SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

Help Your Visual Learner with Reading and Math Skills

As a visual learner your child really responds to color, design, charts, lists, and most things that have a clear, strong, and appealing visual image. You can tap into this learning style with the following easy tips and ideas.

Reading and Spelling:

  • Make "sight words" or spelling word flashcards. Write the words with a black Sharpie on large index cards. Always use lowercase letters. Showing the card to your child while he or she identifies the words helps them with quick word recognition.
  • To improve reading organization, place an index card under the line that your child is reading. Let your child move the card down as they read. This allows your child to keep their place, as well as focus on the natural left-to-right eye movement used in reading.
  • To practice beginning letter sounds old catalogs, flyers, and magazines can be very useful. On a piece of construction paper put a capital and lowercase letter, (for example Tt). Have your child be a detective and "hunt" through a catalog, flyer, or magazine and cut out pictures that begin with the Tt sound. Paste them on the construction paper.

For Math:

  • Find a large calendar for your child’s room. Hang it on a bulletin board, closet door, or some other convenient place. Let your child write important events on the calendar. Use it to count days until events occur, practice counting 1-30, and other simple math.
  • Do a "sock sort" to practice "skip- counting." Fill a small basket with clean socks. Have your child visually match the socks. When socks are matched, count the pairs by 2’s to reach the total number of individual socks.
  • Work with a math number grid for number recognition, counting, and addition and subtraction practice.
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Simple Math Games to Reinforce National Math Standards

Muffin papersDid you know that simple household items could be the "keys" to help your child "unlock" math skills?

If you have a pair of dice, paper muffin cups, and pennies or paper clips at your house, you can practice number skills that align to the National Educational Standards! (They are great stormy day games, too.)

Here are two easy and engaging activities that reinforce "One-to-One Correspondence" and "More Than, Less Than" Math Standards. These games are easy to play and take no more than 10 to 20 minutes to complete:

Game 1: Dice/Win

This game is for 2 or more players.

  • You will need a pair of dice, pencil and paper.
  • If you are playing with 4-5 year olds make the winning total thirty (30.) If you are playing with 6-8 year olds make the winning total fifty (50.)
  • Adult keeps score.
  • Roll the dice and add the dots together. First player to reach a total of 30 (or 50) wins. As a player gets close to the total, it has to be an exact roll to win. If a player’s score is at 29 or 49 he/she can roll just one die to reach their total.

Game 2: Muffin Magic

This game is for one player.

  • You will need twelve paper muffin cups, a pencil or marker, and an assortment of small objects, such as pennies, paper clips, etc.
  • Write the numbers 1 through 12 on the inside bottom of the muffin cup, so that your child can clearly see the number.
  • Line the cups up, left to right, from 1-12.
  • Child places the correct number of small objects in the paper cup.
  • When the cups are correctly full use them to practice numbers "before and after." For example, point to the cup that has 5 objects in it. Ask: "What’s the number that comes right before this number?" If your child is unsure, point to the cup that comes right before, and count the objects. Continue with "before and after" numbers until your child can easily say them.
  • Variation: Have your child close their eyes and move the cups around. Open eyes and put the cups back in numerical order.

Activities such as these help your child reinforce number sense in a fun, stress-free way!

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“Jump Start” Early Reading and Math Success

Little boy playing chessParents want to give their Kindergarten or First Grade child a "jump start" for reading and math success, but are often overwhelmed on how to do it!

Experience has taught me that there are three main skills to master. This skill set forms a solid foundation upon which most learning can be built and sharpened. These three main skills are what I call the "Triangle Base."

These skills are:

  • Rhyming
  • One-to-One Correspondence
  • Patterns

Why does mastering these skills form such a solid educational foundation?

  • Rhyming promotes Phonemic Awareness. Simply put, this is the ability to hear sounds in spoken language. Hearing sounds is a crucial pre-reading skill.
  • One-to-One Correspondence applies to both reading and math. In math it means that a child sees the numeral 8, for example, and can correctly count out 8 objects. In reading it means that the child is saying what he or she is seeing.
  • Patterns can be both visual (Example, tile placement on a floor) and auditory (Example, the refrain "EIEIO" in the song "Old MacDonald")

My best advice:

  • Rhyme all the time (no pun intended!)
  • Count out small objects often. (Pennies, shells, or small snacks like Goldfish crackers, raisins, etc.)
  • When reading to your child always use your index finger in a left-to-right sweep, under the words. This helps your child focus on the print.
  • Go on a visual "pattern hunt" in your house or yard! Listen for, and identify sound patterns in songs and stories.

Whenever possible turn these simple guidelines into a game. Children love learning when it’s fun and engaging!

