Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Shopping Ideas: Preschool Math Toys and Games

Here's a nice list of toys and puzzles that develop nascent math skills. I spend a lot of time on early math skills with my toddler because the foundation she gets now is what will carry her through later. Also, I work a lot with kids who are struggling with math and I've picked up some good insights for which toys and activities help prevent some of the deficits I see from ever developing.

1. Wooden Shape Sorting Clock. This offers the chance to review shapes, colors, number order and telling time.

2.Tangrams for toddlers. Matching and following patterns is an important early math skill.

3. Number Snail Puzzle. This is a great puzzle. You really should take a look at it. It requires kids to know that 2 comes after 1 and 3 comes after 2. Also it uses more spatial skills than the usual flat puzzles to create a 3d snail sculpture. Spatial skills are important for math.

4. Infantino Matching Colors and Textures puzzle. This puzzle requires sorting and matching skills. Because there are so many pieces, you can easily split this into two separate puzzle kits to keep things fresh and avoid overwhelming younger kids with the sheer number of pieces.

5. Memory game. One of the more serious math skill deficits I see in the kids I work with is the inability to memorize anything. They can't retain information long enough to do simple calculations in their heads. Expanding their mental capacity to not only keep numbers in their head but manipulate them mentally is a big skill I work to develop in my students and in my own kids. Memory may seem like a simple game, but the math skills it develops are critical. This is a MUST have game.

6.I Spy books are a great way to hone sorting skills and visual accuracy. This simple game also engages memory by requiring kids to remember what the object they are looking for looks like and then mentally compare the one they find to the one in their head.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Song: Little Pilgrims

Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Little Pilgrim dressing in gray,
On that first Thanksgiving Day.
Little Indian dressed in brown,
Cam to visit Plymouth Town,
They both came to eat and pray,
on that first Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cooking with Toddlers: Kale Chips

In an effort to encourage vegetable consumption, I invited my toddler to make Kale Chips with me.

Kale is a 'super' green food. Full of goodness.

Meaning, kids won't touch it with a ten foot pole.

Well, Kale Chips have been a big hit with all the foodie blogs lately and the prep is toddler friendly so I thought we would give it a try.

Here's how you can take it for a spin and see if it gets your kids to eat their veggies.


1 bunch Kale
1/2 tsp Salt
2 to 3 tbsp Olive Oil


1. Wash the kale.

2.Pull green leaves off the stem and rip into bite sized pieces. My toddler was very good at this part.

3. Toss leaves with olive oil and salt. My toddler pronounced this step as 'squishy'.

4.Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375F for about 10 minutes. (These can burn fast, so keep an eye on them.)

Kale chips are crispy just like real chips but more delicate--they won't work for dipping so be forewarned. My toddler did actually eat a few which is more green vegetation than her system has seen in a while. So this recipe was a win for this mommy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Thanksgiving: Corny Cornucopia

Okay, this is not the best executed craft, but the idea is sound. I bought a bunch of food stickers from the craft store. Then, using construction paper, I made an admittedly strange looking cornucopia. The toddler then applied the food stickers and added some color with crayons.

Despite my lack of ability, this was a fun craft. We had a good time. We talked about food. We killed some time. We got the important stuff done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Games for Kids: Turkey Treats Gobble

Here's a fun and cheap game to keep kids and adults alike busy while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven. Turkey Treats Gobble is a great math game that can be adapted for either toddlers or older kids.


-Turkey clip art. I used the graphic from this site,but you can also use Google Images to find a turkey you like better. I just stuck with black and white as it's easier on the printer ink.
-Candy or other food that can be used to mark off turkeys


1.Copy paste the turkey clip art into a word document. Use narrow margins (0.5") to fit about 6 turkeys per row. Fill the page with turkeys. I was able to fit about 42 on my sheet.

2. Print your game sheets.

3.Gather your food to mark off the turkeys. M&Ms would work. Peas would too for those of us who want to be healthy. You could do a mix of candy and veggies like carrot 'coins' and tell kids they don't win unless the use all their veggies and fill the board completely.

How to Play Turkey Treats Gobble

1. Kids roll the dice and mark off turkeys in one of the following ways:

For toddlers, have them cover turkeys with treats corresponding to the number on the dice. If they rolled a 6, for example, they can mark off 6 turkeys.

Early elementary kids could use a combination of addition and subtraction to play. So if they roll a 4 and a 3, they can either mark off 7 or 1 turkeys depending on the operation they used.

Kids who have started multiplication can choose from addition, subtraction or multiplication to mark off their turkey.

2. The winner is the first person to mark off all turkeys exactly without going over, which is why subtraction is an option because, at the end, that may be the only way to fill the board. The winner gets to keep all their loot, everyone else has to start over again. Also, if you are doing the veggie thing, make sure they follow the veggie rules.

Note, I strongly suggest incorporating foods like veggies and fruits to minimize the sugar high. 42 pieces of candy before dinner = certain disaster.

3.Alternately, you can fill the board with food and kids get to eat so many pieces depending on what the dice say. This would be a sneaky way to get them to eat their veggies. The winner is the first to eat all the food on their board (including ALL the veggies. Party poopers who don't eat the veggies, can't play any subsequent rounds of the game).

4.Another alternative is to supply quarters and the winner gets to keep the money.

I really like this game for younger kids because it is a fun way to practice math facts and early math skills like correspondence counting.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn Fingerplay: 10 Red Apples

This is a charming Fall fingerplay that really revs kids up with the 'shaking' of the apple tree.

10 red apples grow on a tree (hold up all ten fingers)

5 for you and 5 for me (extend hand for a handshake.)

Let us shake the tree just so (shake the 'tree' which is your toddler)

And 10 red apples will fall below (flutter fingers as if they are apples falling down)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count your apples)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Thanksgiving: 'Hidden' Thanksgiving Picture

Just FYI, before we go any further, this toddler Thanksgiving craft requires some basic ability to draw. Amazingly I can kind of draw. Sort of. If you squint at me funny.

Are you squinting?

Okay, good.

This Thanksgiving craft is a lot of fun for kids because the picture is hidden until they cover the paper with watercolor paint.

This does require some preparation and planning so don't try to do this on the fly (this is why I'm posting at the beginning of November, so you have some time to prep). And you probably don't want to do this for more than one or two kids--the drawing is a lot of work. (I did 4 drawings for 3 kids and my hand was cramping by the time I was done.)

Oh, and I am sad to say my camera was acting up and the flash was only sporadically working, which greatly affected the photos of this craft. Sorry!


-White crayons (Some people have used white candles)
-White paper (thicker construction or sketch paper is better)
-Watercolor paints


1.With the white crayon, draw your design. Keep it simple because it's really hard to keep track of where you are and what the whole pic looks like. Don't get too complex. You are free to copy my designs but Google images works well. I looked for coloring book type images with simple lines as inspiration.

2.Have your toddler paint the paper with watercolor to reveal the picture. The white crayon 'resists' the paint.

This would also be fun to adapt for Christmas as a secret letter from Santa.