Monday, January 30, 2012

Five New Math Activities and Games

I haven't been able to create new posts in twelve days (the others were automatic posts) but Tyler's work and passion for numbers has continued to take off during that time. Before I get into what he's doing, I want to say that he is not a typical 29 month old when it comes to this subject (or a lot of things). Most children his age will probably not be ready or interested at all in the following activities. If your child isn't here yet, they are not all behind! Every child's developmental process is different. [Toddler Early Math Milestones] It is typically a slow process for a child to learn the correlation between number quantity and it's suggested to start with a good deal of 1:1 correspondence work and the sandpaper numerals. If you'd like to see some of our favorite early math activities, you can click on the "math" tag from the subjects in the left panel of my blog to find them.

To backtrack, Tyler has had 1:1 correspondence down for some time and has understood at least how to pick three books before bed time. He knows at least eight shapes, the differences between heavy/light, big/small, long/short, can sort by size, can match objects to patterns and has recently learned to recognize numbers 1-12. He has been counting out up to eight objects in a book correctly since last summer (before he was two years old) as well as up to 12 real objects. He can stack 16 cubes or unit blocks. We have used toys such as shape puzzles, sorters, sandpaper numeral peg work, an abacus, used different sized measuring cups and spoons in sensory play and baking, and I have counted things for him and talked about numbers in a natural way since he was a baby.

As of my last post a couple weeks ago, even though he's been ill this whole time, Tyler is now counting to 29 on his own. Needing help with 30, 40, 50, 60 (as he doesn't know his tens) he counted up to 64 last night before getting bored (a similar video is shown above). He is counting backwards from 10-1, occasionally skipping 4. He is able to look at a number of objects (1-3) and know how many there are quickly. He is.understanding quantity not only with tangible things (objects) but will jump, kiss me, pat my nose or do other actions a certain number of times when given a number. He has also been showing early subtraction knowledge. If he is playing with a number of objects and we ask for one object then inquire on how many he has left, he instantly has the answer. Addition has been easy adding with one, though we haven't done more than plus one. He loves to listen to "The 12 days of Christmas" (yes, January) and grab each number from his numbers puzzle as they go up. To him this is fun. It's what he likes. The following are the activities that we've done in the last couple weeks to keep his passions going!

Go Fish

Since Tyler learned his numbers and was so excited by them, I figured we would try to play "Go Fish".
Though we have a deck of cards, I wanted something with bigger numbers and less distractions for the game. I found these Thomas The Train flashcards in the dollar section at Target and purchased two sets. We used numbers 1-6 the first time and I only dealt four cards to myself and four cards to Tyler so he would have less to keep track of.

My husband and I took turned helping him play. He quickly picked up on finding matches of numbers and putting them down. He needed help learning how the game works and the rules of course, but after several games he got the hang of it. My husband then had to cook lunch so I figured that would be the end of playing, but Tyler wanted more. I didn't really think it would work well, but Ty is always ready to prove me wrong lately! We played for at least half an hour.

Ty had trouble holding the cards when he had more than two, so he lay them on the floor as I kinda expected, though sometimes now he will lay them in his lap or hold them. Tyler took to asking me for certain numbers quickly, though once in a while he asked for a random cards without looking at his own. When he got a match, he asked more for more of the same number. It was cute and he didn't mind being redirected and helped a bit. He was okay with handing his cards over to me when he had them. He sure did like telling me to go fish though! He now fully understands the game and needs very little redirection other than convincing when it's time for him to "go fish". He knows he doesn't want more cards!

The only trouble I can spot with this game is that Tyler quickly recognized the correlation between the number of trains or other items on the back of the cards and the number on the other side. One of the first times we played, he grabbed a card with one train on it from the go fish pile, saying "one!". I often found him studying the backs of my cards as well. For this reason I've started to use some higher numbers so it isn't so easy for him to figure out what he's looking at, though it's good practice for him to recognize quantity too, so I do use a few lower numbers he can figure out!

