33 activities your kids can do instead of homework

Too much homework for kids can be harmful. Here are other ways for your children to learn at home.

Should homework be banned
@christyhermogenes/Twenty20

There are many aspects of my more than decade-long career as a teacher that I'm proud of. My reputation for giving lots and lots of homework—sometimes over two hours' worth—is not one of them. My intentions were good: I, like their parents, didn't want my students to fall behind.

However, when I entered a doctoral program in education policy, I learned that some research suggests homework is not good for elementary school-aged kids. Not only does it fail to improve the academic performance of elementary students, but it might actually be damaging to kids' attitudes toward school, and to their physical health.

After hours spent sitting and engaging in mostly adult directed activities, children's minds and bodies need other kinds of experiences when they get home, not more academics. It's not just that homework itself has few academic benefits for little kids (and may even be harmful), it's also that homework is replacing other fun, developmentally appropriate and valuable activities—activities that help children grow into healthy, happy adults.

If your child is having trouble figuring out how to focus on homework, they're not alone. Here's the rundown on homework for kids.


Who invented homework, anyway?

Modern homework was invented by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who created a compulsory school system that was meant to support the effort to unify Germany (it had originally been a set of city-states, and reached unification in 1871). For Fichte, homework was a way for students to be involved in patriotism: They attended state-sponsored schools and spent their free time doing assignments related to their state-sponsored education. It was brought to America by Horace Mann, a pioneer of public education in the United States, in the 1840s.

However, in the interim, a lot has changed in education. With time and research, educators are learning more and more about how children learn best and what kinds of work are developmentally appropriate at different ages and stages.

What does the research say about homework for kids?

While researchers think that homework is beneficial for academic achievement, the amount and type of homework makes a difference. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Education found that excessive homework leaves kids stressed, sleep deprived, and lacking balance for social and family activities even when those students come from upper-middle class families and go to top-performing schools—and many students don't have those advantages.

Then there's the issue of whether homework is actually effective at changing academic outcomes. Education researchers generally agree that kids get more benefit from homework the older they get, but one 2020 Rutgers study found that homework has become less effective at reinforcing classroom learning as smartphone use has become widespread. Kids use their phones to complete their assignments and get good grades on homework, but then don't perform well on exams. On the earlier end of education, researcher John Hattie argues that homework doesn't make a difference with regard to achievement for grade school-aged students, and that parents should encourage kids to learn at home through more engaging activities (like reading books they're interested in, pursuing hobbies, and getting in physical activity).

Harris Cooper, mentioned earlier, believes that homework is effective, but it should be increased incrementally over time. He recommends the 10 minute rule: The amount of homework students receive should be 10 minutes times their grade level, so that first-graders get 10 minutes of homework, fifth-graders 50, and high school seniors get two hours, for example. Cooper also has stipulations about the kind of homework kids receive, saying, "Homework for young students should be short, lead to success without much struggle, occasionally involve parents and, when possible, use out-of-school activities that kids enjoy, such as their sports teams or high-interest reading."

What can kids do instead of homework?

Spending time with family

Spending time with family

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Many parents have daily battles with their elementary-aged kids over homework, and for many it negatively affects their relationships. Instead of parents nagging their overtired kids to do homework, families can spend much more time talking together about their day. In fact, conversation is the best way for all of us—especially young children—to learn about our world and cultivate empathy.

Encouraging multigenerational relationships can also yield many lessons for kids. By spending time with Grandma and Grandpa, they can learn how other adult role models in their lives who love them handle conflict, create and negotiate rules and routines, and embrace family traditions.

Suggested activities:

  • Talking to parents
  • Helping out with dinner
  • Hanging out at grandma's

Self care

Self care for kids

@lolodean/Twenty20

Just like adults, kids need time to take care of themselves so that they can perform well in school. And also like adults, a lot of kids don't have self-care basics in their routine.

