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3 Easy Ways to Add Math to Playtime!

Did you know that learning math skills can be as simple as just playing? For toddlers and preschoolers, their first introduction to math comes during playtime. The way we use and interact with toys with our children can set them up for academic success later in life.

As a busy mom of three little ones, I love creating play scenes and opportunities that inspire my little ones to organically practice counting, sorting, and number recognition. Here are 3 easy to set-up play scenes that seamlessly integrate play and learning.

Scene 1: Ice Cream Shop!

There is nothing as delicious or fun as a pretend Ice Cream Shop! The LeapFrog® Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart™ makes setting up an Ice Cream Shop so easy. The kids can push the cart around the room–or from customer to customer taking orders. It comes with everything from a bell to ring when orders are ready, to toppings, cones, and pretend syrup. The real highlight is the magnetic scooper that lets your little one feel like they are truly scooping ice cream and placing it in the cone.

How to incorporate math skills:

Scoop Counting: When your little one is taking an ice cream order, rather than asking for vanilla or chocolate, try asking for a certain number of scoops. For toddlers, working on numbers 1-5 is very important. Practice counting as they scoop the ice cream. The LeapFrog® Scoop & Learn Ice Cream Cart™ even comes with animal ordering cards that can be used to help with counting and sequencing.

More vs. Less: Ice cream presents a great opportunity to practice more versus less. You can create multiple ice cream cones and talk about which one has more ice cream or more toppings. Being able to recognize amounts is a helpful early math skill.

Scene 2: Grocery Store!

One of our little one’s most frequent experiences when it comes to visiting a store likely revolves around visiting grocery stores. Setting up their own grocery store can be a lot of fun and it provides a familiar setting to spark their imagination. The LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ is a great toy to have on hand for a pretend grocery store (or any type of store)!

It comes with play food, an interactive cash register, and play money. What we really love about this toy is how it helps with counting. As the customer is shopping in this pretend play scene, the shopkeeper can scan the items on the LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ and listen as it counts how many items are scanned. It really makes learning fun!

How to incorporate math skills:

Money: A grocery store is a great place to practice counting money. The LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ includes coins and a coin slot that counts and sings as each coin is inserted. Have your little one repeat the number after the LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ says each number. For preschoolers, you can have your little one count out the number of coins they think they need and then insert them into the count-along coin slot to see if they counted correctly.

Prices: Pricing items is another simple way to work on number recognition. We love using dot stickers and letting our little ones price the items and stick them on the item as a price tag. For little ones, maybe everything is $1 so it is easy to add up. For older ones, you can have different prices that make use of adding and subtracting to figure out the total.

Scene 3: Post Office!

Setting up a pretend post office is always a hit in our house. It requires very little supplies–likely things you already have on hand like envelopes and old cardboard boxes. We love incorporating the LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ into our pretend post office setups as a way to make it even more interactive and practice math skills through play.

How to incorporate math skills:

Sorting: Sorting similar items and then counting the number of them easily incorporates math into the post office play scene. You can have your little one sort the number of envelopes the pretend customer has and use their LeapFrog® Count Along Register™ to enter the number and total the sale.

Counting: With a post office, your little one’s customers may have quite a few items to ship. Spreading out envelopes and boxes and counting them out loud is great practice.

A few tips:

  1. Get them excited with something they love. If your little one is into dinosaurs, set up a dinosaur shop. If they love popsicles, turn the ice cream cart into a popsicle cart. Following their lead and incorporating their interests are great ways to guarantee a longer playtime with organic learning.

  2. Use play money. Having play coins on hand, like the ones from the LeapFrog® Count Along Register™, helps to make play more realistic. Counting money, giving change, and adding up totals all support those lifelong mathematical foundations.

  3. Incorporate songs. Little ones often remember things better when they are put to a tune. LeapFrog® does a wonderful job incorporating catchy songs and phrases into their toys. Sing these songs when you are playing and when you aren’t playing. The repetition makes them stick!

Most of all, have fun! Incorporating math into playtime is so simple – in every play scene we create with our little ones, there are easy opportunities to learn, practice, and master numbers and math.

Mandy Roberson is a certified childbirth educator, mom of 3 and founder of Momma Society--the community for modern moms. She loves holidays and making memories with her children. In her free time, you will find her crafting and creating fun printables for Magic Playbook--a monthly digital subscription for moms.


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