Saturday, July 9, 2011

Counting in the Kitchen

Disclaimer: we had just returned home from the city pool and the kids decided they wanted a bedtime snack before taking baths, so they were running around in their underwear while we had the snack. I am not normally the type to let the kids run around in their undies, let alone photograph them in such a state. Just so you know...

While the snack (quesadillas) was cooking on the stove, I decided now would be as good a time as any to practice meaningful counting (that is, when you count a group of objects, the number you "end on" corresponds to how many there are - so that the number 3 has meaning).

I just started playing a game with my fingers - I hid both hands behind my back, chose some fingers to hold up, then whipped them out and asked Little E to tell me how many there were. Lately we have been talking about how "5 is our one hand number, and 10 is our two hands number". So to mix things up I made sure to have fingers from each hand and to avoid sequential fingers. E did really well counting the fingers, and he seems to really understand that when he finishes, that number means "how many there are" - although he does like to get goofy with his counting sometimes and purposely mixes up his numbers. He thinks he's hilarious. Silly kid.

Then we moved on to "which hand has more fingers standing up" which E was really goo at spotting, and we reinforced meaningful counting by having him count each hand and then we would say "4 is more than 3" or whatever. When I held up all five fingers on each hand and asked "which hand has more," E surprised me by pointing to both hands. I don't know if I was more surprised that he knew they each had the same, or if I was surprised because he did t know how to describe the situation with words (he is usually quite loquacious - if he doesn't know how to tell us something, he usually makes up a new way to tell us). So I told him the had "the same" number of fingers and that led us to talk about number conservation (that 3=3, even if you've got apples and oranges... Or kiwis in our case).

I set out three apples and three kiwis and asked E which there were more of, apples or kiwis. You may remember we did this with our sensory tub a while ago with the beans. True to form, E picked the apples. Then we paired them up together, counted them, and discovered there were the same amount of each.

Meaningful counting and number conservation and two very important pre-math skills (remember one-to-one functions from algebra?). Developing these math skills while kids are still young will help them tremendously later in life. Now is the time for us to build all those processes in the brain.

I love doing activities that require nothing but me and the kids and whatever is within reach. You could do this activity with toy cars and balls. Or toothbrushes and hairbrushes, or pillows and blankets.

How do you find ways to play and learn?

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Find more great preschool activities over at

I Can Teach My Child

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