Monday, September 3, 2012

Math Games with Animal Counters

My twins (age 3) are obsessed with little animal figures.  Somehow we've ended up with hundreds of them!  When we moved, I rediscovered a tub of 60 plastic animal counters (5 each of 12 animals), and the girls begged to play with them all week.   Here are some easy games I came up with to reinforce math and logic skills for my Preschoolers...

Animal Parade (fine motor, sorting, counting, skip counting)

E immediately started sorting the animals and lining them up.  She repeated this 'game' over and over and over while singing a Barney song about a big parade.  It was good fine-motor practice to get all the animals to stand and line up correctly.  We counted the number of animals in each set and the number of rows/columns.  Once we had located all 5 animals of each type, we counted all the animals individually, and then I tried to introduce skip counting by 5s and 10s (5-10-15-20-25-30..etc..).  I've been integrating skip counting into our daily play, and although I'm not sure the kids quite understand it yet, I'm sure the constant exposure to it will help the concept sink in eventually.

Hand Full of Animals (counting, comparing quantities)

When L was playing with our animal counters, I asked her how many animals she thinks she can grab with one hand:

She pulled out a large handful and we laid them out and counted them.  Then I grabbed a handful of animals and we counted them to see who had the most animals.  L enjoyed repeating this and seeing if she could beat her record.

For each round, after the animals were sorted and counted, I asked additional quantitative comparison questions like: Are there more elephants or tigers?  Which group has the most/least animals.

Animals in a Row (relative position, ordinal numbers, memory, odd/even)

During our play, I put 5 or 6 animals in a row and asked the girls some questions:  Who is 1st/2nd/3rd/last in line?  Which animal is behind / in front of the giraffe?  Which animal is between the hippo and wildebeest?  Which animal is the tallest?  etc..  I showed them how to use both hands to point to the animals starting from the ends to see which animal is in the middle (this is an intro to odd/even numbers).  We also played a variation where I asked them to close their eyes and I hid an animal and asked them which one was missing.  Another variation involved naming the animals in order a couple times, and then I mixed them up and asked the girls to put them in the right order again.  They could do this with 3 animals, but more than that was too tricky.

The novelty of the animal counters has worn off, so they're in hiding for a couple weeks in order to generate maximum excitement for the next time I bring them out.  I enjoyed playing next to my kids as they explored the animal counters, and then integrating the math activities spontaneously into our play.

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed early math "games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!

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