If your child doesn't yet recognize numbers but knows colors, shapes or letters, you could play with those types of flashcards or make your own! I do suggest buying a true set of Go Fish cards if you're able though.
Matching Numerals to Visual Quantity

Seeing that Tyler decided to learn the names of numbers 1-10 from his caterpillar puzzle, I knew I needed to get him started on the important stuff a bit more, learning quantity! We'd been using his sandpaper numeral peg boards, but I wanted to mix it up and get the concept into his brain in several different ways. This is a more visual and less "hands on" way to see that, for example "three is MORE than one or two", but it works and will be important in the future for reading a dice.

Using stickers, I made cards with either one, two or three dots on them. I also made cards with the numbers 1-3 to correspond. Tyler's work would be to match the number of dots or stars he saw on the card to the correct number.

This isn't a work that Tyler is ready to do by himself yet, mostly due to maturity. Though his likes this work, laying out cards to match to label cards isn't something he cares to do by himself. He wants me to make it a bit of a game. So, we lay out the numbers, then I gave Tyler one card at a time, asking how many dots he sees. He surprised from the first attempt by shouting out "one!" and "two" correctly right away. With three he sometimes has a bit more pause and I encourage him to count the dots if needed, though other days he's quite quick.

The only "issue" we had with this work (and I noticed it when we did heavy/light and warm/cold sorting), is that Tyler likes to cover the label or number rather than placing them above or below it, making it difficult or impossible to see where the next item may go. I decided to tape the numbers to cups so that he could put the cards inside next time. Though it's ideal to control things such as cup color (keeping everything the same except what is to be focused upon), following the child meant having to push that rule aside as I don't have three same cups or small bowls to work with! He doesn't seem too distracted. 
Number Work with Playing Cards

Just before he showed us that he had truly mastered recognizing 1-10 with his puzzle, I decided to get a deck of playing cards out to see if he was interested. He immediately enjoyed finding the numbers and noticing that some were red and others were black. As I sorted through to get rid of everything but the numbers, he became interested in learning the different suits. I knew I had to figure out a way for him to use the cards.

I soon decided to give him cards 1-10 in clubs (I taped over the Aces with 1's) to see if he could put them in numerical order as he does his caterpillar puzzle. He needed a bit of help with the concept and he got to six or seven before getting a bit overwhelmed and moving on to something else. He also kept getting 6 and 9 confused, even though I suggested he count the clubs. He just didn't want to take the time. I decided we would only work on putting 1-5 in order next time.

After putting them in order the next day, I then had 1-5 in hearts ready to go, and asked if he wanted to match them to the clubs by numeral. He was cool with that.

This is a work he has taken off of his shelf to do a few times, though he it isn't a favorite. I'm not sure what he does with it when I'm not around as I sometimes find it laying scattered on his rug with all of his other number works (he isn't as into putting everything back on his own as he used to be...), but something must intrigue him.

Active Numerosity Games

As mentioned near the beginning of this post, I've done a few active games with Tyler to see what he could do with numbers as well as to practice in different ways. Here are some that you may be interested in trying.

Ask your child if they can do whatever they love to a certain amount of times: Could you eat three Cheerios? Could you put two balls in the basket? Could you give me four crayons?

You can also work on intangible actions, asking: Can you stomp your feet six times? Can you give your doll two kisses? Could you pat your head four times?

While we mix it up during the day, Tyler's favorite thing to do is to jump, so I ask if he can jump a certain amount of times, usually no higher than twelve. He wants to play this game quite often! After a couple days of playing, I then added to choices, asking, for example, "Do you want to jump two times or three?" or "Do you want to jump four times or eight?". The latter game made me realize that he does know which number is higher or "more", as he almost always picks the higher number! He wants to jump as many times as possible!

