Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom
So-called “educational” toys line the shelves of every toy store. Each gadget promises to stimulate some important quality in your child–and often includes a bunch of bells, whistles, and batteries to go along with it.
This oversaturation and planned obsolescence is not good for anyone–our children, our already full homes, or our planet.
In Simplicity Parenting, author Kim John Payne reveals that middle class children he counseled in England showed the same levels of mental and emotional overload as poor, displaced refugee children he had worked with in Southeast Asia. The reason?
Too much–of everything: books, toys, activities, lessons, and stress.
At the same time, we want helpful resources in our home–those that spark imagination and further educational goals for our children. This is especially true when it comes to a subject like math, which may not always elicit enthusiasm in the traditional (i.e. worksheets and tests) format.
Are there tools we can choose for our homeschool that inspire math study in our young children–without cluttering up our homes? Here are a few I’ve found.
1. Math Games
Photo by Hazelnut Kids
What early elementary aged child doesn’t love sitting down with Mom or Dad for a quick board game? And if it just happens to tackle numbers at the same time, all the better, right?!
And who could forget Uno, which I spent many happy hours playing with my family growing up. I love the look of Sum Swamp as well (currently on my wish list). To gather ideas for a whole host of easy math games, check out Peggy Kay’s popular book, Games for Math.
2. A Cash Register
We gave this one to my son Jonathan a few months ago when he turned six, and I am still in shock at how much it has sparked his mathematical abilities. How is it that my six-year-old can now make change from a twenty?
The toy also gave me the opportunity to discuss credit cards with the kids–because it included a pretend one. “You mean, they don’t actually want you to pay it off?”
Oh yes, I bet we’ll be having that discussion for years to come.
Of course you can also make a cash register out of some cardboard boxes. And to go with it you’ll need:
3. Play Money
Photo by amazon.com
Purists may say that children learn best with real money, and of course that makes sense. But I’m not about to let my five-year-old disappear upstairs with Mommy’s wallet–no matter what he’s learning!
A set of play money can lead to playing store, a pretend lemonade stand, and other imaginative games. I like this set from Melissa and Doug because all the bills and coins are sized and designed just like the real thing.
4. A Scale
Young children love balance scales and they can be used not only with the accompanying weights, but also to compare a variety of household objects.
Is a shell heavier than an acorn? Let’s find out!
5. Math Manipulatives
Photo by mathusee.com
It seems that every math curriculum includes a variety of manipulatives to help children with counting and visualizing math concepts. Don’t force your kids to use these only for “educational” purposes–let them make towers out of the counting bears or create stories with them as well.
We have the full set of manipulative blocks from Math-U-See–they regularly transform into airplanes and lollipops while we play at our dining table. And that’s fine!
You know your children–what bores them, what interests them, what excites them. Keep your eyes out for creative tools that will inspire math play in your own home.
What resources for math play have you discovered?