Pouring can wire the brain for math -- quantity, more/less -- when done regularly. And it can be done with lots of different things.

For starters, during bath time add big and little cups. How many little cups fit into the big cup? Bring some measuring spoons along. How many measuring spoons fill a very small cup? (If you're using something small to pour into a big container, this may get discouraging.) Add bubbles to the bath for variety. (Word of warning: girls may get irritated skin in sensitive areas if spending too long in bubbles.)

Pouring is also good for getting finger, hand, and arm muscles firing. Even better when you add stirring (pretending to cook) into the mix. These are so helpful with everyday tasks.

**The Pouring Station**

Set up a pouring station in a corner of the house with a sheet or shower curtain under it. Use whatever container you'd like, but make it as large as you can. Just not too high. For example, an un-used litter box.

This container can be filled with a rotation of things that can be poured: for example, macaroni noodles, rice, sand, cotton balls, dried beans.By changing what they're pouring, they get a different feel every few days. This will keep it fresh. They will want to continue.

**Note:** How to make colored noodles. Put down newspaper (ads, paper towels, etc.). Take a sturdy plastic bad, gallon size and ziplock. Pour in a couple tablespoons alcohol and food cloring. Zip in macaroni noodles or rice. Shake. Lay out to dry. The color will stay.

The tools could be measuring cups, spoons, a homemade tunnel from the top third of a liter of soda pop (with masking tape around the cut edge to dull it), egg cartons, ice cube trays, a wide sieve, little plastic toys hidden.

For children still putting things in their mouth regularly, use macaroni noodles. Do not use rice until they have stopped putting things in their mouth. (Rice puffs up in the stomach acid and gives a tummy ache.)

Remember: any new game introduced to a child should begin with the parent playing with them.

These activities gain for the child hand, wrist, and finger control, learning about volume and amounts, and if you take the time to point out these different things, they learn even more! Once the child is ready, you can even work with the child on starting to recognize the quantity on the measuring cups. They can begin to notice how many 1/4 cups go into 1/2 cup, and so on. This can not only help wire their brain for math in general, but they may even begin baking sooner!

**The Sandbox**

See our article on Sandbox activities. But here we will mention getting sand wet in a cup, turning it over to start a sand castle, and adding drippings with even wetter sand dribble out of their fingers as they pick it up and hold it over the castle.

Here are some ideas for items to hide in the sand (or pouring station). Use items you might be learning about: if flowers, get fake flower heads from the store and hide them; if dinosaurs, get cheap figurines; if doll clothes, then figure out which doll they go with and dress her as the child finds each piece of clothing; if matching, cut out plastic colored circles -- two of each color -- to find and pair up; or if matching, laminate pairs of identical pictures; if a beach theme, burry, find, and categorize shells into cups; if money, coins; anything really. Use your imagination!

(We do not recommend putting candy or food in. It may contaminate, bring bugs, etc.)

Remember, we call this site "Growth and Giggles" because we want there to be a lot of laughter between you and the child. Do whatever you can to love and enjoy your child, and let them know it.

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Does your gene pool have learning challenges in the mix: ADD/ADHD/autism/dyslexia? Studies of children diagnosed with autism show that early intervention has helped to the point that the autism was undetectable. There are also early intervention techniques for physical challenges. Almost any problem that presents itself in childhood can be helped if we work with the child in fun and helpful ways. Involving as many senses as possible in the learning process including physical activities is a key factor. If the body can move while learning, by the time a child is school-age the brain will have made all kinds of new connections.

Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in 19th century Italy, saw children labelled "mentally retarded" and believed they could learn. She broke everything down into small components and taught using the body through doing activities that laid the groundwork for math, language, and all other learning. After Montessori worked with them, the same children with these labels on their identity were then able to pass the exams taken by "normal" children.

Let's look at some ways to employ this technique to break math down into small parts. For a child to learn math it has to be pieced apart:

Part 1: counting - learn to count in the right order.

Part 2: add recognition of the written number.

