Category Archives: Math

Dot Marker Counting Cards

I made some quick counting cards and J used the dot markers to fill in the correct number of dots in each rectangle.  I got the initial idea at Children’s Learning Activities (I just can’t find the exact post).

This could also easily be done with stickers, stamps, finger prints, candy/manipulatives.  Change up the material you use and toddlers think you’ve given them a brand new activity!

Counting Clovers

This activity was done with no prep (it seems most of our activities this month are no prep since I’m crazy busy getting ready for a baby). 

I cut out the squares while J counted how many we had ( cut out 9 of them).  We then numbered them together (and he decided to make a number line with them).  I explained to J how to make clovers using a green marker and green circle stickers.  I used directional words like left, right and above (or sometimes “on top”) when describing where the stickers should be placed.  I also used this activity to practice ordinal numbers (first, second, third). 

At first I drew the stem myself and he added the stickers.  He counted and told me when I had made enough stems to match the number written on each square.   Then he made the stems himself too.  I actually didn’t have a lot of stickers left so he also used a green dot marker to create some clovers.

Age attempted: 35 months

Lucky Charms Math

I gave him a little bowl of Lucky Charms cereal and first had him sort the marshmallows using the sorting printout here.  I actually had a bowl of cereal to sort myself.  I’ve found this often helps J stay focused and work more independently.  Sometimes if he’s doing an activity with me just sitting there next to him, he’ll ask for my help more often.  If I have my own activity to work on, he’s fine doing this by himself.  It’s also a great way to teach something new since I’m basically modeling what to do (and helped a lot when we did the charting later). 

After sorting the marshmallows, he graphed them using the chart here.  We practiced reading the graph to find out how many marshmallows he had in each category (without actually counting), and quickly determine which category had the most and the least. 

 J did really well on this.  He waited so patiently to eat his marshmallows (I did let him eat the broken ones and the cereal as we sorted). 

Here’s another chart that would work well for coloring, but there’s not enough space for actually charting the marshmallows.

Age attempted: 35 months

Nesting Dolls

Last Christmas when I brought out our decorations, I found a set of Russian nesting dolls (don’t ask me why they were mixed in our Christmas decor).  J loved them (age 20 months).  That same year his grandma got him a cute set of nesting animals in his stocking that he’s played with all that year. 

To me, nesting dolls are a step up from the nesting cups all pretoddlers love to play with.  Nesting dolls are a little more advanced since they have to open and close each one.  They provide great practice with size recognition, help you work on size comparison like smallest/largest, smaller/larger, large, medium, small,… 

At 33 months they are still within his developmental level and keep his attention well.  Maybe this is a “toy” you have around your home and have overlooked it just like I did.

Toddler’s First Chart

This is another of my beloved sticker activities (gotta love cheap, easy and educational!).  J did this on one of our plane trips and it worked beautifully. 

Sorry the picture isn't very clear; I was using my iphone on a dark plane

Prep: I created a box chart for J to fill in with the number of columns corresponding to the number of colors I had on a sticker sheet.   Since he was charting colors and this was the first time he had ever charted anything, I outlined each box in the correct color.  Honestly I think I made it too easy for him with this.  I just didn’t want to be stuck on the plane with him getting frustrated by an activity that was too difficult.  Sadly I underestimated him!

I gave J the long sheet of smiley face stickers of all different colors and he was throughly focused on charting them.  The sticker sheet had different shades of each color, so it was also good practice combining the various shades of purple/green.  After he was finished, I had him point out the longest line and the shortest line and explained how this helped us gather information about the stickers (which had the most and the least).  We then counted and labeled each bar to see if our deductions were correct.  Of course, he didn’t understand it all completely.  That’s ok.  To me, it’s a matter of introducing words and concepts that we’ll build on as he gets older. 

Look through your sticker collection to see what you can chart!

Age Attempted: 32 months

Homemade Gift: Magnetic Foam Frames

J made these to give to some of our family as a Christmas gift.  This was a homemade gift he could feel completely responsible for and KNOW that he created it himself. 

Materials: Foam, Magnetic plastic frame (from dollar store), Stickers, Buttons, Googly Eyes, Post-It Notes, Glue

Prep: I cut out the foam frames and gathered materials for J to choose from to create his gifts. **You can also buy prepackaged foam frame crafts and just add the fridge photo magnet on the back yourself.**

We had 4 frames to complete as gifts, so J chose the color for each recipient and the materials to decorate it with.  This also meant that one set of materials weren’t used (he didn’t choose the googly eyes this time).  I helped make sure he was spelling his name correctly on frames (all except one, which he declared was for Grandpa and would hold a picture of Grandma since he loved her so much… hence no need for J’s name on the frame!).  The only other involvement I had in the process was some encouragement to practice creating a pattern with the buttons.  He’s all about patterns right now though so not much need to push with that!

He also didn’t complete all the frames at one time.  After he finished a couple and chose the materials for the others, I packed some up for him to complete on the plane.  This was a great activity to do on a plane, little packing, light-weight and kept him focused.

I was so surprised to see how symmetrical he designed the frame with bubble stickers, maybe he’s finally getting out of that stage where he wants to stack stickers on top of each other! 

