Learning with Lucky Charms and Leprechauns

There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day when the Irish in me makes me wants to make sure I’m decked out in my green, dance a little jig, and whip up the obligatory corned beef and cabbage for dinner (just like my mom used to make). Although those may be on the agenda, we’re also all about having some fun by playing with food and reading a little bit about those mischievous leprechauns…

5 Math Games with Lucky Charms

1. EstimateEstimate Cereal

You could estimate how many pieces are in the snack bowl (3 or 300?) or estimate how many broken pieces will be at the bottom of the snack bowl. Estimating plays a key role as children develop their number sense. It’s important that children know they aren’t expected to be exactly right when they estimate. In simple terms, estimating means making a good guess. This is hard concept for younger children to grasp, but you can certainly introduce it and talk about what that means. You can reinforce to kids (especially those who tend to be perfectionists) that it’s okay for your estimation to be different than the actual number. They aren’t expected to be exactly “right!”

You may notice children’s number sense developing when they look at a group of five and know what 5 is without counting each one. Keep encouraging this skill if you see it!

2. Make Cereal Patterns

There are two kinds of patterns we can focus on:

1. Repeating patterns: When multiple items repeat. Teachers may label them AB patterns (blue, red, blue, red) or ABB patterns (blue, red, red, blue, red, red) or ABC patterns (blue, red, yellow, blue, red, yellow), etc.

2. Growing patterns: When you see items expanding, such as: 1 red, 2 blue, 3 yellow, etc. (or 2, 4, 6, etc.)

Let you child see what patterns they come up with independently. See what different patterns they can create with the cereal and what characteristics or attributes set them apart (cereal vs. marshmallows, cereal with holes or without holes, cereal with pointy edges or curved lines, etc.)

You can start one, let them continue the pattern. One characteristic of a pattern is that it continues forever, so one could never really be “finished!”

3. Graph the Marshmallows Graphing Cereal

Sort marshmallows and line them vertically OR horizontally to create a graph (flexible thinking). We used a cooling rack set upside down on top of a white piece of paper to see the grid marks. You could then use crayons to color in the squares and/or write the numbers in the squares.

Ask questions:

  • Which kind of marshmallow did we have the most of?
  • How many shamrock hats and stars?
  • Mow many more/fewer ____ than ____?

4. Skip CountSkip Counting Cereal

Count out groups of 10, 5, or 2, and practice skip counting the cereal.

5. Create Word Problems

You can definitely adapt this to whatever your child is learning about or as a review to add, subtract, multiply, or divide numbers. Use different wording so children become exposed to different vocabulary.

Examples:

  • My mom gave me 5 marshmallows and my dad gave me 2. How many do I have altogether?
  • If I have 12 shamrock hats and I give 6 (or half) away to my brother, how many do I have now?
  • We had 24 pieces of cereal and wanted to split it into 6 equal groups. How many would each person have?

Addition vocabulary: in all, altogether, total, combine, join, plus, total, sum, more

Subtraction vocabulary: minus, less, subtract, take away, give away, fewer, difference

Multiplication: product, groups of, multiplied by, times, arrays (make grids of __ x __ pieces)

Division: share equally, quotient, equal groups

Teacher Tip: Whenever possible, encourage your child to practice answering your questions in complete sentences. If you ask, “If I had 13 pieces of cereal, and I gave away 6, how many pieces of cereal would I have left?” Encourage them to say, “I would have 7 pieces left.” This is helping them to build their oral language skills and helping them understand what a sentence is.

Reading: Comparing the Leprechauns

And why IS that leprechaun always after the Lucky Charms? What are leprechauns all about? Find out together. Whether you find books at the library, bookstore, or you already have some of your own, one extension you can take is looking at or comparing character traits of the leprechauns. Perhaps they are:

  • mischievous
  • greedy
  • sneaky
  • mean
  • nice
  • silly
  • curious

How do you know? Find out where in the book or how your child knows the leprechaun is sneaky. What did the leprechaun do or say to make you think that? Find the “evidence” in the book.

Here are a few of my favorite St. Patrick’s Day stories (contains affiliate links):

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Learning with Lucky Charms and Leprechauns

Valentine’s Day Scavenger Hunt

I love scavenger hunts. I am also a big believer that the little things in life can make a big difference.

Last year for my husband’s birthday, I found this scavenger hunt.  I wrote each clue on a post-it note and attached the notes to birthday cards that had been sent in the mail (I had been hording all of them!). It was perfect for us because the clues took you to spots all around the house- easy set up! We don’t usually do a big celebration for our birthdays, but I think even this small sentiment helped show hubby/daddy how much we love him and that we wanted to make his birthday special. As much fun as it was for him (he’s a big kid at heart), my four-year-old thought it was the BEST thing ever! Watching her joy made it even more memorable.Set up collageRemembering how much she loved the birthday hunt, I was inspired to make one for our Valentine’s activities. There’s a little note of praise and then a rhyme directing the reader to the next location (all places in the house).

Just click HERE to get the pdf. Then print, cut, hide the clues, and you are ready to go. Easy as pie!

The most detailed part of planning a scavenger hunt (at least for me) is piecing together which clue goes where. So I’ve also taken out the guesswork! If you use the printout, the column on the right is the “cheat sheet,” which tells you where to hide that clue. I just cut off each one as I stuck them into their place.

When my daughter was finished with quiet time in her room, I gave her the first clue, and we were off!

