15 Ways to Learn with Play Food

learning with play food

So you’ve got a little kitchen set for your kiddo.  Here are some ways to learn with all that plastic food (you know, instead of just tripping over it)….

  1. See if your child can name all the pieces of food.
  2. Select food and have a pretend picnic.
  3. Set up a pretend restaurant.  Take turns being the customer and waiter/waitress and cook.
  4. Arrange food in rows and go shopping with a basket.  Pretend to check-out and use real money.
  5. Sort food by color.
  6. Sort food by food group.
  7. Pick out two or more foods that start with the same letter.
  8. Look for shapes.  Which foods are spheres?  Are any flat like a circle?  What about a cylinder?
  9. Find and count certain foods.  How many eggs are there?  How many oranges?
  10. Compare quantities.  Are there more yellow foods or green foods?  How many more lemons than tomatoes?
  11. Use food to represent addition or subtraction problems.  I have four apples, then I give two to you.  How many do I have now?
  12. Play “I’m thinking of a food.”  Use adjectives to describe a piece of food to each other and take turns guessing.
  13. Play a memory game.  Place a few foods in front of your child.  Then have her close her eyes and take a food away.  Ask which one was removed.
  14. Put a food in a sack and see if you can guess what it is just by touch.
  15. Go on a food scavenger hunt.  Write down a list of foods to find (something to eat for breakfast, a vegetable, a food that starts with the letter B, etc.) and then see if your child can find them all!

Ten Ways to Learn with Cardboard Boxes

building with boxes

If you can learn with cans, why not boxes?  We collected empty cardboard boxes for a few weeks to make “box blocks.”  For boxes that didn’t close on their own, I taped them shut.  The kids really got excited about adding to our box collection.  And we were able to see just how many boxes our family uses…and have a talk about the importance of recycling!  That is a learning experience in itself, but here are some other things you can teach with boxes…

learning with boxes

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.)

  1. Colors- Talk about the different colors on the boxes, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
  2. Size- Compare sizes of boxes.  Put them in order from smallest to biggest.
  3. Counting– How many boxes in all?  Count how many you can stack in a tower.
  4. Addition and Subtraction– How many cereal boxes plus fruit snack boxes do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  5. Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D.  Use the word rectangular prism.  How many rectangles make up a box?   (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
  6. Measurement- Use a ruler to measure boxes length, width, and depth. (second grade- Measure and estimate lengths in standard units)
  7. Classification- Sort the boxes 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)
  8. Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue.  If they know it is a pizza box, see if they can pick out the word “pizza.”
  9. Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the small boxes.
  10. Creative building– Design your own sculpture with box blocks!

Or combine all the above into a scavenger hunt.  Scatter the boxes around the room and then shout out things to find.  “Find a green box and bring it to me.  Which box would we use to eat breakfast?  Find the largest box.  Can you find the letter T on a box?”  This is great way to get kids moving and learning at the same time.

cardboard box horse
cardboard box scultpure

Ten Ways to Learn With Water Beads

10 Ways to Learn with Water BeadsWe recently discovered water beads.  You see, there is this thing called “Pinterest” that has all sorts of ideas for kids.  You should really check it out. 🙂  So I ordered some from Amazon (a 2-oz pack of Jelly Beadz), but I hear you get them even cheaper at dollar stores or floral supply stores.

Water beads are awesome.  They start out tiny and very hard, then you soak them in water for a few hours.  They soak up the water and become large and gelatinous.  That is a cool word.  But not cooler than water beads.  Seriously.  As fun as it is to feel then between your toes (try it!), you can also LEARN with them.  I know.  Mind blown.educational water beads

  1. Fine Motor Skills– They are SLIPPERY!  It takes a steady hand and pincer grip to pick them up.  Or try scooping them up one a time with a spoon.  We even tried chopsticks.  I think it is impossible.
  2. Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
  3. Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
  4. Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
  5. Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up.  Then find out!
  6. Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
  7. Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
  8. Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors.  It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
  9. Capacity– Kids will naturally want to fill up containers, so throw some measuring cups and let the kids explore.  They can see firsthand how many 1/4 cups it takes to fill up a cup.
  10. Hypothesize and Experiment- Do water beads bounce?  Can you squish them?  What happens when you put them in salt?

And speaking of experiments, Creekside Learning offers a free printable science observation worksheet that is perfect for older kids.

*Disclaimer- Water beads look a lot like candy.  I wouldn’t use them with babies or toddlers who like to put things in their mouths.

learning with water beads

 

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?

Rooster’s Off to See the World- Activities

Rooster's off to see the world activitiesRooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle is a second-grade reading level book.  It is a wonderful read aloud to younger kids, especially when read with other Eric Carle favorites.  It tells the story of a rooster who wants to travel and asks several animals to come along with him.

(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.)

  • Practice math- Do verbal or written story problems following along with the story.  1 rooster + 2 cats+ 2 frogs+ 4 turtles+ 5 fish = how many animals in all?  When the animals leave, write the subtraction problems.  (first grade- Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20)
  • Read with voice- This book makes a great read aloud.  Try out different voices for each of the animals.  Pay attention to words the author uses such as purred, snapped, or complained.  (second grade-Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.)
  • Alternatives to said– This activity goes along with reading with voice.  Make a list of all the words used instead of “said.”  Talk about why the author used these different words.  See if your child can use some of the new words in her writing.
  • Act it out- Use puppets or yourself to act out the story.  Maybe you could be the rooster and your child play the part of the other animals.
  • Write the sequel– The story ends with rooster dreaming about a trip around the world.  Where would he go?  What would he do?  Have your child make up the rest of the story and you can write it down.
  • Text to self connection- Ask your child to explain when he has felt like the characters in the story- excited for a trip, lonely, or homesick.  (first grade- Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly)

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

Bowling Math

learning with bowling

Bowling is a fun indoor activity when it is too cold or hot outside.  We found a local bowling alley with a weekly special for preschoolers ($3 that includes one game, shoes, and a drink).  Though, even the smallest bowling balls are pretty heavy for little ones, so I recommend it for kids over 3.  Big Sis has a great time bowling, and it is educational, too!  Playing a sport is always a learning experience in my book.  But the bowling alley is also a wonderful place to practice math in the real world.  Old school bowling provided lots of math practice when you kept score with a pen and paper.  Yet, even with today’s bowling alley computers keeping score, you can still ask your kiddo some math questions.  Then just look up at the screen to check the answer!

teaching math with bowling

You can ask about…

  • Counting-  Count how many pins are still standing. (kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)
  • Make a ten- You started with 10 pins.  Now there are 6 pins standing.  How many did you knock down?  What number plus 6 makes 10?  (kindergarten- For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number)
  • Simple addition-  You knocked down 2 pins last turn and 3 pins this time.  How many did you get in all?
  • Two-digit plus one-digit addition–  Your score was 33, then you knocked 5 more down this turn.  What is your score now? (first grade- Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number…)
  • Subtraction– There were 10 pins and you knocked down 5.  What is 10-5?  (kindergarten- Add and subtract within 10)
  • Relationship between addition and subtraction-  There were ten pins and I see 2 still standing.  How many did you knock down?  You can think about it as “what number plus 2 equals 10?” Or you can think “10-2=?”  (first grade- Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem)

(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.)

bowling math

And if you can’t go to a real bowling alley, maybe try some bowling on the computer with Starfall.com or bowl at home using this print out from whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com

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. 🙂

IMG_8618

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!

IMG_8608

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.

IMG_8613