My son loves math and spies so this secret code for kids activity is right up his alley. Math is one way he bonds with his dad .In our 45 Ways To Show Dad You Love Him #29 is ” Do math drills together” and they really do love doing it. I prefer more playful ways to teach math and I hope between mom and dad my son has a good foundation of support as he learns. This math activity is geared towards kindergarten through 2nd grade but you could adapt it to your child’s level easily. Check out the steps below for my suggestions how to adapt it.
- Gather your materials. All you need are 2 pieces of paper as fancy or as plain as you wish, a marker and pencil.
- Start by deciding what secret message you are going to write out. and places dashes on the paper. For older children make more complicated phrases and include punctuation. For younger children make sure that you are creating a secret message they will recognize like their name.
- Write out the key.
- Write the clues. For my son I used simple math equations but for younger children you could just use numbers that match up.
- Time to crack the code!
- He had a blast – there were a lot of equations and while some were simple, some were tough. I like to balance out challenges with easier ones that help create a sense of confidence. You may want to have some manipulatives on hand for your child to use . We grabbed some googly eyes for my son to use for some of the clues.
- Getting my son to practice handwriting is tough so sneaking it in with math is my secret weapon. After figuring out a few clues he discovered he had to write his letters more carefully so he could read the message once he had all the clues. This made him slow down which is a challenge at the best of times.
- He did it ! Being the just kid that he is he flipped it over and included his own message.
How do you sneak learning in with your kids during the summer? For more summer learning ideas check out our Pinterest Boards . I pin new ideas daily ( sometimes hourly… )
Detective Camp by Ron Roy is a perfect book to read with this activity. My son and I just finished it tonight. In this easy read chapter book three friends are off to summer camp but it’s not just any summer camp it’s Detective Camp! I really love this book because not only does it talk about summer camp , friendship and solving mysteries it also introduces kids to Grandma Moses and art forgery. There is even a hidden message that readers must piece together . My 6 year old loved it and even though he is not a reluctant reader the hidden message would be a great motivator for kids who are less excited to read.This post contains an affiliate link.
Math can go anywhere when you pack one of these counting books along with you. What a great way to work on numbers and reading at the same time. I chose these books because they aren’t just generic counting books, they are fantastic books that also have counting in them. Did I skip your favorite? Tell me about it in comments so we can keep building this list together! The book titles are liked to Amazon with affiliate links.
Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno almost didn’t make it into my library bag. I am so glad it did. This is a wonderful book full of possibilities. There is no text just simple aerial illustrations of a field as it evolves one number at a time. The field fills up quickly and it can be tricky to classify the pictures on each page to match it with the number displayed but once you do , each page is a lesson!
Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker is a simple counting book with minimal text. What it lacks in words it delivers in illustrations. The rich colors of the hens, the golden hay and the yellow chicks were all expertly executed. We read the board book version of this book and as we turned each page the illustrations wowed us. The text that is included is rhyming and pleasant but the illustrations steal the show.
Quack and Count by Keith Baker is even better than Big Fat Hen. This book is awesome for multi-age groups because although the text is simple there are two levels of math on each page. Simple duck counting as well as addition to arrive at the same number. I squealed when I read this to my son and daughter , immediately realizing how perfect a book this was for us! Your kids will love the illustrations too.
Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids. The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!
Doggies by Sandra Boynton has been one of my daughter’s favorite books for ages. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a simple counting book about dogs, their different barks and one pesky cat. Toddlers love barking along with it so it’s a great book for places where they don’t have to be shushed, it’s not a great one for quiet only places like a church service.
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!
Dinner at the Panda Palace by Stephanie Calmenson is a great book. I grabbed it only because of the title but found a gem. My son and I both loved it and had a blast reading it. The story is about a restaurant and the people , or rather animals that come into the restaurant in ever enlarging groups. The text is rhyming and well written. My son loved counting each group that came in figuring out after a few times that each group had one more animal than the previous group. It was a great opportunity to practice one to one correspondence as he counted on each page. There was also a great message about there always being room for one more when all the chairs were taken and a mouse came knocking wondering if he could eat too!
1, 2, 3 to the Zoo by Eric Carle is fun counting book perfect for toddlers. Actually as I type this my toddler is reading it. There are no words, just pictures and numbers and that makes it accessible for toddlers who are just learning both numbers and animals. Parents can read it slowly counting and naming the animals while making the animal sounds, or more quickly just counting!
by Emma Chichester Clark is a cute little book about a Grandma and granddaughter counting things in their every day. The counting is simple and easy to follow along with but what makes this book standout for me is how sweet the bond between the generations are. My son loves this book because he calls his paternal grandma Mimi . When we read it we make the Grandma in the book Mimi and the little monkey becomes my son. I like that we are counting while also celebrating a special bond in my son’s life.
Eggs and Legs: Counting by Twos by Michael Dahl is a cute book with silly illustrations and a fun concept to teach counting by twos. The book counts from 0-20 by 2s but each page has multiple depictions of each number including dots to count and the number in the text. This was super useful to show my son as we counted by 2s that we weren’t skipping the numbers, just grouping them to count faster. Fun and useful book.
