can hide math facts, letters, sight words, vocabulary words, foreign language words and more!  Plus, (without anyone knowing) you can put a sticker under one dinner plate, have everyone choose a plate and have everyone check their plate mid-meal.  Everyone says something meaningful & nice about the person who got the sticker… just to make them feel good!

3) Spelling Activities: sorting mats, cereal box sorting, game boards, bingo games (Some of our Spelling Activities are here)

4) Math Activities: throw a sponge at the math fact, math cups (either face down or face up), hopscotch math, jump on math facts, math fact chalk games, math fact relay races, math races (on paper with no winner), online math games, math monster (ie. freeze tag with math facts!). Skip Counting Songs & hand-clapping game

5) Geography Activities: free hand map drawing (for older kids), pin maps, clay maps, cookie maps – with frosting, country studies (animals, food, plants, money, lapbooks, postcard exchange), dioramas (of habitats), average rainfall, world landmarks, geography games (like 10 days in Europe or 10 Days in Africa)

6) Using Read Aloud Time: crafts, coloring, cutting – often while read a novel together, the kids would be doing something else. This always worked well in our family!

7) Science: Engineering Activities – like building & testing with different materials – Here are 7 fun Engineering Challenges

And here are even more hands-on and engaging activity ideas:

plays/drama – I once wrote a play for the kids that had them re-enact all the events that led to the American Revolution. It included meetings in Parliament where different acts were passed, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, etc. The kids still remember acting all this out!

American-Revolution-Playre-enactments – Recreate a scene from a novel or a historical event

simulations – have students step back in time and “be” a different person. Have the kids immerse themselves in another time!


role play – Create role-cards each containing a description of a character to play during the activity. Provide general parameters of how the character would react. This is effective in history and foreign language lessons

conduct fake interviews — have students play a role and interview them (news style). Ask probing questions.

set the scene – Kim Bearden (author of Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me does a great job incorporating this technique effectively into her classroom — setting up an operating table to “operate” on sentences. History teachers could transform their classrooms into Ancient Egypt or demonstrate trench warfare (with chairs turned upside down for the barbed wire). For a foreign language class you could set up a post office or spend the day at the beach.

debates – take a side and argue it well, even if you don’t actually agree

music – songs and rhythm – People remember a lot from songs they sing. In our homeschool, we have sung the U.S. Presidents Song and the 50 States Song… about the Human Body Systems… and are currently singing songs in German to help us remember the parts of the body, clothing & colors, etc.

U.S. Presidents Song and Worksheetsrhyme, chants

time for personal reflection – When people relate what they are learning to what they know, the go a step further in the learning process, connect and relate to the material better. Create opportunities for students to empathize with others and connect emotionally with the material (in a novel, back in history)  Help the students to capture the moment or feeling of that situation/event/period.

posters, brochures

portfolio projects – Writing projects help students synthesize the material and put it into their own words.  These are amazing tools to use as kids enter middle school and high school, though my kids did a couple when they were younger as well. Be sure to grab this free resource: What is a Portfolio Project?

create cartoons about the information at hand

create multimedia presentations – blog, video, slides, power point presentations — My kids have enjoyed making Power Point Presentations (and giving speeches) for the past year or so.

Power Point Presentation

create interactive notebooks and lapbooks – last fall the girls did a lapbook on the Oregon Trail

Oregon Trail Lapbook FrontAnd here are some interactive notebook pages I made for the Layers of the Earth

Layers of the Earth - Interactive Notebook Activity

and for the Layers of the Atmosphere:Layers of the Atmosphere Printable Activity

research projects – One of the first papers I had the kids do was a Biography Project.  You can find the free printable here.

art projects – dioramas, drawings, paintings, sculpture that relate to the subject

rainforest diorama

Here are dioramas the kids did on the rainforest (above) and ocean (below)!

hands-on geography maps, relief maps, pin maps

World Animals Pin MapWorld Animals Pin MapOcean, Seas and Straits Pin MapOcean-Seas-Straits-Pin-MapDeserts Pin MapDeserts of the World worksheets and pin map

cookie diagrams — We have used cookie dough (or our homemade graham cracker recipe)

Cookie - Map and DiagramMontessori cards – We have used various Montessori sorting cards for many different science activities over the years! Here are our free Living-NonLiving Sort Cards, for example!

FREE - Living Nonliving Unit - Cards Worksheets Notebook PagesHere is a picture of the kids sorting vertebrates and invertebrates!

Vertebrate-Invertebrate Sorting Cards

science experiments – Check out this free Chemistry Experiment Packet (for 2nd grade), for example!

online games – There are tons of online games that you can explore… here’s a really neat on for American History, for example!

use QR Code readers as a different approach to reviewing material – You can check out some of the materials I’ve made: like this Outdoor Treasure Hunt with QR Codes or Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division Practice – Minecraft QR Code Math. I’ve also made Civics Review Cards with QR Codes and American Revolution Review Cards with QR Codes


play active review games like Jeopardy and make it fun

Most any material can be made engaging, but it takes some planning. I’m sure I’ve left a lot of amazing, creative ideas off the list, but that’s the exciting thing about education, right? The possibilities are endless!

