Tag: activities for kids

7 Must-Have Math Toys for Every Family

7 Must-Have Math Toys for Every Family

In all my years teaching in a classroom, it’s taken me exactly one year of homeschooling both of my children to realize one very important thing:

Everyone learns differently!

This past year, with one child in 3rd grade and another in Kindergarten, I have seen how much easier (and more fun!) learning can be when I factor in each of my girls’ learning styles and personalities to our lessons–especially with math.

One of my girls is extremely math-minded. She seems to grasp new concepts intuitively, often from across the room (or house) while I’m teaching her sister’s lesson. She is an auditory learner and often says she has a number line in her head.

My other girl is extremely competent when it comes to math, but she seems to lack confidence. Math can cause her to freeze up, so it’s important that we stay consistent with our facts review, practice good breathing and positive self-talk (you’d be amazed at how much this helps!), and use strategies like pictures to walk through our problem-solving.

Each girl also loves using toys (teachers call them “manipulatives”) in our math lessons, so I want to share each of our favorites!

Just a reminder: we use affiliate links on our blog, which means I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase any of the items that I recommend. Rest assured, I only suggest items that our family loves and uses regularly. 

7 Must-Have Math Toys for Every Family | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

Here are our seven must-have math toys for every family!


Unifix Cubes

We love Unifix Cubes for math play! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

Unifix Cubes are great for building patterns and counting! Young children love to build with them, and they build fine motor skills, too.


Pattern Blocks

Pattern blocks are a great toy that grows from toddlerhood to elementary school! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

Pattern Blocks are a terrific open-ended activity for toddlers and preschoolers. Our girls loved to copy the pictures on the boards in this set from Melissa & Doug when they were younger, and now they like to create their own designs during their free time. As our girls have gotten older, they are great for teaching fractions and practicing geometry.


Lacing Buttons

Lacing buttons also make a great activity to talk about same and different! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

At first glance, you might not think these lacing buttons are a math toy, but they are! So much of early math is recognizing how objects are the same or different, and this set allows you to discuss size, shape, number of holes, and color. My girls love to play “What’s Missing” and remove one item at a time (or more!) from a similar matrix. Bonus: they are great for lacing and building fine motor skills!


Clock Puzzle

Learning to tell time is more fun with this hands-on activity! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

My girls show me every day that learning through play is the best way! I bought this Hape wooden clock puzzle when it was on sale a few years ago, and both kids have learned how to tell time with minimal instruction. I added the H for hour hand and M for minute hand, and that seemed to solve most of the confusion between the two. (We have a lot of analog clocks in our house, too–so our girls get a lot of clock practice.)


Coins/Money

Play money is a must-have for every family! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

Having a play set of money around is great for when the kids want to play store! We also like to do a coin sort every once in a while using a container with multiple sections OR grabbing a handful of coins and counting them together. We bought our set from The Dollar Spot several years ago, but this set is inexpensive and has great reviews, too.


UNO Cards

UNO has so many learning through play opportunities! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

We have a set of UNO cards that my younger daughter loves to play with! (It helps that her older cousins bring out their UNO cards every time our family gets together. Nothing like positive peer pressure from the teenagers!) When she was just a toddler, I pulled out all the “extra” cards and left her with only the numbers. She loved to sort them by color, put them in numerical order, and now that she’s older, add them up by the handful.


Bucket Balance

Both of our girls love to experiment with our bucket balance! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

I first bought a balance for my classroom when I was teaching preK, and it quickly became a favorite toy for both girls. The version we have is not highly scientific–I will probably upgrade in another year or so–but it’s great for toddlers and preschoolers to experiment with. (And you’ll see in the top picture that my Kinder girl immediately started playing with it while I was taking pictures for this post.)


Want to learn more about doing math at home?

If you are:

  • the parent of a child ages 2-7
  • passionate about your child’s education
  • committed to making learning at home as FUN as possible, and
  • interested in child development…

then our Making Math Fun workshop is for YOU.

I will teach you TEN important math concepts that every child should learn by the end of Kindergarten *and* demonstrate simple learning activities for each concept.

You will walk away with:

  • lifetime access to the replay (AVAILABLE NOW!)
  • a PDF download of the workshop notes
  • weeklong access to our Q & A session
  • several “red, white, and blue”-themed activities that you can do all month long with your child

Make Math Fun for Your Kids and get them ready for Kindergarten! | child development, learning through play, preschool math, toddler math, educational toys, preschool toys

5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the middle of summer! If your kids are anything like my kids, the bickering has started and you are on the hunt for simple, FUN activities too keep their hands and minds busy for at least part of the day.

I am excited to share our all-new red, white, and blue invitations to play!

Scroll down for our freebie!

In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), let me give you a brief introduction to how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

Lunch has ended, it’s raining outside, and you’re looking for a screen-free way to fill up some time so you can send an e-mail, unload the dishwasher, or (gasp!) read a book without being interrupted.

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity that uses just a few materials found around the house. Keeping these activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a download with FIVE simple invitations to play, including a materials list!


Here’s a sneak peek at the activities:

  • Drop cut straw pieces into an empty Parmesan cheese container
  • Playdough* with colored gems & straw pieces
  • Sorting red & blue pom poms by color
  • Count pom poms and match to Uno cards (1-9)
  • Lace red and blue noodles* on a string

* Be sure to download the freebie for our favorite playdough recipe AND directions for dyeing noodles.


