We are heading right in to the hottest months of the year here in Florida. The can't go outside without sweating..burn your hands on the steering wheel..hand me another pop-sickle months. When I was growing up in Texas, the weather was pretty similar. One year me and my friend fried eggs on the asphalt..and it worked perfectly.
Outdoor play can be a HUGE boost for academic and physical skills. When kids are free to explore, play, tinker with nature and fry eggs on the pavement- they learn so much! But when it is so hot outside, kiddos tend to take their play indoors during the hottest part of the day. This doesn't mean that the free-range learning has to stop! Indoor play can be just and enriching, especially if you set up the right environment.
This month we will be talking all about setting up learning environments for your child. This is definitely not as difficult, time consuming or expensive as you might think. And the best part? Once you place the materials for your child to discover..your work is done!
Below are some of my favorite things to keep around to help your child explore and discover math concepts. In my opinion they beat flashcards and practice problems any day!
Blocks are AWESOME for learning while playing. Building with blocks helps increase spacial skills which are essential in geometry. Think about all the perimeter, area, volume and shape problems that come home as homework. Increased spacial awareness and skills can help your child master these concepts. Looking at a shape on paper and having to answer math questions about it is infinitely more difficult when you haven't seen the shape in real life.
Make sure your child has blocks available to play with and let them handle the rest.
Counters can take many shapes and forms. Counters are anything that your child can use to physically represent a number. I use everything from dried beans to circle "school style" counters when i am working with my students. When your child plays with counters they will explore concepts such as patterns, grouping, sorting and much more.
Having real or fake money around for you child to play with is definitely a plus. If a child is exposed to money and able to buy things with it (or simulate buying things) they will grasp money concepts much faster in the classroom. Think about getting a toy cash register or Monopoly Jr. game. The more exposure your child has to money the better.
Want to take their natural money learning to the next level? Give your child an allowance or payment for doing chores around the house. Help them pick out something they would like to buy then help them count their money every week until they have enough to make their purchase.
Fractions are usually a difficult concept for children to grasp at first. Since the splitting of a whole number is pretty abstract, most teachers show physical representations of how fractions work. What's fun about fractions is that you can use a lot of yummy and fun things to represent them. You can get play pizzas, pies or other foods that your child can split in to pieces and then put back together. Even supplying paper and scissors for your child to cut in to smaller chunks will work.
If you want your child to begin grasping fractions and how they can be equivalent, I would suggest making or purchasing fraction tiles. The tiles are usually bright and fun to play with even before formal fraction instruction has occurred.
Throw some measuring tools in with your child's toys. Tape measures, rulers, scales anything that gives some type of measurement. When your child uses these in their play they will be exposed to the concept of measuring weight or length.
If you are playing with water or sand throw in some measuring cups. Exposure to the act of measuring will help your child grasp measurement concepts.
There are plenty more math toys and materials out there. The ones listed above are my favorite because they are fun and can be incorporated in to imaginative play without a parent having to facilitate. What are your favorite math tools/toys to keep around the house?