Want to help your preschooler get comfortable with math? Get out the grab bag! This hands-on game helps kids learn to associate numbers with sets of objects—a key early math skill. And all you need is a set of index cards, pennies, and a paper lunch sack.
What You Do:
Prepare: Gather 10 index cards and write a different number, from 1–10, on each. Get your child’s help on this part. When each card has a number, fold it in half and throw it into the lunch bag.
Play: Give your child some pennies to use as counters.(Buttons or small blocks also work well, if your piggy bank is looking a little slim!) Ask your child to close her eyes and pick a card from the grab bag. Once she’s chosen a card, she should open it up, look at the number, and then use her counters to show the quantity written on the card. For example, if your child picks the number 5 from the grab bag, she should place five pennies next to the numeral card.
This game may seem very basic, but it’s actually a pretty big leap for young children to move from simply naming the numbers, to associating them with objects in the physical world. As an added bonus, it makes for a great independent activity when you’ve got a few minutes to fill, and it reinforces one-to-one correspondence, which is just a fancy term for being able to match numeral symbols to their appropriate quantities.
As your child matures, up the grab bag ante with larger numbers, such as 11 to 20. And as she takes her first steps towards reading, make a set of cards that features both numerals and their names.
Latrenda Knighten has spent 19 years teaching in a variety of elementary school classrooms, from kindergarten through fifth grade. For nine of those years, she taught kindergarten. She also served as an elementary school math and science specialist. She lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.