Toys on the Grid

What You Need:

  • Square sticky notes
  • Small toy figures (students can bring a small toy from home)


What You Do:

  1. Have students work in pairs for this activity. First, have them create a grid on the surface of the table using nine sticky notes—three across and three down.
  2. Invite one student in each pair to place a toy on one of the squares.
  3. Then invite the other student to place a second toy on a different square.
  4. Ask the first, “Suppose your toy wants to go visit your partner’s toy. How would you get there?”
  5. Challenge them to describe the path of travel using their own words or by drawing arrows on a piece of paper. For example, a student might say, “My toy has to move two squares down and one square over.”
  6. Before students can move their toy, their partner has to say whether or not they agree with the plan. Once both students in the pair agree that they have a good plan, the first child may move their toy to visit their partner’s toy, following the step-by-step plan they already verbalized or wrote down.
  7. Next, have all children place their toys in new positions. Let the other child in each pair have a turn determining the path to the other toy.
  8. Ask students to count how many steps it took to get from one position to another. Challenge them to find new positions for the toys that will require a greater number of steps.
Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.

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