Play is a very important part of early childhood development. Although I encourage open-ended play, one of my goals is to develop a strong foundation in math and literacy by exposing my daughter to many concepts in her early years. Incorporating toys into educational activities is a great way to target early literacy and math skills, while still having fun. My daughter rarely knows the skills I am targeting – to her, we are just playing and having fun together!
I love that Green Piñata allows me to provide my daughter with new and exciting learning materials each month. Here are some fun ways that we incorporated early math and literacy skills into play with our Green Piñata toys this month:
Sorting by Color: Learning to sort items by characteristics is an important early math skill. As adults, we sort all the time (putting away the dishes and laundry). For this activity, we used the Angles to Angles Arranging Game to sort by color. The blocks come in four colors: red, orange, green and blue. I used cardstock that matched each color and taped them together to make a sorting mat. I demonstrated how to sort first (“This block is red. Let’s find the same color paper”). My daughter quickly got the hang of it and sorted all the blocks herself.
Patterning: Learning to recognize and create patterns is another early math skill that helps build a foundation for more advanced math and literacy skills in school. I created this “invitation to pattern” using the same blocks and colored cardstock. I cut the paper into 3” x 3” squares and then taped them into pattern strips. The simplest form is an AB pattern (red, blue, red, blue), so if this is your child’s first introduction to patterns, I would start here. Once they can complete the AB patterns, you can create more advanced patterns like AAB (red, red, blue) or ABC patterns.
Counting: We incorporate counting into many activities throughout our day, but I’m always looking for new ways to make it fun for my daughter! For this simple game, we used the UFO Construction Set and the Angles to Angles Arranging Game to practice counting. I set the UFO on my kitchen turntable and gave my daughter a single die. We took turns rolling the die, counting the pips on the die, and then counting out the same number of blocks. As we counted the blocks, we balanced them on the platform of the UFO. When the UFO was full of blocks, we practiced counting backwards as we did our countdown from ten to one. Then my daughter “blasted off” the UFO by spinning the turntable and sending the blocks flying!
Alphabet Matching: Letter play is a great way to increase your child’s knowledge of the alphabet in a fun and exciting way! I wanted to focus on uppercase and lowercase letters simultaneously using the Alphabet puzzles. The mat is easy to make; simply arrange all of the lowercase letters on a copy machine and take a photocopy of them. To start the activity, I placed the uppercase letters in one of the cloth bags that our toys arrived in. One at a time, my daughter removed an uppercase letter from the bag and then found the matching lowercase letter on the mat. She had a blast with this activity and was very proud of herself when she completed the whole alphabet! To simplify the activity, try it with just one Hape puzzle and focus on uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers. Talk about each letter and the sound it makes as your child matches.
Vocabulary Matching: As I teach my daughter about early literacy, I try to include fun new ways to practice vocabulary. For our space theme, I used the Alphabet Puzzle and a copy machine to create these great vocabulary cards. My daughter found each letter on the puzzle and matched it to the letters on the card. As she completed each word, we discussed what it spelled and labeled each letter in order. The second time around, I pointed to the first few letters and started sounding out the word then let her complete it. You could use this technique to practice family member’s names, animals, or favorite toys.
What creative ways do you use toys to practice early math and literacy skills? Share with us in the comments!