The goal with any of these activities is to teach in ways that are interactive, meaningful, and engaging. We need to find ways to continue to improve our instructional techniques… Think about the possibilities and give one or two a try!

Click here to download this free printable list of  Hands-On Activity Ideas and Homeschool Teaching Strategies

Hands-On Activity Ideas - Homeschool Teaching Strategies - Free PrintableClick here to save this on Pinterest

Hands-On Activity Ideas and Homeschool Teaching Strategies

Portfolio Projects: What is a History Portfolio Project?  This post helps explain why Portfolio Projects are an effective teaching tool for history. It’s another strategy I use from time-to-time to change things up. This has the kids use a wide variety of writing styles and genres as they explore a specific history topic.

You can check out these (free) Portfolio Projects from when the kids were younger

  • Animal Portfolio Project – My daughters always loved animals. A couple of years ago, I created this portfolio project so she could choose all kinds of projects relating to animals — art, writing, research, geography and more!
  • WWII Portfolio Project – This was the portfolio project I made for my son when he was about 10.

See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts.  You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group.  Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. :) Homeschool Den StoreClick here to view or download our Homeschool Den Catalog (pdf):

Homeschool Den Catalog

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Happy Homeschooling, everyone!!  ~Liesl

If you are new to our blog, you might want to check out these free resource guides, which I put together to help answer questions like… Where do I start? How do I know what to teach?  What units did you kids do when they were in __ Grade?

Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum: These are some resources I made that might be helpful as you create your own homeschool plans.  These are somewhere between 30 and 50 pages and are FREE to download:

Homeschool Curriculum Kindergarten Grade 1

Homeschool Science Curriculum Grade 2-3

Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum Grade 4 - 5

Homeschool Curriculum Grade 6-8We also have a couple of different free homeschool planners:

Homeschool Planners

These are some free Homeschool Planning Pages that I use as I try to figure out our long-range homeschooling goals.  This post shares share the process I go through… and also will share the planning pages that I’ve been using the past few years. I like having colorful planning pages to work on. This isn’t really a weekly/monthly planner, but rather a homeschool vision planner. This 30+-page pdf is currently FREE to download! Let me know if it’s helpful! ~Liesl

Free Homeschool Planning Pages

Free Homeschool Planner

And, if you are looking for some printables to create your own Homeschool Planner, you might want to check out our free Homeschool Planner. This unique homeschool planning packet is currently FREE to download! It is nearly 100 pages! Not only does this packet include daily and weekly planning pages, checklists and record keeping pages, but it also includes various homeschool journaling pages… think gratitude journal meets homeschool goal setting! Again, you’ll find it at this post: Free Homeschool Planner and Discovery Journal. I tend to change up my homeschool planning pages regularly as our needs change, so this packet of materials has steadily grown in size! There might be something you can use there! ?

Free Homeschool PlannerFree Homeschool Checklist Pages - Free Homeschool PlannerBe sure to check out some of our packets as well:

Earth Science Packet

Earth Science Unit

Age of Exploration Packet

Quick Preview

Age of Exploration Worksheets Notebook PagesWorld Facts Packet

Quick Preview for the World Facts Packet

World Facts Packet - Geographic Features Landform Words Topographic Maps World Facts Packet - Geography Landforms World Landmark Cards worksheet bingo cardsDigestive System Packet

Digestive System Worksheets and Activities Digestive System Flap Book

Multiplication Bundle – 2s through 9s… More than 15 pdfs and well over 250 pages of worksheets, games, skip counting activities and more!

Multiplication Bundle worksheets-games-activities-skip-counting-mazes-and-moreMultiplication Worksheets 2s 3s 4sMultiplication Worksheets 6s 7s Multiplication Worksheets 8s 9sMultiplication and Division Worksheets


You might want to check out some of the bundles we have available including the Earth Science Bundles, Biology Bundle of 5, Chemistry Bundle and Big Animal Bundle, and Spelling Bundle).  We also have German worksheets and Spanish worksheet sets for learning these foreign languages.

Earth Science and Physical Science BUNDLE of 10

Biology Bundle of 5:

Biology BUNDLE of 5 Units Big Animal Bundle:

Big Animal BUNDLE - includes 8 pdfsChemistry BundleChemistry BUNDLE

My kids have learned German as a foreign language. We started when they were in elementary.  You can check out some of our German packets here:German Worksheet BUNDLE 1

My girls also started learning Spanish. You can check out our Spanish worksheets here in our Spanish Store.

Spanish BUNDLE Set 1 - Mi Familia - My familySpanish BUNDLE Set 5 - Mi Casa - My House - bedroom living room bathroom tasks

And Many More in Our Store. ~Liesl