She’s at the beginning stages of learning to read, so I read most of them aloud. I did encouraged her to read some of the words I knew she could read (“K, look at this line. Point to a word (or words) you know!”). She looked for beginning sounds too. It’s all about meeting your child where they are and then nudging them just a bit towards growth. After we worked through the phrase, I would read the clue again fluently (so it sounded like talking). That way she could better listen for the missing rhyming word. There were a couple of clues that she got stuck on, so I would just give her the beginning sound. Rhymes have the same ending sound, so this was enough. Saying the missing word very slowly by breaking up each sound (ex: for spoon, say “sssss-p-oooooo-nnn.”) then having your child blend the word together is also a great skill to practice! (Teacher Tip: p makes the sound /p/….not puh.)HuntWe were up and down, back and forth, and finally, we got to the last clue! We happened to find last-minute tickets to the circus, so since K didn’t know about them, I just put that on a note at the end as the “surprise.”  Do whatever works for you– a Valentine’s card, a coupon for something special, stickers, a book, a craft, or special snack. It doesn’t matter; they’ll just have fun on the search! She immediately wanted to do it again! If you have a Valentine’s card from you, friends, neighbors, grandparents, etc., you could also tape some of the clues to them just for added fun.Last clue

Why Rhyme?

In a nutshell, rhyming is an important pre-reading skill to set children up for reading success. By identifying rhyming words (even nonsense words like roo and scoo or dap and blap), children are building a foundation for reading (they are developing their phonemic awareness). Children are working on playing and changing parts of words when they rhyme. It’s part of the puzzle- just as we need to know that letters make sounds, and sounds make words.

As you know, rhyming words have the same ending sound, but they aren’t always spelled alike. Discovering all of the rules about spelling can make for great conversation for more skilled rhymers, AND in the case when rhyming words are spelled alike (like fly and sky), children CAN use the information they know about rhymes in their spelling. If a child can spell say, they could also spell pay, and play, and spray, and hay, and day!

And aren’t rhymes fun?! They are in so many places- songs, taglines, books, poems, etc. You could go on a looking or listening scavenger hunt just for rhymes!

Valentine's Day Scavenger Hunt

 

Stocking Stuffers for Little Learners

We’ve been busy this week in our house. I am feeling the surge of holiday energy. I love this time of the year– Christmas carols on the radio, holiday baking, the detailed planing, and the waiting. I actually love the excitement in the waiting. With Christmas nearly a week away, I feel like we have a handle on the gift situation for our children, but the stocking stuffers always seem to be a last-minute to-do…and then we end up wasting money buying random odds and ends that just end up getting lost or tossed within a few short months. So, here are some stocking stuffer ideas that will encourage learning for your little ones all year long:

For Reading and Writing:

 1. A mini Magna-Doodle:

These are great for car rides or throwing in a bag to serve as a distraction while you wait (at the doctor’s office, at a restaurant, etc.). You can use it to practice drawing shapes, forming letters, writing sight words, or working on math facts.

2. Books!!!

3. A book light or a head lamp:

This is one of those “worked for us” ideas. My husband and daughter were shopping at Home Depot one day, and my daughter caught a glimpse of a (princess themed) headlamp. We purchased it later for some occasion, but she thinks it’s the coolest gadget. After lights-out, we let her look at books in bed until she crashes. I feel like it’s been a great encouragement to keep up her interest in books.

4. Mad Libs:

Laughs guaranteed! These activity books are chocked-full of fill-in-the-blank stories to create together. You fill in the blanks with nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. to make up a story. The sillier, the better! You can find them at Target or Walmart in the book section, on Amazon, or in book stores. AND you can work in a conversation about different “parts of speech”– a noun is a person, place, thing, or animal, a verb is an action word, an adjective is a describing word, etc.

5. A magazine subscription:

Highlights or High Five, National Geographic Kids or Ranger Rick, there are several magazine subscription options out there for children. I love that these gifts come throughout the year too, and they serve as an alternative to reading story books…so it mixes up the reading routine.

6. Finger puppets, puppets, or figurines:

Children can use these props to act out stories they have heard or create stories of their own.

Math:

deck of cards1. “Uno” or a deck of cards:

Some of the classic card games certainly tie in math skills:

  • “Go Fish” (number matching)
  • *Alternative: Play “Go Fish for 10”– Instead of matching two identical numbers, a “pair” is defined as a way to make 10 by adding (and/or subtracting) the two numbers. For example, 4 and 6 are a pair and  9 and 1  are a pair because each equals 10. You can make aces 0. Face cards can be removed from the deck or just make them 10 or make them a “Wild Card” where the player names its value (*great extension activity).
  • Play “War” (identifying greater than and less than)

watch2. A watch:

It doesn’t have to be fancy, and there are lots of colors, character options, and styles out there for even young children. If your child is learning to tell time, it’s fun to able to have the responsibility of having the “job” of being the “time keeper.” (Then they can help be your time keeper for getting out the door on time, etc.!). If your child is already a pro at reading a digital clock, give them a nudge and opt for an analog style (with clock hands). This would definitely be one way to work on those time telling skills!

2181507059_aa6828425d_o3. A “Big Kid” measuring tool:

  • Have a handy helper? What about a measuring tape, level, or ruler? (These tools can encourage math skills that your child might need in his or her first grade classroom but also as a life skill.)
  • A little sous chef? How about a set of measuring cups or spoons so they can help you out in the kitchen!
  • Have one who thrives on a schedule (or doesn’t and needs a little help understanding time)? Consider a special calendar to track the months of the year and the days of the week. You can count down days up until a certain event and practice reading the words calendar (also a skill they need will need for life!)

colored pencilsOf course, new school or art supplies are also easy and practical–a new box of crayons, markers, a mini notebook or Post-It pack for writing/drawing, or special sharpened pencils would make it even more fun to head back to school in January!

Stocking Stuffers for Little Learners