Water Paint

water paint

 

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:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • counting
  • patterns- use the fence pickets
  • math problems
  • sight words or spelling words
  • shapes
  • 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?

Math at the Dinner Table

math at the 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.

Some ideas….

Babies

  • 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.”

Toddler/Preschooler

  • 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?”

Elementary

  • 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?

15 Ways to Learn with Playdough

Ah, playdough.  How many ways can we learn with you?  Let me count the ways.

  1. counting- Make and count objects.
  2. patterns- Make a pattern and see if your kiddo can continue it.playdough patterns
  3. addition and subtraction- Use playdough to illustrate story problems.  Make a nest with five eggs in it.  What happens when you add two more eggs?  How many do you have now?
  4. guess the animal- Make animals and take turns guessing what it is the other person made.guess the playdough animal
  5. pretend picnic/tea party- Make playdough food and good conversation during a pretend picnic.
  6. textures- Play around with different materials to make imprint textures.  Use lots of good adjectives to describe them.playdough textures
  7. write letters– Practice writing letters in playdough for a new handwriting experience.
  8. form letters- Make 3D letters to feel their shapes.playdough letters
  9. 2D shapes- Play “Name that shape!”  Count sides and corners of shapes.
  10. 3D shapes- Make and compare 2D and 3D shapes.2D and 3D playdough shapes
  11. colors- Let’s be honest.  Playdough mixing happens whether we want it to or not.  Make it a learning opportunity to make new colors.
  12. hide and seek-  Bury objects in have your child be the archaeologist or paleontologist.  Use toothpicks and paintbrushes to carefully uncover the buried toy.playdough dinsoaurs
  13. cutting- Practice cutting by rolling playdough into “snakes” and cutting them into little pieces.
  14. match the imprint- Make imprints using objects and then have your child match the object to the imprint.dinosaur imprint
  15. retell stories– Make characters to retell and act out books.  How about re-creating The Three Little Pigs?

What is your favorite way to learn with playdough?

Balloon Number Line

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.

  1. 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.)
  2. Scatter the balloons around your backyard or around your house.
  3. Ready, set, RUN and get a balloon!
  4. 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

backyard number balloon game

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Common Core Standard

(kindergarten- Know number names and count sequence)

Number Memory Game

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.

DIY math Memory Game

  1. Use notecards or cut cardstock to make twenty cards.
  2. Have your child write the numbers 1-10 on ten cards.
  3. Have your child put stickers on the other ten cards.  One sticker on the first card, two on the next, and so on.
  4. Play Memory by matching up numerals with the correct number of stickers.

number Memory game

 

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)

10 Ways to Play “I Spy”

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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?

  1. colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
  2. shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.”  Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
  8. rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Writing in Shaving Cream

shaving cream writing

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?

learning with shaving cream

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….

writing numbers in shaving cream

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.

Make a Number Activity

how many ways can you write a number

How many ways can you write a number?  I did this activity with my second grade students, but it would work for a wide range of ages.  Kindergartners can practice writing math facts, words, and pictures to show a number.   Older elementary kids can show off their math skills by doing multiplication, adding decimals, or fractions.  How do you play? Just pick a number and then take turns writing different ways to show the number.  All you need is a pen and paper, so it is easy to do while you are waiting at a restaurant or office.

See if you can write the number using…

  • words
  • pictures
  • Roman numerals
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • money
  • time

CANstruction- Learning with Cans

Our local food pantry, Harvesters, does a yearly competition where businesses build structures out of cans.  Then when the competition is over, all the cans are donated to Harvesters to feed those in need.  The designs are on display at the mall for about a month.

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IMG_4765We got inspired to make our own CANstruction at home!  Can you tell what we made?  (ha- unintentionally pun)

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Did you guess?  It was a giraffe, rainbow, and castle.  Constructing with cans was free, fun, and (bonus!) I had an organized pantry when we were all done.  It would be a great activity for the kids while you put away groceries.  And of course there is all sorts of learning that can be done with cans…

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

  • Colors- Talk about the different colors on the cans, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
  • Size- Compare sizes of cans.  Find all the cans that are the same size.  What happens when you stack a large can on a small one?
  • Counting– How many cans in all?  Count how many you can stack in a tower.
  • Addition and Subtraction– How many bean cans plus tuna cans do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  • Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D.  Use the word cylinder.  Point out the circles on top and bottom of a cylinder.   (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
  • Measurement–  Measure things around the room with cans.  How many cans long is the couch?  (first grade- Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object end to end)
  • Classification- Sort the cans into groups based on color, size, or type of food.   (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
  • Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue.  If they know it is a can of corn, see if they can pick out the word “corn” on the can.
  • Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the cans.
  • Creative building– And the most fun, building!

Egg Carton Ten Frame

A ten frame is a math tool to help kids visualize numbers and math facts.  It is usually drawn with squares on paper, but I thought it would be neat to make it 3D with an egg carton.  It is much more fun to drop items in a little hole than place them on a paper, right?  Are they even called holes?  Okay, I looked it up.  Wikipedia says they are called dimples.  That’s funny. 🙂

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How to make it:

  1. Cut off the lid of an egg carton and two of the dimples.  Yep, it is still making me smile   .
  2. Number them 1-10.  Usually ten frames aren’t numbered, so if this is for an older kid feel free to leave it blank.
  3. Find small objects to count.  For a reluctant little mathematician, use food.  Snacks will motivate anyone to do math!

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Now use it to teach:

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

  • one-to-one correspondence– Toddlers might be able to count to ten, but they might not understand what the numbers actually mean.  Touching objects as they count teaches one-to-one correspondence.  Show them how to pick up an object, say the number, and place it in the egg carton.  For more of a challenge, try to pick up objects using a spoon or chopsticks! (kindergarten-  When counting objects, say the number names in the standard order, pairing each object with one and only one number name and each number name with one and only one object)
  • number recognition- If you number your egg carton, then they will be able to SEE the number as they SAY the number and drop in the item.
  • addition facts to ten– Using the egg carton, it will be easy to “see” the facts.  There are seven items in the egg carton and three empty spaces.  See if your child can write the addition fact 7+3=10.  (kindergarten- For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation)
  • relationship between addition and subtraction- The egg carton is a good visual to show how fact families work.  Place six objects in the carton and then write all the facts.  Another way to think about 10-6 is to find the number that makes 10 when added to 6.  Say “Six plus what equals ten?” and write 6+__=10.  (first grade- Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem)
  • place value-  Make some more egg carton ten frames to count larger numbers.  Each carton is a “ten.”   (first grade- Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones)
  • estimation-  Practice guessing how many objects and then checking by counting them in the egg carton.
  • even and odd– Explain that a number is even if it can be divided into two equal groups.  I talked about “even means it is fair” with my students.  Kids always have a concept of what is “fair and even” when dividing up goodies.  The egg carton is divided into two rows, so it is easy to see if a number is even (split equally and fairly) or odd.  This works even better if you are using food in your egg carton and actually split it up between two kids!   (second grade- Determine whether a group of objects (up to 20) has an odd or even number of members)

We used our egg carton to do some math with our morning snack (goldfish and blueberries).  Little Sis worked on counting and one-to-one correspondence and Big Sis practiced some addition problems.

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