Number Gnomes!

Last Christmas, I had big plans to make some number gnomes for my kids to help them with their number recognition and basic math, like I had seen on Etsy.  Well, up until a few days ago, those unfinished wooden peg dolls sat in a box for the past twelve months! So one Sunday afternoon, while we watched football, Em and I decided that the wait was over.  Time to make some Number Gnomes!

NumberMath Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Number/Math Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

NumberMath Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Number/Math Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Number/Math Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Number/Math Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

My kids LOVE these, especially Jax! I’ve kept them on the kitchen table and he plays with them first thing in the morning.  Yesterday, he came up with a different idea, to put the answer to the math equation inside the equal cup.  So creative!


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Roll-A-Rainbow Game!

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Finally! You are ready to play!  Give the kids each some dice (be careful of the choking hazard) and let the good times roll!

Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It Roll-A-Rainbow @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I love getting ready for spring this way!  Lots of colors, high spirits, and fun for everyone.  Life is sweet!

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Coin Sorting Fun

One of my fondest memories as a child on Easter was the chaotic egg hunts we used to have in my Nana’s backyard.  There were usually at least ten cousins on hand, and it was a cross between good-natured fun and survival of the fittest.  Picture the Cornucopia scene in the Hunger Games with Easter bonnets and you get the idea.  Why was it such a competition?  Because those eggs were not full of chocolate–they were full of money: spare change, really, but there was one egg with at least a five dollar bill, if not more.  So while we understood Easter was about Jesus rising from the dead, we also knew that we better scuff up those brand new white mary janes so that we wouldn’t have a disadvantage against our cousins on Easter morning for a chance to have the most cash for penny candy.

As dysfunctional as all that sounds, it was FUN and thus I pass along this quirky tradition to my kids every year.  There is nothing that they love more than sorting coins and putting them in their piggy bank.  My dad and Jax have a game they like to play where they check out the dates of coins and sort them by year, giving certain ones “birthday parties.”  Jax eats it up and it’s one of his favorite parts about visiting Grammy and Grampy’s.  Sometimes he brings the change home with him, and on those occasions, we have to pull out everyone’s piggy banks to add to them, but really they just want to pull all their change out and sort them by size and color.  Is that weird?

Coin Sorting Math Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

So all you need to do is, using a big piece of paper, draw big circles where kids can put their dimes, quarters, pennies, and nickels separately.  I wrote the symbol and word above each circle so that could get used to recognizing both.  I started them off by putting one of each different coins in the circles so they could compare the colors and sizes as they went along, but really, they were content to do this on their own quietly and for a really long time, figuring out what belonged where and helping each other out.

IMG_0121 Coin Sorting Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It IMG_0139

Little H woke up and joined the fun, and before my mom has a heart attack about the baby swallowing pennies, I promise she was only allowed to stay as long as she had her binkie in her mouth!


She loves the sound of the change clanging inside the piggy bank as much as the others!

The kids noticed some cool things while doing this–like how some quarters have eagles and some have states.  They found a bunch of random “special” coins (money from other countries, pennies that have been flattened in those tourist machines) and they decided those needed a circle of their own.


And finally we talked about what would be the fastest way to count all the money.  I gave a quick explanation of multiplication, and although they definitely didn’t get it, they were at least impressed with how quickly I could figure out the totals!

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Popsicles & Play Dough

February vacation is here, the snow is falling like crazy, and I have had enough of my kids literally climbing all over me and telling me they’re bored.  It’s only been 2 days!  So I pulled out an old simply busy standby that we did when Em was first learning her numbers, with an added degree of difficulty for Jax: Popsicles & Play Dough!

Popsicles & Play Dough @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Basically have the kids knead and roll some play dough into a long line, then give them a bunch of Popsicle sticks numbered 1-20.  Em got 1-10 and Jax 1-20.  Then ask them to put them in order, standing upright in the play dough.

This is great for numeral recognition but also fine motor skills.  The kids learned that they had to pinch the play dough around the sticks to get them to stand up.  Then we added some extra challenges–numbers 11-20 and putting them in color order (by writing the colors on the back)–and I introduced Jax to the concepts of odds and evens by writing an O or E at the bottom of the sticks.  Differentiated fun for everyone!

Popsicles & Play Dough Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Of course when this was done they continued to play with the play dough, which I don’t usually love, but on a snowy day when they have had little more to say than I’m Bored! I was glad for some simple, quiet fun!  Only 5 more days of vacation to go!

