## Playdough Kabobs – Preschool Math & Fine Motor

“It’s just pretend!” is a very common phrase at our house. From my daughter telling us she is eight not three, my son yelling at imaginary troops in the backyard, and even when we set extra place settings for imaginary friends at meals, we do a lot of pretending. Often pretend play is a way for kids to practice being an adult, try on new roles, and do things that are not usually for them. This playdough activity that includes both math and fine motor skills came about because my daughter loves helping me cook dinner, especially when we are having kabobs. She is a master at skewering veggies and will often make patterns. So on a rainy day { get ready for lots of those…} we decided to grab the playdough and pretend we were making dinner and do a little learning along the way.

Gather your materials. You will need Play-Doh, skewers, a bowl, and a cookie sheet. I was setting up the materials shot when my daughter grabbed my phone and took her own. I don’t think it was too bad!
Start by rolling the playdough into balls. This is great for hand strength which is part handwriting development. Make a bowl full – we worked on ours together.
Next gently thread the playdough balls on. If they stab the playdough too far from the center they will fall off. If they aren’t on well just show your child to give them a squeeze.
This activity naturally welcomes counting. After she was done one skewer she laid it on the cookie sheet and counted all the playdough balls.
When she picked up the next skewer I asked if she thought she could make a pattern. So she did. She informed me that it was pink and “orange pink”.

Simple activities like these tap into so many different kinds of learning as well as creates a space to sit and work on something with your child.

## d

Everybody Cooks Rice  by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6 year old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well , my 3 year old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire and perfect for a letter F eek, since it’s all about food!  Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you hungry.

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum . It’s a board book targeted to babies it’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.

## Block Tower Patterns

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 .

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 ?”
4. 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.
5. 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.

## Paper Hearts – Crafts & Activities

I love my heart paper punch and my kids do too. It’s fun to make hearts for Valentine’s Day Crafts but you can also use them for math, write letters on them and play match.. the variations are endless. These three activities are just a few of the ways we have used punched out paper hearts lately.

### Shake Painted Valentine

I love painting in new ways and this was a great craft for my 19 month old who as you can see even helps me make a mess with a low mess activity like this. For another version of Valentine shake painting check out  Hands On As We Grow- older kids will dig how they did it for sure!

1. Gather your materials. You will need a plastic food container, some punched hearts( or cut out from construction paper), a piece of card stock, glue and paint of your choosing.
2. Punch out some hearts from construction paper.
3. Place them and paint in the food container. It’s easier to put the paint in first, they shake better that way. If you are nuts enough to hand your toddler the bottle of paint like I was be ready with a washcloth or my favorite- wipes.
4. Put the top on and shake.
5. Open and be amazed!
6. Fold the card stock and add glue .
7. Add hearts to glue and let dry. After seeing how cool the hearts looked someone else wanted in on the fun.

### Heart Patterns

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to only be about arts and crafts, we love math and made this super easy patterning activity.

1. Gather your materials. You will need your paper hearts, a cookie sheet ( check out the dollar store), some double stick tape , a paper cup and a sheet of construction paper.
2. Start by taping the paper down on the cookie sheet and adding double stick tape to the hearts.
3. Make some simple patterns. I like to start simple then slip a harder one or two in before getting easier again. I want my son to feel successful but challenged.
4. Place the extra in a cup . I make sure there aren’t too many extra hearts but that there is more than the few he needs to finish the pattern.
5. Complete the patterns.

After we were done with this my daughter ( who is all about hearts right now)painted over it for a valentine for my husband. I love when we reuse tray table activities like that.

### Heart Color Match

This is another easy tray activity. Using a silicone pan I placed a different color paper heart in each and had the corresponding colors in a pile waiting to be matched up. This was too hard for my daughter at 19 months and my son would be bored to tears with it. It’s smack in the middle between their abilities so no pics of their participation but I still wanted to include the idea for the older toddlers and younger preschoolers who would love it.

### Heart of Hearts Collage

I made this last year over at my other blog Craftitivity Corner on FamilyEducation.com pop over to see the tutorial.

## Super Easy 4th of July Wreath

I stand by that title, this really is the easy and cheap too, but still a super cute 4th of July craft . We used felt but you could use fabric if you have it on hand. My son was busy playing knights with his grandparents visiting from Texas but I think he could have made this with me. It’s a great patterning lesson, though I would guess most 5 and under would tire of it after a few minutes so make this a group endeavor if need be.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate, scissors, and three sheets of felt in red, white and blue.
2. Cut your felt into strips ours were about 8 inches long.
3. Cut the middle out of your paper plate.
4. Start tying – doing a simple double knot.
5. Continue the pattern all the way around.

## Puffy Heart Wreath

I love wreaths almost as much as I love garlands! This Valentine’s Day craft is fun ,  easy to make and easy on your wallet. The foam hearts are super light and I was able to tape the wreath to a door in our house using only blue painters tape . Also if you want you can turn it into a patterning lesson as well or just randomly glue the hearts on.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate, glue, foam heart picks ( got mine 9 for a dollar at the dollar store), red markers and scissors.
2. Start by coloring the paper plate with markers. We used red but use whatever color your child wants to.
3. Start by having your child pull the tops off the heart picks. I twisted them so they were easier to pop off. This step was really fun.
4. While they do that cut the middle out.
5. Add a lot of glue. If you don’t normally let your child do the glue because they use too much, let them with this one. You need a lot of glue so let them at it!
6. Add your hearts.  Randomly or in a pattern. I just let him do it however he wanted and he quickly settled on a pattern and sang it out as he added it. You can also sneak counting in here if you want.
7. Let dry.