On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt is my new favorite book. The book updates the classic children’s song “This Old Man” and inserts all different men in a jazz band, however at the end of the book it explains that each jazz man is actually a real person including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and more! I love the bios at the end of the book because I want to learn more about jazz too. OK back to the book, the book itself is a counting book,and my son who is 3 eats it up! He loves calling out the number and instrument as I read the rhyming text.
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright and the eye cut outs that give readers a sneak peak at what colors are coming next are fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes and of course counting.
One Little Chicken: A Counting Book by David Elliot was a great library find. You count chickens as they dance all different styles, my favorite being the chickens who dance the hula ! The rhyming text is really fun and the pictures will make you giggle, I mean there are chickens in leotards doing ballet! Totally tickled my funny bone. The best part though is that it gets the reader involved after counting to ten, the chickens turn the tables stare at the reader and implore them to dance! One of my new favorite counting books.
One White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian is a beautiful book. Visually it reminds me of an impressionist painting, the soft beach colors used by illustrator Kristina Swarner are calming and pretty. This is more than just a counting book, there is a story of a little girl at the beach,what she finds and how she plans to use them when she takes them home. It’s so beautifully done that it almost makes me forget how much I hate finding sand in my car after a trip to the beach.
My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman is a funny counting book that counts all the disgusting things the narrator’s sister ate from 1-10 . The rhyming text builds and repeats as she eats and eats! My son was thoroughly entertained.
Ten Little Rabbitsby Virginia Grossman is a really beautiful and cozy counting book. The reader follows Native American rabbits from one who is traveling on the plain to 10 all asleep in their tee pees . My son loved the illustrations by Sylvia Long and after reading it wanted to play hide and seek just like the rabbits in the book.
1, 2, Buckle My Shoe by Anna Grossnickle Hines is a wonderful first counting book, and a favorite of my daughter. The text is the simple rhyme and the pictures are photos of quilted numbers and buttons. The buttons correspond to the numbers and are so bright that they practically beg a child to touch and count them. My daughter who is 14 months loves to push the buttons, trace the numbers and laughs at the hen. Very sweet book.
Daddy Hugs by Karen Katz is a cute little counting book for toddlers. I gave it to my husband in 2007 for his first father’s day to read with my son and my son hated it. However in the years since it’s become a favorite and nothing beats a board book for when toddlers get to that destructo stage. Edited for 2013: My daughter has always loved this book!
1+1=5: and Other Unlikely Additions by David LaRochelle was sent to me by the publisher a few years ago. The book as you might guess by the title is not about adding the obvious but rather the less obvious numbers in an illustration. Do not read this book with your child until they understand addition and counting. When they have those skills down this book is genius! I say that because it forces them to look at all different numbers of things to figure out what the author is counting. Readers see the equation first and the objects they are counting are usually hidden so you will have to turn the page to figure it out. Flip the page and it’s more obvious , for example 1+1 = 100 and the picture includes a pumpkin and watermelon. Flip the page and you see they are cut open with many seeds in full view. It’s tricky but if you have a child interested in math or mysteries grab it and have a look.
Counting Wildflowers by Bruce McMillan is a simple book but it stands out for me because it is interactive with 20 circles to touch on every page that fill up as you count flowers on each page. The reader can count the blooms, and then count again with the circles , all the way up to 20. When you are trying to reinforce a skill like counting the use of repetition is really helpful. Simple but great.
Museum 123 by The Metropolitan Museum Of Art is another simple but beautiful counting book. What I love about this book is that the number is not shown on the same page as the objects the child is being asked to count. Instead a simple question of how many is followed by a painting with the objects, and the next page has a large number. My son loved counting then flipping the page exclaiming ” I knew it , I said that number I was right!” My only complaint is that it only went to 10!
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduced musical instruments in it’s rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it .
Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman is a really fun and educational book. The book is a new spin on the old song ” Ten in A Bed” but instead of squeezing onto a bed these cold weather animals pile on and off the sled one at a time. What is wonderful from an educational sense is not just the obvious counting element but as each animal exists the sled the verb used for how they exit begins with the same letter as the animal does. This was fantastic for my son who wanted to sound every animal and verb out. Add a fun rhyming sing song text and this is a great read.
One Hungry Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe is a fun counting book great for all ages of kids. My son will sit for the first 5-6 pages, even though the whole book is too long for him now at two and a half years old. The book is a counting book and kids who are learning their numbers love these sorts of books, it also has a small lesson about manners since the monsters have terrible manners.
Construction Countdown by K.C Olson is a counting book that uses backhoes, dump trucks and cement mixers among other things to count. Before I even closed the book my son was signing for more. I read it 4 times since getting it out of the library today. A huge hit here! <– That was written in 2008 and now over 2 years later my son still likes this book and has grown with it, now doing the counting all by himself.
One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root looks like an everyday book , but inside you will find a brilliantly repetitive storyline, that promotes teamwork, and mathematical skills! See a duck gets stuck in the muck and while others are eager to help the duck isn’t unstuck until they all work together. My class was nuts about this book a few years ago and my son has greatly enjoyed it since infancy. Don’t pass this book up.
