Home education: Six quick and easy key stage 1 activities

Written by: Jack Dabell | Published:
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Many of the resources and support being offered for home education focus on key stage 2 and above. Here, Jack Dabell offers six quick activities for younger children in key stage 1

Planning activities for children now they are learning at home is a whole new ball game with many unexpected challenges. There is a lot to consider: How will your activity translate at home? Will the adults at home need more explanation? How much time will they have to explain the work? How do you differentiate effectively? What resources do they have on hand?

If you need some ideas which can work well at home, here are six activities for children in key stage 1 that are simple to explain, resource and differentiate. They are also fun to complete and offer a valuable learning opportunity.


I have used code-breaker activities with many different year groups, but it works especially well for year 2. Children seem to enjoy the challenge and the excitement of working out a secret message and it only requires paper and a pencil.

Create a secret message for the children to decipher applying a simple code (for example, A = 1, B = 2 and so on). As an extension activity, children can devise their own code and write a sentence for their parents/carers to try and deduce; they can also send it to their teacher.

To make the activity more challenging, a more complex code can be created. Alternatively, ask children to design their own code with pictures instead of numbers – this is a great link to Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Creative writing or story-boarding

Encouraging children’s creative writing can be challenging. Some thrive with a simple instruction like “write me a story”, but others need more structure. To provide this extra structure for key stage 1 children who are home learning, reach for an old favourite – the story-board. For this, parents/carers need to give their child a piece of A4 paper (or larger) divided into six to eight sections.

First, to help them understand what is required, children should be asked to story-board an existing story, possibly one they have listened to in class or a well-known fairy tale. They need to draw a picture of the main events of the story with one in each box. They could also include a sentence explaining what is happening in each part of the story, either scribed by an adult or written by the child.

Once a story-board of a familiar book has been made, parents/carers could ask their child to think up their own story idea. The child can then create a story-board for their own story.

Alternatively, you could provide a theme, such as “trolls”, from which they could create their own story for a story-board.

You can encourage pupils to take this further and turn their story-board into a written story. Using blank paper and a stapler, they can design front and back covers and turn it into a little book that they can share with other family members. They could also send their teacher a video of them reading it.

Quiz mastery

Key stage 1 children love asking questions and are all natural-born quiz masters. An activity to create their own quiz of questions (to which they also know the answers) is likely to engage and is also beneficial for improving comprehension.

The topic for the quiz can be based on anything, for instance a child’s favourite television show or a familiar story would be good options. Whatever it is, constructing the questions encourages the child to analyse certain things about the topic, which they may not do when just reading or watching. Once they have created the quiz they can ask family members at home, or even try their quiz out on a video call to a grandparent, aunt or cousin. The quiz also helps to develop a child’s communication and language skills.


Money is an excellent resource for home learning. Using it in a meaningful context not only teaches children the fundamentals of something they will be dealing with in real life, but it also helps to develop their maths skills.

In this activity children select about 10 to 15 household objects and label them with a price (sticky notes can useful here). These form the “shop” and the child can pretend to be the shopkeeper or the customer.

If the child is acting as the shopkeeper, the parent/carer will place an order for a number of things. The child needs to add together the prices and tell them the total cost.

They can then swap roles and the child can role-play being the customer asking the price of an item and counting out the correct money. Real money can be used (empty out the piggy bank), or pretend money can be created out of buttons, beads or similar.

Word games

There are hundreds of word games out there but for a quick one that is really easy for parents/carers, choose 10 random letters and write them in a line at the top of the page (this can be adjusted for different abilities, reducing or increasing the number of letters).

The parent/carer then asks the child to create as many different words using only these letters (we have all seen Countdown). Add extra interest by introducing a point system: three letter words = three points, for instance (as in the game Boggle).

As an extension to this, children can be asked to write a poem, story, song, limerick, or anything else you can think of, using all the words they have found.

This activity is great for creativity, spelling, letter formation, and what they create at the end is usually impressive and hilarious in equal measure. In the past I have found that insisting certain words are included ensures you get some interesting and engaging results!

Character description

Children are very observant and creative. This activity will help nurture those two traits, as well as build vocabulary and inference skills. The only materials needed are paper, a pencil and some colourful pens.

Parents/carers ask their child to choose an existing character that the child likes, or to come up with their own imaginary one. They then ask the child to draw a picture of the character and leave space around it. The child then fills the space with descriptive words about their character.

They may start by describing the character physically, which is great in itself. In addition to this, parents/carers can try and extend their thinking and ask them to describe the personality. Look at the expression on the character’s face, how do you think are feeling? Look at how they are standing, what might this tell you?

You can take this even further and ask the child to create a poem with the words, or create a new picture based on just one of the words.

  • Jack Dabell is education advisor at Tapestry, an online learning journal. He is a former primary school teacher and also writes for the Foundation Stage Forum. Visit https://tapestry.info

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