After everything had dried, I glued a magnetic frame (bought at a dollar store) onto the back so the frames could be placed on a fridge and photos could be traded out easily. **Be sure you don’t glue the frame closed so that photos can be changed out later.**

Age attempted: 33 months

Build a Snowman Sequencing Activity

This is one of the winter-themed activities J did.  I found a picture on Google Images and cut the pieces apart for J to put in order.  This is simple prep work but great practice in sequencing. 

Here are the images I used (including two different sets of snowmen). Build A Snowman Sequencing Activity

Age attempted: 32 months

If you DON’T like traditional shape cookies, try these!

I never posted about our Christmas cookie baking, but we sure did A LOT of it.  I think baking is one of those activities where they can learn a lot (if we slow down enough to let them) and where they see a great reward for their efforts. 

Of course it’s easier, cleaner and faster to mix up the cookie dough on your own, but I’ve found that the majority of learning comes from allowing J to help mix the dough.  He “reads” the recipe, gathers the ingredients and then measures them, allowing him to practice tons of skills. 

We of course made the traditional sugar cookies where we rolled the dough out, J cut them into fun shapes and then decorated to his hearts content.  This is NOT my favorite type of baking!  J loved it, but it’s honestly quite stressful to me.  I try to stay calm, but I’d just rather not deal with the rolling and the cutting.  I think J would have as much fun with playdough and mom wouldn’t have the mess afterwards. (And I don’t even like the taste of this these cookies either!)

We honestly might stick to playdough in the future. BUT all cookie baking is not lost.  We did have lots of fun baking other types of cookies (or I should say we BOTH had fun with other cookies).

My favorite type of cookies to make with J this year were those with a “surprise” inside.  Once I realized how perfect these were for J’s age and ability level, this is mostly what we made to give away to neighbors and teachers. 

I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet and J pressed each ball with the back of a teaspoon, creating a small hole.  He could then “bury” a surprise inside each cookie and I helped him cover it up with the dough.  This was right at his ability level and he loved it.  We buried Rolos, Reeces Pieces, Reeces PB Cups, Chocolate Kisses, and M&Ms (not all in the same cookie!).  I also let him sprinkle crushed toffee and confectionary sugar on top of some which he liked. 

And the good news is they taste great afterwards.  You can hide them in basically any type of cookie dough and it will taste good. 

Age attempted: J first helped with Christmas baking when he was 20 months; this year at 32 months he could do A LOT more

So here are some of the recipes we tried for Christmas:

Million Dollar Caramel Cookies (These were by far my favorite!)

Snowball Surprises

PB Surprise Cookies (basically chocolate chip cookie dough but hide PB cup, M&Ms, Rolos, whatever candy you want inside)

Molten Lava Cookies

**I hope these are the same recipes I used; I just did a online search for the names of each, but the pictures looked very similar in all cases… that should count for something right!**

Stringing Buttons

Iphone photo from plane trip

This is an activity J has done both at home and on airplanes.  I found a big bag of colorful buttons, in different sizes.  Set out some string and he was focused threading them for 30 minutes at least.  This is a good fine motor skill activity.  J is a very organized little boy so he typically wants to sort the buttons by color, matching each with the corresponding color string…. which meant mom had to track down string to match each button :) 

We’ve also tried stringing the buttons by size but this hasn’t been J’s favorite activity.  He’d much rather sort colors.  It’s still a great practice activity to try.  I’ll bring it out again after awhile.  If you do plan on sorting by size, I would start with a just a few buttons and as your little one excels increase the number of buttons to sort and/or decrease the difference in sizes. 

Traveling:  We started using this activity on planes when J was old enough to keep track of the buttons.  We keep them in a ziploc and he takes out one at a time.  I only bring the larger buttons with us and he strings them on  pipe cleaners instead of string.  I like multiple uses for travel toys and pipe cleaners offer lots of other uses.

Lesson learned: Using pipe cleaners to thread is much easier than using string.  This makes activities like this (or stringing beads, stringing sponges ) possible for younger ones. You can bend down the sharp ends of the pipe cleaners.

Age attempted: 27 months

Homemade Game using Magnetic Pompoms

We recently played this game and I wanted to hurry and get it posted in case anyone out there was making Magnetic Pompoms to give as a Christmas gift.  All you have to do is add dice to the gift for an extra activity!

What you need:  Magnetic pompoms (or any type of marker really, dot markers, M&Ms, coins,…); Magnetic surface, Die (I found extra large foam dice at Target for $2), and your playing board of choice (you will need enough for each player to have their own board) 

How to play:  1st player rolls the die and gets to place that number of pompoms onto their board.  2nd player follows. Continue until someone fills all spaces on their board with pompoms to win.

Simple enough!  This is a good way to encourage counting and even basic addition and subtraction if wanted.  Obviously the greater number of empty spaces on your board, the longer the game will last (and the more counting practice).  You can use multiple dice at a time to encourage higher counting if your game board has enough empty spaces.  Add a color spinner for an extra element of fun and some color matching (they must use both the correct number of pompoms AND in the correct color). 

Scroll to the bottom of this link for lots of board options to choose from or you can make your own!

Age attempted: 31 months (if they can count to 6, they can play this game)