I use what I have to teach my son and for this game I used tea bags. I love tea and these bags were so colorful that they were the perfect available manipulative. Have you ever seen how expensive math manipulatives are? You can use legos for this, fun colorful cut outs or even marbles ( provided your child is past the “I’ll pop that in my mouth” stage).
- Gather your materials. We are using 5 different colors of tea bag packages, berry cartons ( 5) a bowl to hold all of the tea bags to start with and I made number cards 2-6 for the berry cartons.
- Start by talking about how some of the tea bags match and how you have to group the matching ones together.
- Count the matching tea bags.
- Find the correct carton with the number . And pop them in !
- Keep going! If your child is frustrated by too many steps, scale it back. Simply group the colors. Ditch the numbers and matching them up, if they are still game after that count the piles. The next time you play see if they are ready to take it to the next level and match the counted number with the written number in the carton. If not don’t push. Make this fun, they will get there when they are ready. In the mean time even if all they do is match up colors they are still practicing math skills, matching and color recognition so do not stress.
- For really reluctant mathematicians try using something they love like matchbox cars, Polly pockets, legos… be creative and you will be shocked at how receptive they may be.
Need more math activities? What about math books?
Learning the alphabet can be a real hurdle for some children, and we need to find activities that are more than simply pointing out the letters, repeating them and hoping they stick. All these activities are fun, dynamic and teach letter recognition through play and fun!
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I often go to the dollar store for inspiration, and I found these fun paper cuts and spinners on my last trip and decided to put together a math game with a rocket theme. My son likes numbers and rockets so I thought easy peasy, sure fire hit. No. Not with me but for some reason when daddy got home they played after dinner until I had to break it up for bedtime. Goes to show you that if something doesn’t go smoothly at first tweak it ( like maybe let daddy do it) and try again.
- Gather your materials. I bought these rocket cut outs but you could make them ( a helpful time saver would be to find a rocket cookie cutter and trace it), I also got the spinner at the dollar store as well. You will also need a marker.
- Number at least 2 sets of the rockets from 1-8 .
- Place dots from 1-8 on the spinner sections.
- To play: give each player 8 rocket pieces in order.
- Take turns spinning the spinner. When it lands on a section count the dots and take that number out of your line up.
- First person to have no rockets left wins.
- Also to make it more fun, my son and husband would do a count down every time they removed a rocket. They started with whatever the number they had to remove . For example if the spinner landed on a 7 they would say 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 BLAST OFF then launch the rocket into a pile, and spin the next number.
Goodnight Moon 123 by Margaret Wise Brown uses the familiar illustrations from the classic book by Margaret Wise Brown and turns it into a counting book. The page with 100 stars really has 100 stars on it, count and see!
One, Two, Three by Tom Slaughter is super simple, bold, bright and a great counting book! These aren’t complex books, pictures matter because they should encourage the reader to want to count and connect the number they have counted with the number printed on the page. I would happily recommend this book to families with babies through preschoolers , my 3 year old loved it and partly because he read all the pictures and numbers himself!
Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is another gem from this author illustrator. In this book the mice outsmart a hungry snake and save themselves from his belly. In the meantime the reader counts along as the mouse are caught and put in a jar , then again when they escape. The simple illustrations are so effective and my son loved this book.
This is the first time I have played a dice game with my son. I decided to incorporate fun manipulatives to help reinforce proper one to one correspondence. He is still at the stage that most preschoolers stay at for some time where they will sometimes count and re-count objects in groups instead of counting each object only once. To help teach proper grouping, using manipulatives that they can physically move from one group to another as they count will naturally force them to stop. This gives them a chance to be successful with little parental/ teacher involvement and develops pride and confidence in their own abilities! Also frogs and snakes are fun!
- Gather your materials. I am using 2 over sized dice ( you can use just one die to keep it simpler), some card stock, scissors, double stick tape, markers, plastic frogs and snakes, and 3 containers.
- Start by cutting the card stock into a size that will cover your die- if you are using small dice you can simply use little stickers. It’s really not a must to have a 2nd die with the animals , I decided to use both to give the activity some variety. Using just one with just one sort of manipulative to count would be perfectly fine. If you are using two make 3 pictures for each .
- Tape onto your die.
- Play! Roll the dice – see which animal you have to count and how many you need to count out!
- Count the dots… 5!
- Count out the snakes!
A variation for younger ages would be to ONLY use the dice with pictures and simply have the child sort through the two different animals, then count with you the two separate piles.
Um um! Went the little green frog one day,
Um um , went the little green frog.
Um um went the little green frog one day,
and they all went um um ahhh!
