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?
What is even better than paper towel art? Paper towel learning! Just write with markers on a paper towel. Then use an eye dropper filled with water to “explode” the words into art. I think this would be a great way to get reluctant writers to practice handwriting. Watching water transform their words is built-in motivation. And how easy would it be to set your kiddo up with a paper towel and marker to practice her spelling words at breakfast?
Use paper towel writing to practice:
- his own name
- sight words
- spelling words
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.
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…
- Roman numerals
The snow is melting! The snow is melting! Can you see my smile through the interwebs? It’s big. We went outside to play and celebrate. And we got out hoes. Yes. I’ve never tried it before, but sidewalk scrapers and hoes easily pushed around the slushy snow on our driveway. And if you have similar driveways/weather conditions…give it a try!
- straight, curvy, and zig-zag lines and then walked on them
- and our favorite- “snow castles” or the if you want to be honest…piles of slush
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. 🙂
How to make it:
- Cut off the lid of an egg carton and two of the dimples. Yep, it is still making me smile .
- Number them 1-10. Usually ten frames aren’t numbered, so if this is for an older kid feel free to leave it blank.
- Find small objects to count. For a reluctant little mathematician, use food. Snacks will motivate anyone to do math!
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.