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!

Paint Chip Color Match Game

I was inspired by all the very cool paint chip color match games on Pinterest like this one from One Little Project at a Time.   It is an easy and FREE way to teach colors and the clothes pin adds some fine motor practice, too.  Only, I didn’t have clothes pins.   And my paint chip samples had cut-out squares.

color game with paint chips

No problem.  This makes it even easier to make.  I just cut off the tops of the samples and then cut them apart.  Done.  Now to see if the pieces match,  you just slide it behind the open square.

matching paint chips to learn colors

Without the clothes pins it is also easier to store.  Just throw it all in a zip-lock bag and keep it in your purse for a waiting game at a restaurant.  Or use at the table while you are making dinner.  
paint chip preschool game

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)

Puzzle Easter Egg Hunt

My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy.  This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter.  Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.

Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦  Never fear!  This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly.  Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.  puzzle Easter egg hunt

  1. Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
  2. Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
  3. After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
  4. To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle.  One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.

puzzle pieces in Easter eggs

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.

Sight Word Game- I’m Thinking of a Word

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I call this game “I’m Thinking of a Word.” It’s a quick sight word game to play while you are waiting at a restaurant or office.

  1. Write some words on a piece of paper.  (Of course you could also use homemade sight words or flashcards.)
  2.  Give a clue about one of the words. For example: “My word ends with the letter D.”
  3. See if your child can guess (and read) the word you chose.
  4. Now it is her turn to think of a word and give you a clue!

Some ideas for clues:

  • My word has the letter ‘b’ in it.
  • My word rhymes with…
  • I use my word when I talk about…
  • My word is in the title of….
  • My word has 3 letters.
  • My word means….
  • My word is the opposite of…
  • My word ends with the /t/ sound.
  • My word has 2 tall letters. (tall letters are h, t, k, b, d, l)
  • My word has two vowels.
  • My word has 3 syllables.

It is easy to make this game fit your child’s ability level. You can vary the amount of words you write, the level of difficulty of the words, and the clues you give.  You might play that they have to identify all the words that fit a given clue.  Or just give clues that only fit one word.  Have fun!

Common Core Standards:

kindergarten- first grade: Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes)

kindergarten- fifth grade: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

Hide and Seek With Sight Words

This is an easy game to play with sight words.  It’s exercise and learning combined!  It is a great way to take a movement break in the middle of reading or homework.

1.  Purchase some sight word flashcards….or better yet, make your own.

2.  Scatter the sight words around the room writing side up.

3.  Call out a word and see if your kiddo can run and find it.  Exercise and learning combined!!

Okay, it’s not so much hiding as seeking.  Although you could turn the words face down to add an extra memory challenge.  You could also vary the game by the movement involved.  Call out a word and an action (skip to find the word “you”, crawl to the word “can”).  Have fun with it!

 

 

Comparison Thinking Game

As my youngest just transitioned from a crib to a big girl bed and now we are working on potty training, there is a lot of “big girl” talk going on in our house.  She likes to play the game, “What can a big girl do that a baby can’t do?”  We read and watched videos talking about how big girls can walk, talk, eat pizza, climb on the playground and babies can’t do any of those things.  It helps her see that she is changing and growing…and it is a good thing!  It’s also the same conversation we had with Big Sis when Little Sis was born.  Comparing themselves to babies makes kids feel proud about their abilities and shows them that they have a special place in the family (even if that cute baby is getting a lot of attention!)

While I was talking about “baby vs. big girl” with Little Sis, my older daughter thought it would be fun to come up with ways they were both alike, too.  Then the girls wanted to compare kids to adults.  What can grown-ups do that kids can’t do?  They gave answers like “Grown-ups can drive.  They can cook.”  You can also flip the question around so one thing isn’t always seen as “better” than the other.  What can kids do?  Kids can fit into smaller places and go on certain rides at the amusement park that adults aren’t allowed on.

Then we branched out to animals.  What can an owl do that you can’t do?  What about an elephant?  It was really funny to hear their answers and thinking.  The older the kids, the more detailed things you can ask them about.  If they are dinosaur experts, ask them to compare a stegosaurus and a pteranodon.  Or ask, “What can a microwave do that a stove can’t do?”

Comparing things and ideas is a skill kids will use many times in reading comprehension and critical thinking.  Think about how many tests say “compare and contrast.”  Why not start practicing that skill early as silly game?  It’s a perfect thinking game you can play in the car, sitting in a cart at the store, or waiting at a restaurant.  Try it out!

As with any educational game, the focus should be on fun.  Ask a questions, give them some hints or offer some ideas, then let them ask you a question.  If they are getting stressed out or bored of it, move on to something else.