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15 things kids can do instead of homework

If you are a parent (or a teacher who wants to give a recommendation to an interested parent), and you believe the arguments against homework (see my previous post: 25 Myths of Homework) then you might be asking yourself now, okay so my kid isn't doing homework: what else should they do instead? These are some suggestions although I highly recommend doing these activities with your child and giving them as much choice in the activity as you can. I also recommend that you approach these suggestions from a perspective of balance rather than a list of "things I must do with my child every night." Claw back the time you spend on homework so you can spend more time with your children or so that children can have more time to self-direct themselves. Obviously there are lots of other things you can do...

  1. Relax:

    Let them relax for at least 30 minutes at home. You want to do the same thing when you get home from work, whether you get the chance to do it or not, so do they. This chance just to relax will probably not look the same for all students.
  2. Play outside:

    Here's an example of my son learning how to ride a bicycle. Tell me this isn't more valuable than any homework assignment he could be given.

    The research is showing that our children are more obese, at least in North America, and this is at least partially due to the sedentary lifestyle we've begun to adopt. The added benefit of playing these games outside with your children is that you will get more exercise too!
  3. Cook together:

    Kids need to learn how to cook somehow. I'm so glad my mom taught me how to cook. I will admit that I forgot this skill when I hit adolescence because it was no longer cool, but when I became a bachelor and now that I am married, this is a very valuable skill.

    Thanasi and a friend cooking
  4. Learn about animals:

    Whether this means a local farm, a full sized zoo, or even just a walk in the right section of the woods, it is important that our kids learn about animals from first hand experience.

    Feeding a giraffe
  5. Be silly:

    Kids need play time. Nuff said.

    I am a robot
  6. Go to the beach:

    While I'll admit this isn't a daily or even weekly activity for us, it is an awesome opportunity for our son to see a completely different part of the world than his everyday experience.

    Go to the beach
  7. Make a fort:

    This could be something as simple as some pillows from the couch propped together, or when your kids are a bit older they can work with you and build something more permanent. If you build something outside, it's also a great opportunity for your kid's friends to come over and help out!

    Build a fort
  8. Learn how to make music:

    Music is enriching part of our lives and is unfortunately being cut from many schools as budgets are being slashed during the economic recession. Fortunately you can always learn how to play an instrument, and I would recommend learning an instrument at the same time as your kid.

    Playing the piano
  9. Go play at the neighbours:

    I'm lucky enough to live in a cooperative housing complex in Vancouver which according to my wife is set up much differently than a co-op in the USA. I don't know about co-ops elsewhere in the world, but one of the huge benefits of our "community mandated time" is that we know our neighbours in the building. We have five potential babysitters in our building alone and lots of kids with whom our son can play.

    Playing at the neighbours
  10. Play with Grandma or Grandpa:

    Our own parents are an excellent source of fun and enjoyment for our kids. They can share some of their ideas, and explain how the world used to be, or they can just have fun.

    Greatgrandma and Thanasi

    Thanasis and Grandpa
  11. Read a book together:

    According to relatively recent research, less than 50% of all parents read to their children regularly before the age of 5. This hopefully has nothing to do with the amount of homework they are receiving, but does set them up for future success in literacy. It is also a fun thing to do! We find it is a great way to calm our son down for a bit and get him to sit still because he loves stories.

    Reading with my son
  12. Go for a walk together:

    Just going for a walk in the woods or around the block can be amazing.

    Walk in the woods
  13. Work in a garden:

    You may not have a backyard or a garden yourself, but most cities and towns do have community gardens. There are also opportunities to volunteer in a garden in most cities.

    Working in the garden

  14. Do an arts project:

    This one I think is obvious and the benefits of creating artwork are awesome. At the very least it can be a really welcome gift for your relatives.

    Arts project
  15. Do an experiment together:

    Science is fun! You can find lots of websites which will give you simple experiments you can do at home. Here's part of a video I taped of my son and I learning about reasons why things float or sink. 

About David

David is a Formative Assessment Specialist for Mathematics at New Visions for Public Schools in NYC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, Bangkok, and Vancouver before moving back to the United States. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.


Play dress up using various hats to be various characters, or other clothing. Hats are good to make a statement.
Write a book.
Make a giant scribble on drawing paper and color in the spaces with different colors.
Look at everything around the house and yard with an octoscope.
Dance to ABBA.
Make up funny songs.
Do something nice for people from making them something or giving them something - instill the sense of charity early - older kids can work with you at the food bank.
Write a letter to someone and mail it in a mailbox. Or make fridge art if you are not writing yet. (Hint, hint!)
Go to the library.

Sometimes we write together as a family. Each person grabs a notebook and pencil, and we scatter throughout the house, working each on our own, but knowing that our home is full of everyone writing. One person may write a poem, another may work on a long story, another an article. After 30-40 minutes pass, we come back together in the living room, and anyone who would like to share reads aloud. It is beautiful to see the encouragement and excitement about the different projects, and such independent work also builds a sense that writing can help us understand our lives and give us joy! Through these writing times, my husband and I have come to know things about our children we might not have learned otherwise, and they expand their writing interests and possibilities beyond the assignments given to them in school.

What you suggest is applicable to all students. I can only imagine the benefits to our society if we did half of your suggestions with teenaged students!

Great ideas. My daughter loves to help me cook. I also use it as a hands-on way to practice fractions -- I try to use as few spoons or cups as possible and add them up to the required measurements.

I just love this post! I enjoyed the pictures. As a mother of 5 boys, I realized that spending time with my kids is not just playing with them but also teaching them while having fun. Kids like to learn new things.

Hi there! When I saw your site I was really cute looking all the good time you shared with your boy. Well I have also a kid and she is a girl. We make sure that we do always have a quality time for her. We usually do role playing co'z she loves acting.And she is really an artist co'z she will cry if I am going to pretend

On the whole hobbies are badly neglected in our schools. This does give an opportunity in the homes which are substantially covered in the previous comments. I would emphasise wood-work, photography, musical instruments (with the consent of the neighbours), gardening, looking after animals, sewing and dress making for girls (possibly tailoring or even knitting for boys). Some of these activities may require experienced teachers which our educational institutions are failing to provide, or even encourage.

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