Counting on our Fingers

Since becoming interested in numbers, Tyler has also wanted to be able to show a certain number with his fingers. He first wanted to count our fingers over and over and to push them down or bring them up while we said the numbers. He then started to work more on his own hands.  He delighted in showing us a whole hand and saying "Five" then bringing out his other hand and telling us "ten!". Though it was tricky work at first, he is getting pretty darn good at showing numbers with his fingers, counting backwards and forwards with them. This is something he really wanted to master, so along with just helping him figure it all out, we worked more on finger plays with numbers to make it fun and get him that finger exercise to help his control. These are the songs we used:

Where is Thumbkin?
Five Little Monkeys
The Crocodile Song
Five Little Ducks
Five Little Speckled Frogs

Near Future:
I now want expand upon Tyler's subtraction (it's all been very casual), understanding quantity with higher numbers, using objects to show quantity, and simple fractions. I would love to create the traditional Montessori Red Rods and Spindle Box as I cannot purchase them right now, but haven't quite figured out a very low to no cost way to do it yet that I'm happy with. Here's to hoping inspiration strikes soon!

Linking up with the fabulous Living Montessori Now and 1+1+1=1!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hanging Yarn Art

This project was an old one that I did as a Preschool teacher years ago. While Tyler woke much too early the moring we did this and had a rather scattered focus, it was still enjoyable to create this unique art! We will certainly repeat this one when he's older!

Items needed:
Wax Paper
Plate or disposable tray

I first cut several lengths of string using the two different colors we happen to have. We then squeezed glue onto a plate and lay our wax paper on the table.

To create the art, Tyler dipped and pressed one piece of yarn into the glue at a time.

He lay each piece over the others on the wax paper. An older child may wish to make designs.

Sometimes we pushed the yarn down to be sure that the glue making the each piece stick to the others.

We then let it dry for several hours. Neat!

It now hangs proudly as an overhead table centerpiece!

Linking up with many great and fun ideas at The Imagination Tree!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sorting by Weight

Last week we sorted by temperature, and we're sorting items by weight. Ty has likes telling us when things are "heavy", though we haven't talked a lot about things that are "light".  

This old cologne bottle seems kinda heavy!

This lock is certainly heavy!

This soup can is heavy while the puffball is light...

I made labels for each category to sort into, marking "heavy" and "light". He's getting more accustomed to sorting without putting the objects inside of something else and doesn't seem to have much trouble remembering which label says what. I'm making labels different colors right now to help him with that ,so even if he can't "read" the word, he can remember which color is connected with which category. 

He thought he was very funny to pick up the tissue and call it "heeaavvvvy!". He enjoys playing jokes on me lately.

Items we used:

Heavy: Candle votive, can of soup, lock, empty cologne bottle

Light: Q-tip, plastic cocktail stirrer, puff ball, foam circle, tissue, soft baby block (to also show that something big can be light)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King: Shades of Skin Collage

Tyler, being a bi-racial child (as well as living in a highly diverse city), is no stranger to differences in skin tone. He's seen a sharp contrast within his own parents since birth. While of his grandmothers is about as dark-skinned as you can be, his other grandparents (as well as his mother) are some of the palest you will find. Though he has unfortunately faced discrimination already (from another child's parents), he was unaware of it. To him, there isn't much to think about the whole "skin color" thing yet. It's life. It's "people". It's quite normal. The walls of his large motor room are filled with  multicultural photos as well.

While I felt that Tyler was a bit young (28 mos) to understand the influence Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has had on the world, and his own life, I wanted to celebrate in some way. Creating a collage full of various skin tones and hues and talking a bit about them seemed to make sense this year.

I gave Tyler a dish of colored glue (dyed with food coloring) so that he could see where the glue was on his paper. He used a large paint brush to spread it around.

During nap, my husband and I went through several of the National Geographic magazines I was lucky enough to win on Freecycle long ago, cutting out faces of every shade we could find.

Before Ty started, we looked over the many faces and talked very simply about how different people have different colors and shades in their skin. We talked about the differences skin shades seen in members our family as well as our friends and neighbors. I didn't talk about how we're all the same inside or trouble him with the ideas of racism. We just noticed how skin can be different.

