A sculpture that can help you learn about math? This snowy winter art activity will help your young child better understand basic math concepts such as counting and simple addition or subtraction equations. Design and create an art igloo out of clay and other fun materials. Watch as your child learns to count, add, and subtract the individual ‘snow’ blocks.
What You Do:
- Begin by looking at an igloo. If your child has never seen an igloo before, try viewing photographs or illustrations from non-fiction books. Ask your child to describe the shapes that he sees (square or rectangle blocks and a circle shape for the structure).
- Help your child to flatten the clay. This can be done with the aid of a rolling pin. The clay does not need to be very thin. Leave some thickness for ease of moving.
- Have your child ‘carve’ blocks out of the flattened clay. This can be done with a craft stick. Drag the craft stick in a grid shape through the clay. Remind your child to think about the lines and shapes that he is creating. If the craft stick is not cutting all the way through the clay, go back over what your child has ‘carved’ with a plastic knife or a clay tool. This should be done by an adult.
- Ask your child to separate the blocks of clay. Before going any further, encourage your child to use the clay for counting and a basic math exercise. For example, line up three blocks in one pile and two in another, and then have him count the blocks. He can then choose five blocks (for the answer) and place them in another pile. If the blocks start to become misshapen do not worry. Mold the clay back to its original shape before proceeding to the next step.
- Use scissors to cut a ‘door’ or flap in the paper bowl starting at the edge. Turn the paper bowl upside down. Help your child to place glue on the outside of the bowl. This should be done in sections because the glue will dry quickly.
- Your child is now ready to add his snow blocks onto the bowl. Ask him to start at the bottom and glue on the blocks one at a time, counting as he goes along. Continue to add more glue and blocks.
When your child is finished gluing the blocks on, he will have a snowy winter igloo for indoor use. Display this seasonal art project in a prominent space, or keep it for further counting activities. For an extra sparkle, ask your child to add a little bit of silver or opal colored glitter onto the ‘snow’.
Erica Loop has an MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education. She has many years of teaching experience working in early childhood education, and as an arts educator at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.