Part 3: learn quantity. (Kirby used to run a Montessori preschool but this is her personal method based on that experience.) A game for learning how much makes 1 and 2: take four envelopes, write the number one on two of them and the number two on two of them. The adult gets a #1 and #2 envelope as does the child. Together, parent and child hop on their own #1 envelope, then jump with two feet on their #2 envelope.

Another reinforcement of this would be to put raisins or small pieces of apple on the envelopes: one raisin on the #1 envelope and two raisins on the #2 envelope. Clapping could also be used to physically learn counting - one clap for the number one and two claps for the number two. After using the body, the taste buds, and the physical actions, most children will have number knowledge, recognition and the concept of these numbers quantity (how much it is).

At this point, number three can be introduced. Jump, hop, clap, and have fun! Make it funny. Ask at meals, "Would you like three green beans or four peas?" Use food that you would eat anyway to further their knowledge with using senses and taste buds. This solidifies the knowledge. When working up to six, homemade dice can be used to determine the number of jumps, claps, or whatever you choose to reinforce the learning. When walking on stairs, help the child know to count when you put your foot on the stair (this also helps with one-to-one correspondence).

Whatever the child is doing to learn these concepts, parents do these things with your children.

After children know how to count from one to ten, know the symbols for the numbers, and know how much each quantifies, then start with simple addition. Two cubes (homemade dice) can be used to give numbers for math sentences: add, subtract, multiply, and divide eventually. Remember, just because they can count doesn't necessarily mean that they understand quantity. Take each part as it comes and make sure the concept is fully understood before moving on. Baby steps!

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Today’s activities will be toward benefiting pre-reading and pre-math skills. We will get the body and senses involved.

It is important to remember to set up everything so there will be minimal clean-up afterwards. (For instance, on top of an old shower curtain or sheet.)

Finger Painting with Shaving Cream

Find a dark surface (for example, table, play table cloth). Spread out shaving cream. (Don’t do this activity if the child will put it in their mouth. Warn them not to. It’s gross!) Have them draw the number in the shaving cream with their finger. If you are doing “Number of the Day!” have them make that number a few times. Then have them turn it into a picture. Have them make that number of dots. Turn it into a picture. Turn it into that number of lines, or squiggles, etc., and then into a picture.

As long as they are making that number, the nerve impulses from the finger to the brain wires the brain for better understanding. It is particularly important to get them to say the number each time.

Other Ideas for Number of the Day

Pick a number for the day.

At lunch, if your number of the day is 4, cut the sandwich into 4 pieces. After lunch, give them 4 things to play with. Have them make that number with playdough or clay. (It increases finger strength.)

If you have costume jewelry beads, have them make the number with the beads. Or with yarn on a rug. (Don’t do beads or yarn on a slick surface; it’s best on a rug or towel to avoid frustration with slipping.)

Have them make the number with sand or salt on a pie plate.

Give them a piece of cardboard, a paintbrush, and some water. Have them paint the number with the water on the cardboard. This can also be done – painting with water – outside on the sidewalk or driveway. Add a word of warning for the children: when you paint with water, it will disappear!

Paint with a matchbox car with rough wheels. Use tempura paint on a Styrofoam plate. Roll the wheels in the paint. Make the number of the day by “driving” the car on the plate.

Tip: put the paper inside a box lid of some kind (a flat one with shallow sides) so that the car (and paint) will be stopped at the edges of the paper instead of going everywhere.

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When teaching the math principle called “one-to-one correspondence”, it is important to involve physical development, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and making it something they delight in – all at the same time! Then they will get it much faster.

**Count while Eating**

They can count each cheerio, or each green bean. Before they realize it, they are understanding subtraction! It gets the brain wired for math as a toddler. They may not know it, of course; but one day it will click.

**Tick Tock Game**

Also mentioned in our previous post on math, this game can be used to teach one-to-one correspondence. It involves the body and balance. When they say the number, lift a finger and have them jump. As a rule, only go as high as they are old (until the age of 5).