Take sleep, for instance. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that between 25 and 50 percent of children aren't getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of problems in kids, including poor attention, behavior problems, academic difficulties, irritability and weight gain. But even small amounts of additional sleep can have big impacts. One study found that only 20 additional minutes of sleep can improve kids' grades.

Other self care activities benefit children, too: Reading aloud to a child helps them build their vocabulary, having a bedtime routine improves children's social and behavioral habits and having some relaxing downtime recharges their ability to pay attention and concentrate.

Suggested activities:

  • Sleep
  • Building a consistent bedtime routine
  • Cleaning their room
  • Zoning out
  • Meditation
  • Listening to classical music

Independent activities

Independent play

@leencrombez/Twenty20

Solitary activities—those that children can do on their own, without the help of adults—build kids' confidence and help them to relax. Plus, if there's an element of learning, like your child acquiring a new skill on their own, it can improve their motivation and memory in the long run.

Kids benefit in different ways from different independent activities. According to the National Literacy Trust, reading for pleasure has a greater impact on children's achievement in school than their family's economic status and not only builds vocabulary and comprehension but builds confidence. Knitting and crochet build fine motor skills, and gardening helps kids apply what they're learning in their science and math classes to the real world.

Suggested activities:

  • Independent reading
  • Working on a puzzle
  • Learning to knit
  • Conducting a science experiment
  • Planting a garden

Play

Kids play

@amyhilbrand/Twenty20

An important part of how young kids' minds develop is through free, self-directed play. According to David Elkind, Ph.D., author of The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children, free play is more critical now than ever, as recesses are shortened or eliminated and kids' calendars are busier than ever. "Through play," Elkind writes, "children create new learning experiences, and those self created experiences enable them to acquire social, emotional, and intellectual skills they could not acquire any other way."

There are a lot of different kinds of play: Risky play, sensory play, parallel play, constructive play, cooperative play, and more. All types of play have benefits for children, like building social skills, increasing creativity, improving problem-solving skills, and providing opportunities to explore the world in new ways. It's even good for parents: As the American Academy of Pediatrics says, "Play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children."

Suggested activities:

  • Go up a slide backward
  • Dig in the dirt
  • Playing with a friend in a sandbox
  • Play dress-up
  • Create a collage
  • Play Simon Says

Physical activity

Physical activities for kids

@DelanahBanana/Twenty20

Kids who are physically active—as well as adults—have stronger hearts, lungs, and bones. They are less likely to develop cancer or be overweight and more likely to feel good about themselves. Even rough-housing can be beneficial. Rough and tumble play is not the same as aggression. It's vigorous, freeform, whole body, energetic, happy play. Kids learn decision making skills, relieve stress, improve their ability to read social cues, and enhance their cardiovascular health.

And walking the dog counts: Kids who help take care of family pets may be less anxious, less likely to develop allergies and asthma, and are more active.

Suggested activities:

  • Jumping rope
  • Wrestling with siblings
  • Riding a bike
  • Walking the dog

Volunteering

Volunteer opportunities for kids

@KookkaiFoto/Twenty20

Through volunteering, kids can become more grateful, empathetic, and feel more connected to the wider community. Volunteering at an animal shelter can be especially enriching for children. Even kids who don't have pets at home can benefit from being around animals. The emotional and psychological benefits of being around animals can also be found when kids care for injured animals and take on care-taking responsibilities for other people's pets.

Suggested activities:

  • Playing with animals at a shelter
  • Bringing flowers to seniors in nursing homes
  • Organizing or contributing to a toy drive
  • Picking clothes to donate to a women's shelter
  • Picking up litter in the neighborhood

Creative expression

Kids creative activities at home

@criene/Twenty20

According to the American Psychological Association, creative expression has incredible benefits for children's mental health. Various studies have found that engaging in creative expression while experiencing negative emotions like anger and sadness helps people, including children, to process those emotions healthily. It doesn't matter what kind of creative expression it is: Drawing, acting, writing, playing music and more can all build resilience along with improving kids' imaginations, fine motor skills, and communication.