Grab your 5 FREE 4th of July learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning

Just fill out this quick form to let me know you want the freebie!


Melissa @ Rolling Prairie Readers

Don’t forget to share this freebie with your friends. Hit the Facebook button below or pin this image:

Grab your 5 FREE learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning

Three Ways to Set Up an Art Studio for Your Kids

Three Ways to Set Up an Art Studio for Your Kids

When it comes to parenting my girls, I want to ensure that they are able to follow their passions and pursue their interests–even when it’s something I’m not very knowledgeable about!  I am so thankful for a husband who can teach our girls about music and for a group of amazing women online who share their expert insights with the rest of us. Today, I am excited to share a guest post from Alana Chernecki of Brillante.    

Three Ways to Set Up an Art Studio for Your Kids | Rolling Prairie Readers

Did you know children have 100 languages?

Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to Early Childhood education, believed that children communicate in a myriad of ways – through painting, drawing, sculpture, singing, dancing, building, acting – long before they are ever able to read, write or even speak. How your children share their thinking tells you a lot about how they view the world. As parents, we need to offer our children many tools to communicate their understanding so that we can help extend and enrich their thinking.

Art is a language that is accessible to all. Children share their ideas in drawings and paintings long before they are able to write. But the “mess factor” often gets in the way of setting up enriching and enticing art experiences for kids. The art tools we offer children are just as important as the way they are presented and shared with kids, and just like everything else, children need to be taught how to use them responsibly.

Depending on your comfort level with art, and the space you have available to you, here are three options for promoting artistic literacy with your kids.

1. Portable, Accessible and No-Fuss

Boon Stash Storage Caddy

If you are just beginning to experiment with art for your kids, the Boon Stash Storage Caddy is an excellent solution. It is made of several compartments of varying sizes and depths to accommodate all kinds of art supplies. I love this caddy because it can be washed easily in the dishwasher. It is large enough to house most basic art supplies, and can be transported to any corner of your home. A great place to store: pencil crayons, markers, scissors, pastels, pencils, glue, beads, and yarn.

2. The Art Cart – The Roll-Away Solution

For those of you who are willing to experiment with a larger spectrum of art supplies, but want the option of tucking it away from eager hands, the roll-away art cart is for you. These art carts are widely available at IKEA, Costco and various craft stores. An art cart typically has 2-3 levels. Each level can have a different theme: Loose parts on one level (beads, stones, sticks, wire, buttons, pom poms, feathers); various papers on another level, and “wet” art supplies (paint, watercolours, brushes, clay/plasticine, glue…on the third level. Keep levels labelled with chalk labels for easy clean-up.

Image Source: Tinkerlab

3. The Art Shelf / Atelier

In Reggio-inspired schools, the Atelier is at the heart of the learning programme. The atelier {italian for “art studio”} offers all the art tools and media, accessible to children all of the time. Loose parts and art media are housed in glass jars – not only for aesthetic reasons, reflecting light and bringing in colour to the space – but also for practicality sake. When media are stored in transparent jars, children are able to “read” the media, and make independent choices about what materials to use to share their ideas. Whether you use shelves (like these IKEA EKBY shelves),

storage units (like this IKEA KALLAX unit)

or a wall storage device (like this IKEA GRUNDTAL set), the idea is that the art supplies have a permanent place in your child’s play space. In this way, children can help themselves freely without the nuisance of always having to ask an adult for help (and permission), which can inhibit creativity.

Examples of media that can be stored in jars:

  • paint brushes
  • paint
  • stones, sticks
  • beads, wire
  • feathers
  • Pom poms
  • watercolours
  • stamps
  • scissors
  • crayons, markers, pastels
  • popsicle sticks

How to teach your child to use art media responsibly:

When introducing your child to a new medium, have them use their senses to discover (“get to know”) the new tool. For example, with clay, have them smell it, have them stand on it with bare feet, have them roll it between their fingers, even taste it! Slowly start to introduce and model strategies or ways to use the new medium. “Here is how you can roll it long, like a snake.”

Teaching your child to access (and clean up!) is imperative. Have them practice, practice, practice taking out, and putting away – start with the easiest (crayons and markers), and move toward the more challenging (paint!) Simple things like: “This is how we put a marker cap back on so it doesn’t dry out – Listen for the Click!” and moving towards: here are paper towels, and a jar for water so that you can help yourself, and clean up easily when you’re done (with paint).

Over time, your children will improve these processes, and art-making will not feel as daunting as it once did. Your child will learn new ways communicate their understanding visually, and will probably surprise you with their artistic sensibilities. Honour their work by framing it, and sharing it on a gallery wall in your home.

Three Ways to Set Up an Art Studio for Your Kids | guest post from Alana Chernecki of Brillante


Alana Chernecki straddles the line between education and design. As a retired teacher and mom of three, she discovered early on the importance of creating a learning environment that was both stimulating and calm, clean and colourful, engaging and organized. Her company Brillante is an intersection of motherhood, education and design. As an Educational Consultant, she works with families and educators to design, style and curate spaces for kids and teens to inspire learning and creativity.

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