Molly’s Monsters by Teddy Slater is a counting book in monster’s clothes. The book is about a little girl named Molly who is just trying to sleep when her room is flooded with monsters. They come in progressively larger groups and my son liked counting to make sure the text was correct. My favorite part was that the first monster to arrive and the last to leave , never does leave and instead snuggles into bed with Molly. I also like that to get these pesky visitors to leave she turns on the light and makes a scary face at them. Clever.
One, Two, Three by Tom Slaughter is super simple, bold, bright, and a great counting book! This isn’t a complex book but it is one that encourages counting with it’s brilliant illustrations. 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!
Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland is a great counting book for kids with bright and colorful dinosaurs. Both my kids liked this book so it appeals to toddlers and preschoolers alike. My favorite part is the surprise ending that always produces giggles!
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 mice are caught and put in a jar , then again when they escape. The simple illustrations are so effective and my son loved this book.
My kids love math. They get it from their father. I struggled with math from 4th grade on and I am determined that my kids won’t. Nothing we do can guarantee that our kids won’t struggle with learning but we can try our hardest to establish a strong foundation. Making math fun is a passion of mine . I want my kids to see it as a puzzle to solve , as a way to explain things and not as a hard thing they can’t do. These 11 math activities for kids are their favorite playful ways to work on math . They range in ability from toddler through the end of kindergarten but with minor adjustments could be used for almost any age.
Lock and Key Math
Lily Pad Math
Making Math Drills Fun
DIY Geo Board
Water Balloon Math Game
Hanging Out The Wash – Fine Motor Math
Counting Around The House
My son’s all time favorite activity we’ve ever done was our Angry Birds Water Balloon Game. Warm weather and a half day of school made yesterday the perfect day to get drenched in the front yard and do a little Learning After School. We did this with math but it would be as simple to make letters , shapes or sight words as targets. Here is what we did .
- Gather your materials. You will need some water balloons, a sharpie, some number targets , page protectors, bean bags, and hula hoops. You will also want a laundry type basket to carry the filled balloons.
- Start by making the targets. I chose the numbers 7, 9 ,10 ,and 15. All the equations will equal one of these numbers. I used picmonkey.com to make simple images. Printed them out one per page and slid them into page protectors.
- Fill your balloons . Carefully write equations that equal the numbers on the targets such as 3+4 or 15-5 . For younger children you could simply write numbers on the balloons and have them match them with the targets.
- Set up your targets. I added bean bags inside the page protectors to weight them down.
- Get ready.
- Go! Read the equations, find the answer on one of the targets and throw!
- They loved this. My son would read his sister’s equations and tell her where to throw it. I was seriously amazed at how accurate he was. I should have remembered that later when we filled up more to throw at each other. It was kids against Mom and the kids won.
- After the game – play more! We ended up using all the extra balloons and running through the sprinkler before retreating to the house.
Learning After School is our series of simple learning activities for families to do together after school. They are meant to be bite size and engaging . They aren’t meant to replace homework just add a little more learning without making your child feel like they doing any extra work.
by Allison McDonald Kids love to sort and sorting is a stepping stone to recognizing and making patterns. Using toys and playful activities to work on math skills is the only way I do it with preschoolers. My son loved doing more structured work so I offered it to him but my daughter is much more into using manipulatives and toys for learning . These block tower patterns let your kids explore patterns and even if they don’t complete the pattern they are still building a tower . Depending on your child and your goals for them you can choose to correct them or simply have fun building towers knowing that they might not be ready for this challenge yet .
- Gather your materials. All you will need are some blocks that stay together . Duplo or Little People Builders are my favorite for this age group but if you are doing this with older children regular Lego is awesome. I like blocks that inter-lock because the goal is to pattern and/or build and if your child is spending all their time rebuilding towers that fall apart they could get frustrated and in our house frustration often leads to the end of an activity.
- Make some simple pattern towers with the blocks. Set the blocks needed to complete the patterns to the side. Depending on your child’s ability you can put only the blocks needed here to work as prompts or have lots of options to make it more of a challenge.
- Invite your little tower builder over to check it out. All I told her was that I built some towers and needed help to figure out which blocks go next. If she was older I would have said something more like ” Do you notice anything about these towers? ” If they don’t notice the pattern I would say ” I see a pattern. Do you think we could keep the pattern going ?”
- She was on these towers like a house on fire. Once I saw that she was getting it I would question her if she put a block that wasn’t in the pattern on . Saying something like ” Let’s sing this pattern. Blue red white blue red … what ‘s next? ” of ” Do you see that color in the tower?” It’s a fine line of keeping it playful but giving your child a challenge they can do. I don’t always say the right things.
- After she completed each tower she built a huge one and knocked it over in celebration. Then we did it all again! That’s the best part of this you can do it over and over again. Each time we celebrated!
Keeping learning playful is a huge goal of mine and even though you see the more structured side of this on the blog these activities make up only a very tiny part of our day and some days not even that much. Noticing patterns during every day play is a great way to introduce them to your child. Observations don’t have to spin into drawn out lessons just observe, talk and keep playing. For more fun math ideas for your preschooler check out our Math is Fun board on Pinterest.