Suggested activities:

  • Practice an instrument
  • Draw a picture
  • Write a story
  • Take pictures

No homework? No problem

Homework takes away from the time available to engage in endless other forms of learning, such as social, physical, and emotional, as well as rest. And in any case, the learning done in school is only one form of learning.

Our kids deserve a chance to spend all their other hours outside of school doing their most important job of all: being a kid.


Original story by Jessica Smock for Parent.co.

The HATCH Mama collection is everything your pregnant body needs right now

Their oil is the only thing that stopped my belly from itching as it grew bigger.

Conz Preti

Let me start by saying I'm not a fan of moisturizing. I hate being wet and sticky and after applying product to my body, I have to stand around awkwardly until I'm fully air-dried—a practice that is not compatible with having three kids under the age of 3. However, as someone who has carried three children in her body, I also know how much your belly needs hydration as the baby grows.

This was especially true with my second pregnancy. My belly popped way sooner (a thing that happens with subsequent pregnancies) and on top of that, I was carrying twins, which meant I became super pregnant super fast. My belly was itching constantly from the skin stretching (I checked with my doctor to make sure I didn't have Cholestasis) and there was no scratching in the world that could ease my discomfort. My doula recommended the HATCH Mama belly oil and changed my life. The oil is nourishing—but more important to me, quick-drying—so I could apply it all over my planet-sized twin belly and get dressed immediately after without having my clothes ruined nor stuck to my body. Because of how much I loved the oil, I tested other products, and let me tell you, they're all equally amazing.

Curious about the HATCH Mama collection? All of their products are non-toxic and mama-safe, designed to help pregnant people overcome the challenges unique to pregnancy. As their website claims, "from stretch marks to thinning hair, to sleepless nights, we're helping you tackle every prenatal and postnatal beauty issue head-on so you can continue to feel like the best version of you." I'm here for all of this. For the entire Hatch Beauty collection click here.


Here are my favorite products from HATCH Mama:


Belly oil

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Oil

Intensely hydrating + fantastic at reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, this will be your favorite through pregnancy + beyond.

$58

Belly mask

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Mask Set

Not only does it help to minimize the appearance of stretch masks + scars during pregnancy + postpartum, but there is a little non-toxic wink (and that's to you, mama.)

$42

Nipple + lip ointment 

HATCH COLLECTION  Nipple + Lip

Calming + soothing, this magic sauce is lanolin-free & made of tropical butters and super fruits. I'm not lying when I say you will not want to stop using this, even way after birth.

$28

Belly tattoos

HATCH COLLECTION  Belly Tattoos

A very rock and roll way to honor your bump. And non-toxic + plant-based at that!

$18

This article was originally published in March 2021. It has been updated.

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Motherly created the flexible online birth class moms need

The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.

Taking a birth class is a pregnancy milestone. Whether you've been excited to take a birth class for a long time or have just recently decided that you wanted to take one, sitting down for that first lesson feels big—spoiler alert, this is really happening! But finding time for a birth class isn't as easy as it would seem.

We know new parents are busy (hello, understatement of the year). Between diaper changes, pediatrician appointments, healing from birth and the general adjustment to #newparentlife, the days can fill up quickly. But a lot of people are caught off guard by how busy pregnancy can be, too! That first trimester is so often full of symptoms—like nausea and fatigue—that can make previously easy or simple tasks exhausting. The second trimester begins and (usually) we start to feel better. But then our days get filled with planning out baby registries and deciding on questions like, "Where will this tiny new human sleep?" And before you know it, it's the third trimester—and, well, then you're in the home stretch. Plus there are so many appointments!

All this to say that we get how busy you are—and how hard that might make it to fit in a birth class.

