How do I keep the kids entertained while I mow the lawn? Water painting. All you need is a bucket of water, paintbrushes, and a fence. It’s free and it’s fun and it doesn’t make a mess. Plus kids can practice all kinds of things:
- patterns- use the fence pickets
- math problems
- sight words or spelling words
- and my daughters’ favorite: splattering
It isn’t the same as practicing handwriting with a pencil and paper, but that’s the point. Sometimes kids need a break from the routine. Novelty makes learning fun. Who wouldn’t want to practice their spelling words outside with a paintbrush in the sunshine instead of at the kitchen table?
We want the girls to sit at the table until everyone is finished eating (or at least wait for each other). So after talking about the activities of the day, we get a little creative to keep them in their seats. And so “dinner math” was born. There are plenty of things around the table to show math “in the real world” plus they are a captive audience. 🙂 I realize it’s probably not the best table manners to turn dinner time into a math game, so feel free to ignore this if it doesn’t fit with your family.
- Count the pieces of food on her tray.
- Count the number of bites while you spoon-feed her.
- Talk about the shapes of the food.
- Use words to compare amounts such as “There are more banana slices than crackers on your plate.”
- Identify 2D and 3D shapes of the food, plates, cups, and even the table itself. “Can you find a circle? How about a cylinder?”
- Count items on the table. “How many plates are on the table? How many forks?”
- Use items on the table for simple addition problems. If they are stumped, help them count the items. “I see two forks and two spoons. How many pieces of silverware in all?”
- Compare numbers. “Do you have more apple slices or carrots on your plate?”
- Use table items or food for addition and subtraction problems. “How many forks + spoons + bowls are on the table?”
- Ask problems where you can’t count items on the table to find the answer. “I bought fifteen potatoes and cooked six of them for dinner. How many are still in the bag?”
- Skip count using table items. “Each person has a cup and a plate. Count by twos to find how many there are in all.”
- Estimate and count to find out how many. “How many green beans do you think are on your plate?”
- Eat in a pattern. Take a bite of one thing, then two bites of another food, and see if they can continue the pattern!
- Talk about fractions. “Please eat at least half of your dinner. ” 🙂
- Ask random addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts. But don’t stop there!*
*Some kids love getting quizzed on math facts. So, if your kids enjoy it- go ahead! Drill and practice of facts WILL make math easier for them. But don’t forget to talk about the “why” behind the answer. Talking about the process of solving a problem helps kids develop logical thinking and better number sense. They will use those skills as the math gets more complex. So after you ask “What’s 6 +7?” ask “How did you figure that out?” or How do you know that is the correct answer?” Usually kids will say, “I just knew it.” Talk through some ideas like “Well, 6+6=12 and 7 is one more than 6. So the answer to 6+7 is one more than 12.” Or maybe you know the fact 7+7=14 so 6+7 is one less. Or maybe you break apart the 7 into 3+4 and you know 6+4=10, then it is easy to add on 3 more to make 13. Explaining mathematical thinking will benefit kids even more than memorization. Besides, what else are you going to do while you wait for them to eat their peas?
What can you do with leftover birthday balloons? How about make a number line? This is an easy game that gets kids moving and works on math skills, too.
- Write numbers 1-10 on ten balloons with a sharpie. (I also wrote some letters to see if my three-year-old knew the difference between numbers and letters.)
- Scatter the balloons around your backyard or around your house.
- Ready, set, RUN and get a balloon!
- Bring it back to a central location to make a number line. Ask questions to help little kids figure out where to place their balloon. Should 10 be on the left or right? Is 3 before or after 4? Should 8 be closer to 1 or 10?
Variations for older kids:
- Write numbers 1-20
- Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, or 10’s
- Write random numbers 1-100
Common Core Standard
(kindergarten- Know number names and count sequence)
I loved playing Memory (or Concentration) when I was growing up. If you are unfamiliar with the game, all of the cards are face down on a table and you take turns turning over a two at a time to get a match. It’s a great game for improving (you guessed it) memory. We have a few different versions, but I thought it would be fun to make our number game to work on math skills.
- Use notecards or cut cardstock to make twenty cards.
- Have your child write the numbers 1-10 on ten cards.
- Have your child put stickers on the other ten cards. One sticker on the first card, two on the next, and so on.
- Play Memory by matching up numerals with the correct number of stickers.
Common Core Standards
(kindergarten- Write numbers from 0-20)
(kindergarten- Understand the relationship between numbers and quantities; connect counting to cardinality)
(kindergarten- Understand that the last number name said tells the number of objects counted. The number of objects is the same regardless of their arrangement or the order in which they were counted)
One of our favorite car games is “I Spy.” The traditional game uses colors (at least the one I always played)…
- Player 1 chooses a color of an object in sight of all players and says “I spy with my little eye something (insert color of object here).”
- Other players take turns guessing objects that are the given color.
- Some people allow players to ask yes/no questions such as “Is it inside the car? Is it smaller than my hand? Is on the left side of the car?”
- A player wins when she guesses the object correctly. Then it is her turn to say “I spy….”
I Spy is a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. As a bonus, kids are also learning! What concepts could you work on using the game I Spy?
- colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
- shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
- numbers– “I spy with my little eye three of something.” This would work best if you are in a room where the kids could walk around and easily count objects.
- letters- “I spy with my little eye the letter B.” You could spy letters on billboards while you are driving, or letters on a page while you are reading.”
- words- “I spy with my little eye the word go.” Again, this could work on billboards on the road or in books in a waiting room.
- spelling- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter C.” You could just give the first letter, spell out a whole word, or maybe even letter patterns inside the word like “ee.”
- phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.” Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
- rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
- adjectives- “I spy with my little eye something smooth.” This is another game that would be best played in a room where kids could feel the different textures.
- measurement– “I spy with my little eye something about one inch tall.” Be sure to review unit measurements before you play. If you play this at your house, they could walk around and measure things with a ruler.
I am a little messophobic. That’s a word, right? I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up. The clean up. Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it. Sigh. Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day. I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it. And of course, so did my girls. Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick. Maybe messophobia is genetic?
Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words. Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters. Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing. She might need a little more practice on her numbers….
And the clean up was not as bad as I expected. Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up. I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink. Then a wet towel did the rest. Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.
Here’s a round-up of 67 art and learning ideas for shaving cream from The Artful Parent.