Whether you are a parent or a teacher teaching summer school, then you may be looking for ways to keep your kids engaged in meaningful activities that are a little less academically demanding. Task boxes are a great solution. Below, I have 5 different task boxes you can set up that are:
- meaningful and engaging
- appropriate for older kids
- use supplies you likely have on hand
- can lead to employment skills
- easily differentiated
And, if you are looking for even more ideas for your older kiddos, then download the free list at the bottom of this post!!
1. Matching lids to containers
Having students find matching lids and putting them on containers not only works those fine motor skills, but also is great for visual discrimination. Start washing out various containers as they become empty in your home or classroom. You want lots of variety.
- Lids that snap on
- Tops that screw on
- Twist off tops
- Plastic containers
- Metal tins with lids
Once you start looking for items to put in this task box, you will realize that there are choices everywhere!! For this reason, I like to set up 2-3 different boxes with about 10 containers per box. You should definitely use less depending on the skill and tolerance level of your child. Have kids fit all the lids on in the morning, and then have them take the lids off in the evening, separating lids and containers into 2 different boxes. (Almost like 2 task boxes for the price of one!!)
To differentiate: Put stickers on matching lids and containers that have numbers written on them, or just write on the lid and container using a sharpie. For kids who have difficulty with number recognition, use colored dot stickers, or draw big colored circles with different sharpies.
2. Silverware sorting
This task box is fairly common. You will want to get an empty tray with at least 3 dividers for forks, spoons and knives. It is even better is you can get one with 5 dividers so students can sort big versus little forks and spoons.
Have all the silverware you want sorted in a large plastic bag. You can use either real silverware, or even use the plastic kind. Depending on the learning level of your student, you can start with one piece of silverware in each slot or have labels. I liked to hot glue down the starter piece to make it easier to store and travel.
To differentiate: If your kids struggle with this, try starting off with only 2 types of silverware, like forks and spoons. Once that is mastered, you can add in knives. I also found some of my students responded better to dot stickers also being on each piece of silverware, so I would occasionally add red dots to all the forks and yellow dots to all of the spoons. You never know what will finally click for some kids, so if this seems challenging, just keep trying different ways to add visual structure.
3. Cleaning picture frames
For this activity, you may need to run to the dollar store and pick up some plastic picture frames. I like the ones that go one the refrigerator because they lay flat. I had too many of the stand up variety break with vigorous cleaning. Prior to the activity, you will want to take some dry erase markers and draw all over the fronts of the frames. Place the frames, small bottle of Windex and paper towels in the box. Students will then use the Windex to clean off each frame. This spray action is great for fine motor strengthening. I also like using the markers so that is very clear when they picture frame is clean. If you simply have the student “clean the frame” it can be difficult for him/her to know when they are done. This is a GREAT employment skill to practice and translates to not only cleaning, but car washing as well.
To differentiate: You may need to model this with some students. If he/she really likes the iPad, consider making a short video showing how to complete the activity. This will not only be helpful, but also can be very reinforcing. For students who are either not able to spray the Windex, or it is a safety concern, then simply use baby wipes. Finally, if you find your student gets frustrated very easily, or does not really pay attention to when all the marker is gone, then try adding a timer. Therefore, the student would clean each frame for 30 seconds (or whatever length of time seems appropriate).
4. Sorting game pieces
Since we are targeting older students with these task boxes, then we want to choose games that are age appropriate. This task can be fairly easy if you use games that have very different pieces (like checkers and chess), or it can be more difficult if the pieces are similar (like Monopoly and PayDay).
I have only done this with 2 games, but I am sure some students could sort the pieces of 3 or even more games. Set up your task box with the game boxes and a baggie filled with the pieces from both games. If the pieces were obviously different, I liked to take a picture of the pieces and tape it to the front of the game box as a guide for the student to follow.
This in another great employment skill. I have worked with several students who later worked in retirement homes, preschools, and churches. There were often games in these locations that were not in very good order. No one wanted to take the time to put all the pieces back in the correct box. This was the perfect job for some of my kiddos. The students enjoyed the task, and the games were used much more often as a result of being “ready to go.” AND, if you are in a school, offer this service to your kindergarten teachers. They always have games that need sorted.
To differentiate: If students have trouble with visual discrimination, then definitely stick to games that have very different pieces. You could even use a puzzle vs a game. So all the puzzle pieces go in one box and game pieces in another box.
To differentiate this for high learners, have some pieces that are missing. Students can then circle (using dry erase marker) which pieces are missing from each game. This was also an incredibly helpful skill in some employment positions my students would have.
This task box is excellent for working on hand and finger strength. Gather up shipping or food boxes that are cardboard. Students will break down the boxes and place them in a recycling container. I always had a sample piece that students could check their pieces against. You want the task to last more than 60 seconds, so having them tear the pieces apart, not only lengthens the time of the task, but also allows for more to fit in your recycling bin. The tearing action is very reinforcing for many students. I had one student who wanted to rip apart EVERYTHING. With this task box, we were able to redirect him to the “recycling center” every time he had the need to tear up paper. It worked so well, and I imagine this will become a very employable task for him in the future.
To differentiate: If students are not making the pieces small enough, cut a slot in the top of your recycling container. I used a big purple bin, so the slot was still fairly generous, but would require the students to do some ripping. Start off slow. The goal is for students to empty the task box and recycle all of the containers at one sitting. So, you may need to start off with only one box, or one that is already partially broken down. It may be you start off with student simply taking torn pieces and placing them in the slot without having to do any actual tearing themselves.
I hope you found inspiration in these ideas for the summer. It is so important to keep out kids engaged and active in age appropriate ways while they are on break. It is also important for these kids to be able to do something meaningful and safe while their parents are busy. I have found task boxes to not only be helpful in my classroom, but also at home with my adult son who has significant challenges. They are easy to set up, and can teach some valuable skills for future job placement.
To download a list of 25 more ideas for task boxes for OLDER kids, click the button below.