And that's why we created The Motherly Birth Class. The Motherly Birth Class is completely online, which means you can take the class at your own pace.


Think you'll want to watch each lesson a few times over? Great!

Due date's next week and you need the option to take a birth class very quickly? No problem!

Like everything at Motherly, we designed this class with you in mind.

Taught by Certified Nurse-Midwife Diana Spalding (who also wrote "The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama"), this class is broken into 12 lessons—and you get to control how and when you watch them. We'll teach you about what your (amazing) body is up to in labor, how to decide when it's time to head to the hospital or birth center (or when to call your home birth midwife), what your options are for coping with pain and so much more.

When you sign up for The Motherly Birth Class, you'll get access to a downloadable workbook and meditations. Plus, you'll be invited to join our supportive private online community (where you can chat with the class instructor!)

Oh, one more thing: Your insurance or flexible spending account might even able to able to cover the cost of this class.

Pregnancy is wonderful—but it's a lot. You deserve a birth class that works for you and empowers you to have your best birth. Because vaginal or Cesarean, unmedicated or medication, birth is incredible. And you are the star of it all.

You've got this.

Sign up for The Motherly Birth Class today!

The Motherly Birth Class

pregnant-woman-looking-at-her-belly

Take our completely digital birth class from the comfort of your living room. We'll help you have your best birth—because you deserve it.

$79

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Keeping kids entertained is a battle for all seasons. When it's warm and sunny, the options seem endless. Get them outside and get them moving. When it's cold or rainy, it gets a little tricker.

So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of the best toys for toddlers and kids that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, many are Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these indoor outdoor toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.


Secret Agent play set

Plan-Toys-Secret-agent-play-set

This set has everything your little secret agent needs to solve whatever case they might encounter: an ID badge, finger scanner, walkie-talkie handset, L-shaped scale and coloring comic (a printable file is also available for online download) along with a handy belt to carry it all along. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Stepping Stones

Stepping-stones

Kiddos can jump, stretch, climb and balance with these non-slip stepping stones. The 20-piece set can be arranged in countless configurations to create obstacle courses, games or whatever they can dream up.

$99.99

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Sensory play set

kidoozie-sand-and-splash-activity-table

Filled with sand or water, this compact-sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$19.95

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Foam pogo stick

Flybar-my-first-foam-pogo-stick

Designed for ages 3 and up, My First Flybar offers kiddos who are too young for a pogo stick a frustration-free way to get their jump on. The wide foam base and stretchy bungee cord "stick" is sturdy enough to withstand indoor and outdoor use and makes a super fun addition to driveway obstacle courses and backyard races. Full disclosure—it squeaks when they bounce, but don't let that be a deterrent. One clever reviewer noted that with a pair of needle-nose pliers, you can surgically remove that sucker without damaging the base.

$16.99

Dumptruck 

green-toys-dump-truck

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyard or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? It's made from recycled plastic milk cartons.

$22

Hopper ball

Hopper ball

Burn off all that extra energy hippity hopping across the lawn or the living room! This hopper ball is one of the top rated versions on Amazon as it's thicker and more durable than most. It also comes with a hand pump to make inflation quick and easy.

$14.99

Pull-along ducks

janod-pull-along-wooden-ducks

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$16.99

Rocking chair seesaw

Slidewhizzer-rocking-chair-seesaw

This built-to-last rocking seesaw is a fun way to get the wiggles out in the grass or in the playroom. The sturdy design can support up to 77 pounds, so even older kiddos can get in on the action.

$79.99

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$79.99

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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New line of Barbie dolls includes a COVID vaccine developer

Six female scientists and global frontline workers are honored in Mattel's latest Barbie line.

Mattel

Barbie celebrates role models in a variety of different careers—over 200 to be exact—and their newest line is no exception. The continuation of the "Play it Forward" platform (that Mattel, Inc. uses to give back to communities in times of need) will now honor six real-life female scientists who have been integral during the pandemic, including a COVID vaccine developer.

