This is a game I use when kids have to wait or need a fun distraction. All you need are 5 small objects such as pennies, buttons, cheerios or candy. It works best for 3 1/2-5 year olds.
First, choose a number and have your child tell you how many objects are in your hand. When they can do that successfully, you can start the game.
Tell your child that you're going to play a guessing game and that the number of objects will remain the same, but you're going to hide your hands behind your back and divide them up. Ask your child to pick a hand. Reveal the objects in the hand they chose. Have them count again. Then hold up the other hand with the objects hidden in your fist and ask them to guess how many are in there.
This is really hard for them at first so you might have to start with just 2 objects or wait a couple of months and try again. When they get the hang of it they're actually using both addition and subtraction to get the answer. Challenge them as they get older by adding more and more objects to the mix!
This is a great example of a hands on math activity that's both fun and challenging. Even better, it's completely portable and can be done practically anytime or anyplace.
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Nanci J Bradley, BA education, MA human development, is an early childhood and family educator, author and all around fun loving person who believes in the power of sleep, nutrition, lifelong learning, SELF care and more than anything else, PLAY!