But we all know frogs go ,
la di da di da,
la di da di da
la di da di da
We all know frogs go la di da di da,
They don’t go um um ah!!!
Frog Books !
Too Many Frogs by Sandy Asher is a funny tale about a introverted Rabbit and a friendly Froggie who is a little clueless that he is imposing on Rabbit’s politeness when he invites himself over to listen to stories every night. Rabbit eventually breaks down and has had enough when Froggie brings his whole family reunion with him one evening to hear the stories as well. You will like how this story ends , the goofy but warm characters and expressive illustrations.
Fribbity Ribbit! by Suzanne C. Johnson is a simple but deceptively detailed book about a frog that just can’t be caught! The frog jumps from the backyard where a little boy is this close to grabbing him through the house and along the way runs into every family member who joins in the attempts to grab him. I love the different situations each family member is in when the frog interrupts, I particularly like that the grandfather is cooking , if you look closely you can see his cook book is titled “Frog Legs” . There are more frog details on every page, see if you can find them.
Little Critter Where Is My Frog? by Mercer Mayer was a wonderful surprise sent to me by the publisher to review. I have been a fan of this series since I was a little girl and was excited to see a lift the flap book for the younger set. As any fan of the Littler Critter series knows there are hidden spiders, mice or frogs on the pages of the stories but it’s not the easiest for toddlers to find. This format is perfect, story is simple Little Critter goes fishing with his dad , takes his frog along and then the frog goes missing! While lifting the flaps, you find all sorts of animals small and large. Even though my son is able to enjoy much more sophisticated books at three-and-a-half he still finds joy in lifting the flaps, that are so wonderful for younger toddlers to stay interested in otherwise static books.
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This game was supposed to be done with beanbags, we were going to toss them into the shapes… but a classic 3 year old breakdown about not being able to do it perfectly lead to me adapting it. I didn’t give up right away, but when he calmed down tried again, did a fine job and STILL broke down into sobs I couldn’t decipher, I decided to change it. So instead I threw on some music , and went for it. If you have a child who likes to throw and isn’t in the perfectionist stage mine is very painfully in at the moment grab some beanbags and take turns tossing them in for a fun varriation.
- Gather your materials. You will need some blue painters tape, a marker and paper. If you want add in some bean bags and music .
- Start by making shapes on the floor with the tape. We did square, diamond, pentagon, rectangle and triangle. Involve your child in this step by asking them to predict what the shape will be , asking them to count how many pieces or sides each shape has and to trace it with their feet by walking on it and pressing down the tape.
- Here is where you can start tossing bean bags in – simply call out the shape and have your little pitcher throw it in.
- Or you can do what we did and turn on the music , and have them find different ways to move while the music is on, and when it stops call out a shape for them to jump into.
- To make a more challenging variation write out some numbers . My son is big into speed limits right now so we went for big numbers, I suggested smaller numbers ( 10-20) but he insisted so I took him up on the challenge. You could also use letters or sight words too, for beginners try colors! As you will see in the video he needed help for these big numbers, which isn’t a bad thing at all but if you are playing this with many kids you will want the game to keep moving to keep them all interested and the inertia going so use numbers they are more familiar with.
- Pop the numbers into the shapes and play again. My intention was to have one number in each but my son wanted to put a whole bunch in the pentagon. Today was not the day to put my foot down . I wanted to play more than I wanted to force my specific rules on him.
Have fun remember that our best laid plans are often thwarted by our best loved little ones. I am glad i didn’t give into my growing frustration at his inexplicable meltdown and instead adapted the game. We had fun playing before and after nap .
Shape Books !
So Many Circles, So Many Squares by Tana Hoban is a picture book that is all about shapes in our environment. There is page after page of pictures of daily life, food, signs etc… with the simple question of finding the shapes in the photos. It’s a great book to use as a launch pad into a shape hunt in your own home or around town and worth a few looks because you will be surprised at the shapes you missed the first time.
There’s a Square: A Book About Shapes by Mary Serfozo is a good shape book for preschoolers. Almost every illustration is made up of recognizable shapes and the text is made up of entertaining rhymes about the shapes on each page. My son thinks it’s funny that the shapes “Are sorta like people.” referring to the fact that the shapes are made into characters .
Dinosaur Shapesby Paul Stickland will delight you and your dinosaur fan. The book is geared towards toddlers and young preschoolers who are still mastering finding basic shapes. A shape is displayed on one side of the page and then those silly dinosaurs are playing with it on the other. My son loves dinosaurs so even though he’s known these shapes for ages it’s an enjoyable book with fun text and adorable illustrations by Henrietta Stickland.