It was announced today that Barbie will donate $5 for each eligible Barbie doctor, nurse and paramedic doll sold at Target to the First Responders Children's Foundation (FRCF), a charity that benefits the children of first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened," said Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel in a statement. "To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie's platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back. Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes."

One of the one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls is created in the likeness of British vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert, who helped lead the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. How cool is that? And what an inspirational toy for kids!

Gilbert told The Guardian she hopes the dolls inspire other young women around the world to work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers (STEM).

"I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us," she said. "My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist."

The other five women recognized by Barbie and Mattel, Inc. are also role models amid the ongoing pandemic: Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a U.S. healthcare worker and advocate for anti-Asian racism, ER nurse Amy O'Sullivan, Canadian doctor and anti-racism advocate Chicka Stacy Oriuwa, Brazilian biomedical researcher Dr. Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, and Australian doctor Kirby White, who helped develop protective gowns for healthcare professionals.

Mattel's #ThankYouHeroes program was created in 2020 to honor those who have led the fight against COVID-19, as well as the everyday heroes who keep our communities up and running.

Cheers to the new line of Barbie dolls, and may all the Barbie-lovers in our families find inspiration from these real-life heroes!

News + Trending

Car seat safety isn't a gray area: Why one mom's story is going viral

She texted her husband to remind him to tighten the straps. Minutes later, he was in a car crash.

This story was originally published on August 01, 2018

For most parenting tasks, there's more than one way to get things done. This is important to remember if you're parenting with a partner who has a totally different laundry system than you do or packs the diaper bag in a way that makes no sense to you. It's not the end of the world if the onesies are hung instead of folded or if the bottles are in the wrong pocket. We have to give our partners room to do things their way, too.

But when it comes to buckling our kids in their car seats, there really is only one way—the safe way—and one mama is thankful that she reminded her partner of that just in time.


Rebecca Tafaro Boyer is a new mom and nurse at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. On her first day back at work after maternity leave she asked her husband to send her hourly updates on how her 3-month-old son, William, was doing on his first day without her.

When her husband texted her a photo of William in his car seat, Tafaro Boyer knew she had to let her husband know that there's really only one way to buckle a baby in. "My nagging wife reply was to correct William's position in the car seat—the straps were too loose and the chest clip was way too low. And because I know my husband, I'm sure that he laughed at me and rolled his eyes before tightening the car seat and fixing the chest clip," she wrote in a now viral Facebook post about the experience.

Just 15 minutes after her husband fixed the straps, he and little William were in a collision.

According to Tafaro Boyer, an unlicensed, uninsured driver pulled into oncoming traffic attempting to make an illegal left turn, and although her husband slammed on the brakes at nearly 50 miles an hour, he just didn't have enough time to stop and hit the other car.

"My precious little bundle of joy was so well restrained in his car seat, THAT HE DIDN'T EVEN WAKE UP. Even with the impact of the two cars, William only received a minor jolt - so insignificant that he was able to continue on with his nap," Tafaro Boyer wrote.

Her husband was injured, but baby William was snug in his Britax B Safe 35 car seat. Had the straps been left as they were, it could have been a different story.

"I am so thankful that my husband took the extra one minute that was necessary to put William in his car seat safely," she Tafaro Boyer explained. "I truly believe that the reason my family is at home sitting on the couch with a pair of crutches instead of down at the hospital is because of my annoying nagging mom voice."

Fellow moms are all up in the comments of Tafaro Boyer's post tagging thier partners and leaving notes like, "This is why I nag."

It's not nagging if it's a safety issue.

Sometimes our partners (or our child's grandparents or babysitters) just don't know that something isn't safe. We've got to tell them when they're doing something we know could hurt our child. That's a text worth sending. The ones about the way your significant other folds the laundry wrong, those are the texts you might want to keep to yourself.

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    Car Seat Safety