Disclosure: I was recently invited to become a Partner in Play with Fat Brain Toys. Although I will receive products or other compensation as part of this program, all opinions expressed within are my own and have not been influenced as any way.
I am so excited to tell you that I was selected as a Partner in Play for Fat Brain Toys! This means that I will get to bring you some unique posts about kids and play over the next few months. As an educator, I am always looking for ways to share easy educational ideas that you can do at home with the materials you have in your house, so I hope you enjoy the ideas as much as I enjoy writing them. I have shopped at Fat Brain for almost 6 years, since my first son was born, and have long been impressed with the way they curate items that are high quality and supportive of education.
My boys are obsessive about building materials. Our house at any given time looks like LEGOs, KNEX, and cardboard blocks have exploded all over it. Over time, we have developed several ways to use our bricks and blocks to support our math and literacy development.
1. Build Sight Word Recognition
LEGO DUPLO pieces make excellent manipulatives for sight word identification. You can use permanent marker to write high frequency words directly onto bricks or use contact paper cut to size so that you can remove the words when you are finished.
Give your child a base plate and variety of words and see what sentences he can build. You can even make it into a game by seeing who can create the longest sentence using the same selection of words.
2. Learn to Create and Interpret Graphs
Use a blank paper and some building bricks to have you child graph common occurrences around the house. This is an opportunity to have some real fun and even be a little silly! For example, you might graph how many blueberries each family got on their plate at breakfast or how many times each family member’s name is said in 1 hour. After your child has graphed whatever relationship or occurrence you are studying, then it is time to interpret the graph. Use words like less, more, most, least, and same to help your child describe what they found in their graph!
3. Do Simple Arithmetic
Bricks are the perfect manipulative for basic addition and subtraction. Want to teach your child to add 4 + 3? Have them create a tower of 4 blocks in one color and three blocks in another color. Have them combine the towers and add them all together for the answer of 7!
For subtraction, start with a tower representing the larger number, and have the child remove the number of blocks that they need to “take away” in the problem. So for the problem 10 minus 6, build a 10-brick tower and then have your child remove 6 bricks to arrive at the answer of 4 bricks left over.
Teachers use these tricks to make math visual for children, so why not use them at home?
4. Create and Identify Patterns
Play “what comes next” by helping your child build patterned towers and having them guess what would come next in the series. If you are getting really creative, have the write out a numerical representation of their “pattern”!
5. Make New Words
Teachers often use a strategy called Making Words to help children make new words out of other words. To play Making Words, label bricks with letters. Each brick in this game should have 1 letter labeled on its side. Choose a big word, say Halloween, and then think of all the little words that children might be able to create from this word. In this case, you might prompt your child to create an, all, wall, hall, lean, wean, and Halloween. The best words to start with have at least 7 letters, and a diverse selection of vowels and consonants.
6. Arrange Shapes
Create larger than life shapes with cardboard building blocks. Have your child use these large blocks to make triangles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, diamonds, hexagons, octagons, and more! Take a picture of your child in their shape to help them remember the attributes of each shape in the future!
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