Every parent wants the best for their kid. It’s what drives us not only to stay on top of the curriculum they follow during the school day but to enroll them in after-school enrichment programs, summer camps, and experiential learning programs.

It’s also what drives many of us to develop at-home learning programs for our kids, even if we entrust the majority of their educational time to professional teachers.

At-home learning is especially important for younger kids, who learn in different ways and develop at different rates. But many parents are uncertain about designing their own curriculum, or even borrowing from preexisting pedagogies. If you’re among them, use these “cheat codes” — easy in-home learning activities for younger kids that don’t require lots of advance planning or expertise.

1. App-Based Learning with ABCmouse

There’s an app for that. At-home learning, that is.

This comes as no surprise, most likely. But it’s important to choose the right app for the job. And when it comes to enrichment for younger kids, “popular” doesn’t necessarily mean “best.”

You want an app that uses proven, age-appropriate teaching methods that reinforce key concepts across subjects, in ways that jibe with a variety of learning styles. One standout is Age of Learning’s ABCmouse, which is backed by a team of academic and tech luminaries including Sky Dayton and Cynthia Tyson. It’s especially great for younger kids — 5 to 12, give or take — but doesn’t feel too “young” for early high schoolers either.

2. Cooking a New Recipe (And Learning Where It Came From)

If you’re looking to do some hands-on learning without leaving the house, what’s better than a little home cooking? Grab a kid-friendly cookbook and choose a globally-inflected recipe that you haven’t tried before. 

Before you break out the cutting board, spend a few minutes learning about the recipe’s origins, the culture that created it, and any unfamiliar ingredients. Optional: Pair your cooking session with a culinary-themed fiction read, like Summer of a Thousand Piesby Margaret Dilloway.

3. Kid-Led Reading Activities

This is a great idea for kids just getting comfortable with the written word. Instead of the same-old parent-led story time, flip the script and let your kid read their favorite book (or two) to you

This activity yields better results when repeated. If you can, set aside time every evening, or at least a few times per week, to reinforce those early-reading wins.

4. Arts & Crafts With Found Materials

Depleted toilet paper rolls, empty yogurt tubs, old Amazon boxes. You probably throw out or recycle these sorts of items, but you shouldn’t. At least, not all the time. They offer a wealth of possibilities — and learning opportunities — for crafty kids. And adults, come to think of it.  

5. Building a Window Garden

You don’t need a big yard — or any outdoor space at all — to discover the joys of home gardening. You just need a sunny-ish windowsill, some soil and seeds, and a few flower pots. 

If your kid is younger, guide them through the process of planning, planting, and nurturing your home window garden, at least the first time around. If they’re older, let them take the lead. 

Broaden Your Horizons Without Leaving the House

These are the sorts of learning activities that any parent and child can do. They cost little if anything. They take just minutes to complete, though they can be extended if everyone’s having a good time. They don’t even require you to set foot outside the house.

Why not give one a try this weekend and see what happens? Then maybe another the following weekend. Spread the word to fellow parents while you’re at it; you can bet they’ll appreciate the ideas.