Sharpen Mental Math Skills with Imaginative Play

From a really early age, my son was a foodie. He’d eat bowlfuls of fresh, steamed mussels with shallots and white wine. He’d slurp down a potato-leek velouté, dip fresh bread into cold-pressed olive oil, and munch on crab claws. But his love for food didn’t stop at the dinner table. It also extended to his toy collection.

Every birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion that warranted a trip to the toy store, he’d want a new addition to his growing pile of plastic sushi, burgers, sandwich ingredients, and scrumptious-looking desserts.

“Great, your kid loves fancy shmancy foods . . . but what’s all this to do with mental math?” you ask.

Well, sometimes, the best ingredients for a super cool math lesson are right under your nose. With a bit of imagination (and some setup time), you’ll be having your little one doing mental math drills quicker than you can fry an egg.

Your little ones might not be foodies. But they might have a Hot Wheels collection going. Maybe they’re into gems or dinosaurs or princess attire. Or they might be totally eclectic in their taste for toys – and prefer to have a little bit of everything.

Regardless of what a trip to the toy store means for you, practice mental math where the kids have the most fun: the playroom!

Setting Up for Success

First thing’s first . . . pull out that favorite toy collection. They’re into foodie toys? Set up a grocery store, restaurant, or cake shop. They like Hot Wheels instead? Get your car dealership going. Princess attire? A royal dressmaker’s boutique is in order. You get the idea . . . simply pull together a cute, little retail outfit for whatever your child loves most. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – incorporating toys into your lesson will be more than enough to pique their interest.

Let your kiddo participate in creating the store. They’ll be sorting and ordering items and solidifying their pre-math skills while they do.

Get your hands on some old-fashioned labels with twist-ties and start labeling each item with a different value 1-10. Now, you’re all set for some role-playing math fun.

The Rules of the Trade

While you may take turns being the shopkeeper, you’re likely to find that your child prefers the role of the customer. Kids can often feel like you’re actually taking away their toys if you’re in the customer role.

As the shopkeeper, you’ve got to really play the part . . . greet the customer, introduce them to the goods, sell them on the different items with your fantastic list of adjectives, and stimulate their language skills as well.

But most of all, keep the focus on that mental math. Make sure your children understand that in each visit, they’re meant to purchase two or more items. Arm them with marbles, sequins, or other small trinkets as currency and have them add the items they’d like to purchase in their heads. If they’re the shopkeeper, they have to tell you the total sum you need to pay.

If your child is new to addition concepts, add a simple abacus to your store. That way, they can quickly add up sums and make their purchases.

Feel like they have the hang of simple addition already? Consider re-labeling your items with numbers greater than ten for some extra challenge. Or add in play coins for a lesson on money math. Whatever skill you decide to focus on, your kids will have a blast playing around!

What are some of your best tips to help little ones learn their addition facts? Share with us!

Tags : math   educational play   toddlers   

Maya Slavin
Great idea playing shop and using an abacus. I will try this!