Tyler noticed who had dark skin and who had light skin when I asked. He also noticed who was smiling and had a "happy face" or who was wearing glasses.

Tyler calls this his "faces" collage. It now hangs over his table. He often looks at the different faces while he eats snacks and meals. He likes how you can see the "blue-green glue". He smiles back at the big grinning man at the top. It's people. They are as they are.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Montessori Moment: A Fire Lit

 We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.
~Maria Montessori

Let's get right into it. Tyler received a caterpillar jigsaw puzzle from his grandparents for Christmas, with pieces numbered 1-10. Though I thought it was really cute and loved that it was handmade by a local merchant, I didn't think he was ready for it yet. At all.

With a lot of help, he put it together that day, but when it was time to reconfigure his shelves to accommodate all of his new stuff, I almost stored in away with the other toys that are currently out of rotation. With hesitation, I placed it on top of one of his shelves. This is where I keep work that needs to be demonstrated more before it's placed on a shelf. It's where work that he doesn't quite "get" yet lives.

I then forgot about it (or maybe ignored it). It sat for a couple weeks. Then, looking for something to do, I watched Tyler nose around the top of the shelves (he's getting a bit too tall I guess). He quickly spotted the bright, colorful puzzle. With excitement he brought it down and carried it to his rug. I admit that I kinda sighed to myself. He hadn't shown a ton of interest in numbers. He was much more focused on letters. Sometimes, as bright as he is, he has spatial issues when it comes to puzzles. This was probably going to be a lot of me doing the work and Tyler getting frustrated.

Though I had to hand him each puzzle piece in order, he was excited. He had much less trouble fitting the pieces in than I had imagined. Huh. It went on the shelf so he could find it again, even though I knew he would need our help. If he had interest, we would give it a go.

For the next few days I started to give him two number pieces to choose from. "You need number three next. Which one of these is three?" Sometimes he was wrong, but more and more he was correct. Huh. Okay then... I let him figure things out, helping when asked, though pushing his frustration tolerance just a bit.

He quickly showed that he could do 1-3 on his own, then 1-4 and certainly 9-10. He struggled in the middle. As I briefly mentioned in another post, I then made a sturdy guide for him that matched his puzzle for him to reference.

He sort-of used the guide. He needed a bit of assistance at first in learning how to "read" it. Turns out he didn't need it much anyway. It often became a cute little cardboard caterpillar used for pretend play.

Before Ty had been using the puzzle for two weeks, he woke up one morning and completed it for my husband several times, without struggle or the need to fix errors. He was incredibly proud. With a gleam in his eye and constantly looking up and me with a grin that said "Isn't this awesome?!" he showed me too, again and again.

He quickly started naming all of the numbers on the pieces aloud, something he doesn't always do. He can certainly be one to keep his thoughts to himself. Though Ty can count objects to 13 (something he learned naturally), I hadn't worked on number recognition past 1-3. That first day of mastery, he broke apart the puzzle, messed them up, then put them back in the tray in perfect reverse order, 10-1. Each time he put the puzzle together he would lean back, scrunch up his shoulders with pride and joy and gaze at his work.

Boy was I wrong, huh? Though glad that I didn't put the puzzle away completely, I felt just a tiny bit ashamed at the lack of confidence I had in my son's ability. Then again, it seemed like wanting to put that cute little caterpillar together struck a match in him. The fire for wanting to learn his numbers was lit in a way that I hadn't been able to do before. Perhaps now was just the perfect sensitive time. Who knows? Now that he can complete the puzzle with ease, he has much more interest in his sandpaper numeral and peg work. He's shown interest in numbers all over his world and is proud that he can recognize so many of them. The fire has been lit, and it grows.

If I was still laying out the puzzle pieces in a line for him to fit together, or continuing to hand him each one as he went along, he may have thought himself incapable of doing it on his own. If I didn't back off and start to realize that he was a real drive for becoming independent with this activity, I could have squashed it. I could have hampered the learning process...the trial and error that must happen for real learning to take place.