**Counting Steps**

Also, again, count when going up steps. Always go in order. Every time you go up steps, no matter where you are, count them. This actually teaches all three principles: stable order, one-to-one correspondence, and cardinal.

Once they have gotten all principles – the foundations of math – then you can play with it more. Tape numbers on the stairs, starting with 1 on the first step at the bottom. For instance, go up three and take the taped number (3) off the step. Then say, “What is 3 take away 1?” looking down to step number 2. This is a way of getting math into their very muscles.

**The Coffee Can**

Take a coffee can. (Be careful it’s one with a lip and thin edge at the top – otherwise some may be sharp.) Begin with infants dropping things in one object at a time. Say “In” each time it goes in. Say “Out” each time an object comes out. If the child is doing it themselves, the infant body is learning one-to-one correspondence.

When they are older, you can use clothes pins without springs. For any “oral” (3-4 or under) child, cut a 1 to 1 ½ inch hole in the top so that only one clothes pin can fit in at a time. Drop the clothes pin in, counting each time one enters.

As they get still older, change the game by making the opening in the lid a slit rather than a hole. The ends of frozen juice containers (washed, of course!) can be pushed through. Or if a can opener leaves a smooth edge on the can top that it cuts off (so that it is safe for a kid to handle), this can be pushed through the slit as well. This can be used in the same way as the clothes pins, but by using these objects their finger muscles will be strengthened.

Finally, with older kids, take two stickers that look the same and put them on two lids. And two more, making another pair of lids, and so on. Then the child can find a matching pair before putting them in the coffee can.

**A Few More Ideas**

Here is another tool to have in your “tool kit”: When going somewhere that you know they’ll be reluctant to leave, ask them to choose one activity to end with and have a count down. For instance, if you are at a park, it may be swings to end with. If the child understands the “stable order principle” (principle #1) well enough, you can count down pushes on the swings. The numbers correspond in a one-to-one manner with the pushes.

Another idea is to pick a number and have a number for the day. Do things that day in that amount. For instance, if the number of the day is 3, the child might eat 3 beans, and then have 3 more. He might wear 3 socks! Or swing 3 times. Or jump 3 times. (You get the picture.) By the end of the day, they will have the idea engrained – usually. The idea is to reinforce just one number all day long.

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A counting worm is an engaging game for teaching numbers to preschoolers. Make your counting worm out of an egg carton. Cut one strip of 6 cups. This will be your worm. Draw a face on one end, and add pipe-cleaner antenna if you want. Write the numbers 1 through 6 on each of the bumps on his back. Be sure to write neatly and clearly since your kids are just beginning to learn their numbers. Cut a second strip of 6 cups apart into individual cups. This will be your worm’s “clothes.” On the back of each of these cups, draw dots, 1 through 6. Draw them in the same pattern that dots are drawn on dice. The numbers are easier to recognize in that pattern.

Start your game with a story. Say, “This is the counting worm. He’s getting ready to go to school, but he needs your help getting dressed. These are his clothes (point to the cups with the dots on them). This has one dot, so it goes on the number one. Which one goes on the number two?”

After you have gotten the worm all “dressed,” have the worm move to go to school. Then tip him over so that his clothes fall off, and say, “Oh no! It’s windy, and his clothes blew off! Can you help him put his clothes back on?” Your child will probably only have patience for this to happen once.

Another variation is to hide one of the cups with dots behind your back, and have your child try to figure out which one is missing. A preschooler will probably need to get the worm dressed in order to see which one is missing.

This is a good follow-up game after you have been doing lots of counting with your child so that he understands counting and one-to-one correspondence. Count stairs when you go up and down. Count green beans or carrots at meals. Count bean bags that you throw.

You can introduce the written numbers by making soft pretzels in the shape of the numbers or making them with play dough. You can also make sandpaper numbers. Use an index card, write the number in glue, and then shake sand onto the glue. When it’s dry, you can take your child’s index finger and help him trace the number in the same way that he would write it. This engages the child kinesthetically to help him learn the numbers.

When a child can count and has been introduced to the written numbers, it’s a great time to play the counting worm game. Have fun!!

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