I find that most parents are pretty creative in coming up with opportunities to foster fun day-to-day learning opportunities with their kids. Not to brag, but I think my wife, Deanna, is pretty fantastic at coming up with some really good ones. Recently I caught her doing a fun little activity at breakfast with our kids to practice their counting, and I said ‘Hey that’s the perfect type of thing for a Playper blog!’ - so I thought I’d turn this blog over to her.
Hi – I’m Deanna. While Webb is CEO of Playper, I’m CEO of a house of four rambunctious little ones who have proven to be perfect Playper toy testers. Math is one of the core things Playper products try to teach, and it’s a natural first thing to focus on because adding and subtracting is so much a part of our daily lives that most of us take it for granted until we start really looking. We’re at the grocery store scanning bunches of bananas, and my “helper” is tasked with picking the bunch with five bananas, not four. We need eight place settings tonight because family is coming over… Which kids get place settings, and who gets baby forks and who gets big forks? How many cups should we take out? Daily chores become math exercises.
One fun “game” I like to play is to see how many counting activities I can find in my daily routine with the kids. It starts in the morning. I bet we at the Knudsen home aren’t the only ones who have a challenge of keeping our young ones focused on finishing their breakfast. Someone recently gifted us something that has proven helpful – its’ a container of 100 small toy bears. They come in a wide variety of colors, and those plus a roll of paper and markers provide us a wide variety of straightforward activities. For example, after drawing cars on paper, it’s “Let’s put 4 bears in each car!” It’s simple, but it keeps them engaged. The Instagram account @DaysWithGrey has given me lots of ideas!
The other day at a neighbor’s lemonade stand they were selling cups for 50 cents each. I asked my kids, “How many can we get for 100 cents or 1 dollar? How about 200 cents – or 2 dollars?” At Michaels Craft store, we were looking poster frames. I asked my kids, “If each of these frames were only one cent, and we had a dollar – 100 cents – how many frames could we buy? Math is all around us if we really pay attention and work for ways to find to talk to our kids about it that work their little minds.
Chores that Add Up
Bonus: You can put them to work for you. It’s worked out for us to get the three oldest involved in household duties at an early age. Our four-year-old sets the table taking directives like, “four forks, and two big serving spoons.” When having guests, we ask how many total will be eating with us followed by asking how many total forks, knives, spoons, and napkins we’ll now need knowing that we have 2 additional people joining us.
And then there’s laundry. At our house, there’s always laundry! Sorting whose socks are whose, then counting them, counting the number of items in a pile, and counting how many steps it takes to get that pile into your sibling’s room are just a couple other simple, fun ideas.
Apps that Count
Parents understandably have different opinions of pre-school kids using apps, and we respect different approaches. Some don’t think screens are ever appropriate, and others support liberal use; we land somewhere in the middle. We are intentional with any screen use, and it’s rather limited. So with that in mind, I’d love to share some math apps I’ve been researching for our own kids to check out.
Continuing the theme of this article and my references to food (always!), there’s Tiggly Chef: Preschool Math Cooking Game. It puts kids in a virtual kitchen, and a cool feature is when you first open the game, you can choose to play by and/or with toys. It’s quite engaging and has great graphics. There’s also Bedtime Math which provides a daily math problem for different age groups. The answers are included so that takes the pressure off. The math problems come in a story format which help retain kids’ interest, and there is a tie-in to real-life scenarios.
Our own Curious Kingdom features a compatible free app that has a counting game among other entertaining and educational features. We’ve noticed our own kids learn to count better with the pickle jar. The act of pulling the lever is so fun that it incentivizes them to figure out exactly how many pickles there are, so they get the opportunity to pull it. And the physical playset is tons of fun on its own and has plenty of educational value, so you don’t even need the app for your kids to have fun and learn. How many pickles does King Ketchup want on his sandwich? Well, you must count them to find out!
You get the idea – in fact you probably have plenty on your own! But going with the simple, everyday things that incorporate math in a way that they may not realize they are learning is something I sure have fun with. You can count on that!