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Legos For Counting

It’s a very straightforward way to play with math concepts, and since I can only contemplate teaching my kids math in the most fundamental ways possible, I thought it would be right up our alley.  Of course, not everyone was as enthusiastic at first…

…mostly because he and I are in the middle of a battle entitled, I’m Not Going To Eat My Lunch and Then I Will Whine All Afternoon About Being Hungry Even Thought You Told Me If I Didn’t Eat My Lunch I Wouldn’t Have Anything Else Until Dinner.  Familiar with that game?  Yeah, it’s fun.

So to distract from my four-year-old and his challenges, I pulled out a piece of paper, broke it down in nine columns and labeled each with a Lego symbol and number.  Then I busted out our big box o’ Legos and hoped I had enough single Legos to accomplish my goal.  I didn’t–I was two short, of course, but Jax and I had a quick conversation about it and he was ready to proceed, putting one Lego in the column marked 1, two Legos in the column marked 2, and so on.   Rocking 1:1 correspondence and all that.

Until finally all 9 columns were filled with the appropriate amount of Legos per column.  You could take this as far as you want with colors, too, but since my kid seems to be a tad OCD all on his own, he did a fine job of sorting by colors without my assistance.

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Number Recognition Fun

Em is still inconsistent with her number recognition–sometimes she knows them all, sometimes I swear she’s never seen them before.  I liked this game because it puts the numbers in context–a clock, in this example–so she can recognize them–but also it’s fine motor practice and physically manipulating the numbers so she can do more than just look at them.

Cape, pigtails, and toenail polish optional.

Basically, all I did was put numbers on the bottom of plastic cups and see if she could arrange them in order after I had mixed them up.

When indeed she showed me she could,

I tried the same thing putting the numbers in a circle like a clock.  She had no problems with that, either, so I thought I’d see if she could match the written number on the cup to a quantity.  In this case, I pulled out some pom poms and she put one in the cup with the number 1 on it, two in the cup with the number 2 on it, and so on.  I’m not sure what this taught her, but I wanted her to understand that each number symbolizes a quantity, and to demonstrate what that quantity is.  Of course she just wanted to play with pom poms!

I was also curious to see if she would think that the cups that were more full had more pom poms (because they were all different sizes, there could be 9 small pom poms that would be teeny compared to one large one).  She understood that in order to see which had more, she had to count the pom poms, not just see which one looked like it had more.

And as I always say whenever I attempt to have fun with math: this is not my forte nor my comfort zone.  I don’t even know if what we’re doing is valuable, other than me spending time focusing on just my girl.  What I do know is that making my kids comfortable with letters and numbers can’t possibly hurt in terms of school preparedness, and if I can find a way to do that in multiple ways using various learning styles, I may just be putting our quiet time to good use!  Plus, it was fun!

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More Or Less

Sometimes I ask my kids to do really obvious things to kill time–things I would never in a million years think that they would a) be intrigued by b) want to do or c) be enthusiastic about doing.  But since I’m wrong about 50% of the time, I always ask.  Because you never know when a lame attempt at getting your kids to clean up will turn into an impromptu math lesson!

All I had to say was, I think there are more pink blocks than red blocks in this room.  Boo-yah.  Jax picked red, Em picked purple (the dark pink/purpley blocks), and we basically began to make a bar graph.  When we stood above it and looked down, the kids got a great visual on which line had more or less, terms that (as a former high school teacher) I would have never thought needed explanation but, as I’m realizing, are concepts that reinforcement and fun can take a long way.

My favorite moment was when two colors were neck and neck and Jax jumped up and down, yelling “They’re equal!”  So that’s why people send kids to preschool!  To teach them cool vocabulary words and concepts that wouldn’t have occurred to me to be appropriate for four-year-olds.  Guess I have a thing or two to learn!

This kept Jax out of trouble for at least a half hour.  It was a game and a race to him–he so wanted red to win!  Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards.  It was great to be able to talk about which colors had more or less and to make hypotheses about whether the pink or the purple would win based on a general glance around the room.  Lots of science and math going on in this simple activity!  At least, I think so–remember, I’m an English/literacy girl.  This kind of stuff definitely isn’t in my wheelhouse.  Lucky for me, my kids are up for anything!

And then at the end we counted how many blocks were in each line; since the blocks were all different sizes, some had much more or fewer than we expected.  Like these three lines, which all had seven blocks, but were different lengths.  Not sure what he learned from that, probably something mathematical, but I thought it was pretty cool.

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