Days later he still gets immense joy in showing us (and anyone else who comes to our home) how he can put together his caterpillar. Before this, and for the last month, his sense of pride came from the his mastery with The Pink Tower. Not only would he eagerly grab it from the shelf to show us while we were working and playing, but he would carry it into whatever room we were in and build it at your feet, looking up with what seemed like happy little sparkles shooting straight out of his little eyes. If you moved rooms before he got more than one block out, he would pick-up and follow you again. At this point we knew to stop (what was so important?), get down on the floor, and watch, matching the anticipation in his face. The feeling of independence of pride when he masters something can't be beat!

You did it, kid. You really did. High-five!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Oatmeal Fun Dough

One rainy day, Tyler (my little play dough lover) and I decided to make something a little different than our usual dough. We have a large canister of oatmeal sitting around that Tyler doesn't care to eat, so when I found a recipe for "Oatmeal Fun Doh" online, we decided to give it a try (be sure to read on...).

Oatmeal Fun Dough
2 cups uncooked oatmeal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup water

Add ingredients, mix and knead. 
From the start, I was skeptical about this recipe. It didn't seem like there would be enough moisture to make much of anything.

Maybe I was just impatient with our kneading and already had the idea in my head that it would require more water, but it didn't seem to work. I added more water...then too much water. I added more flour. Maybe too much flour...

Our dough had an interesting texture that Tyler had to get used to (great for his sensory quirks) but it was also thick and tough rather than the pliable consistency you'd hope for.

Cutting with cutters required help from Mama, as did forming balls and worms.

Our play doh press requires a great deal of effort anyhow, but it was almost too much with this dough.

While the dough wasn't all that workable, we still played with it for about half and hour before throwing it away. I gave Tyler a small amount of water after a while to sprinkle and paint onto the quickly drying dough. That was probably the most fun for him.

After this failure, I researched other oatmeal dough recipes. They often look the same as the one I tried, but with much more water. Almost all of the recipes I found call for: 

1 part flour
1 part water
2 parts oatmeal

Not sure how I lucked out with the bum recipe, but if you try this one, I'd love to hear how it went!

Sticker "Resist" Painting

As I've watched Tyler attempt to draw on the clear tape I often use to stick his paper to the table with, and seeing him be so curious about why he can't mark on it recently, I realized it was time to pull some resist work out of my arsenal of art projects. We've started with sticker resist!

You can use any kind of sticker, preferably those with a good outline. Tyler has been interested in the night sky for a while now, so we used stars (and a moon I had to create myself) to create a night scene. We used card stock and he stuck them to the paper as he pleased. I told him we would be painting over them but then peeling them off again.

He got right to work covering the stickers with a brush.

Once they were covered, he used his hands to work on covering all of the yellow paper.

I could stop here and jump to the end, where we peel the stickers off, but I really enjoy Ty's art process.
One of his recent creative flairs has been scraping paint off with his nails.

I provided him with a roller and other items so that some of the paint would come off and I could find the stickers easier later. I was pretty certain he would go crazy with the amount of paint layers, and he did!

There are the stickers! Though his art isn't about me, I enjoyed the effect the roller had here.

I'm not sure what this paint tool is called, but it's from a home painting kit that we never used.

 He also found a new way to scrape at the paint...with the end of a paint brush!

Ty then washed his hands and we worked at taking the stickers off. I couldn't remember if we were supposed to let the paint dry or not (I often just jot simple notes down as I go through activity books etc), but I felt like we needed to rescue the stickers quickly. It was quite tricky to get tiny stickers with difficult edges off the the paper, and sometimes the paper ripped. Next time we will certainly use something easier...and maybe different paper too.

This was our result! While it isn't "perfect" Tyler seemed pleased and interested in the results. I kinda enjoy its abstract side.

Linking up with The Imagination Tree