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Math Fun with Snacks

Math Fun with Snacks

Turn snack time into math time with a few simple tricks and activities to make math fun and delicious!

  • Play “Roll for a Snack.” Use a small snack cup or plate. Take one die, from a pair of dice, and have your child roll it. Count out a raisin, goldfish cracker, small pretzel, or favorite small snack for each dot on the die. Keep rolling and counting until the small cup or plate is full.
  • Use small pretzel or carrot sticks to form the numbers 1 to 10. When the set is complete say a number (“8,” for example.) If she can point to it, she can eat it! Continue randomly saying the remaining numbers until they are all gone.
  • Use carrot sticks, pretzel sticks, or Cheerios to measure a clean, flat object. (Around the edge of a plate, the long side of a cereal box, the short edge of the table, etc.) Count, than eat the measuring tools.
  • Take a deck of playing cards, with all face cards removed. Have your child turn over two cards. Add the numbers, by counting the hearts, clubs, spades, or diamonds, and count out that many Cheerios, raisins, grapes, etc.
  • Make patterns on a small plate. For example, put a strawberry, grape, banana slice, and blueberry, than repeat the sequence until the small plate is full and ready to eat.

These fun activities will help your child with number sense, adding and subtracting, more than-less than, and measuring skills in an interactive and meaningful way.

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Basic Educational Benchmarks for Your Four, Five, and Six Year Old Child

Parents often ask me what young children should be able to accomplish before entering nursery school, Kindergarten, or First Grade. Following is a basic list of important skills any young child needs for school success. National standards, reading and writing programs, early math programs and teaching experience helped me compile this basic list.

By the age of four, your child should be able to:

  • Recognize some letters of the alphabet, primarily letters that appear in their name.
  • Be able to count from one to ten.
  • Be able to count objects to match numbers from one to ten.
  • Be able to hear rhyming words.
  • Be able to recognize and identify eight basic colors. (Red, blue, yellow, green, brown, orange, purple, and black.)
  • Be able to recognize four basic shapes. (Circle, Square, Triangle, Rectangle)
  • Be able to recite their full name, their age, and address for safety reasons.

By the age of five, your child should be able to:

  • Identify, in order, capital and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
  • Recognize all the letters in their first name. For this age group it could be written in all capital letters, but I strongly suggest using one capital and the rest lowercase. I suggest this because it makes for an easier transition to the printed word.
  • Recognize and identify the eight basic colors, and know four color words. (Red, blue, yellow, and orange)
  • Be able to identify two words that rhyme.
  • Recognize a triangle, circle, square, rectangle, and rhombus (diamond shape.)
  • Be able to count and recognize numerals zero to twenty.
  • Be able to count objects to match numbers one to twenty.
  • Be able to recite their full name and age, address, parent’s name, and phone number. (Again, for safety reasons)

By the age of six, your child should be able to:

  • Be able to identify capital and lowercase letters, out of order.
  • Recognize the letters in their first and last name. For this age group letters in their name should always be written with one capital letter and the rest lowercase.
  • Be able to count orally to 50, or higher.
  • Be able to count objects to match random numbers 1-50.
  • Be able to write the numerals 0-30, and count forward and backwards from 0-20.
  • Recognize a triangle, circle, square, rectangle, rhombus, and hexagon.
  • Be able to recognize the words for the eight basic colors. (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Brown, Black, Orange, and Purple)
  • When given a word ("cat") be able to say a rhyming word ("hat.")
  • Be able to recite their full name, age and birth date, address, phone number, and parent’s name.
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Basic Number Grids Make Math Easy

Simple number grids are a great math tool for young children. Grids allow children to clearly see numbers they are adding or subtracting, as their finger “jumps” from one number to the next. Grids consist of rows (across) and columns (up and down.) Using the number grid allows young children to add and subtract large numbers, without having to know about borrowing and carrying.

Often young children get “lost” on the grid by not continuing to the next sequential row. Color-coding is an easy way to correct that problem!

To better understand the following game directions,  print and reference the basic number grid from our “Print and Use Tools.” Our grid has already been color-coded for you. 

Here are some fun and easy math activities to practice on the grid with your child.

  • The main functions of the grid are “plus” (+) and “take away.” (-) Jumping “forward” in a row (to the right) is a plus function. Jumping “backward” in a row (to the left) is a minus function. I always tell my students that you don’t start to count until you make that first jump!
  • Ask your child, “If you start at 5 and you make 7 jumps forward (to the right) where do you land?” “Twelve, that’s correct,” Then write and show them the number model, (5+7=12.) Continue with more addition problems.
  • For subtraction ask your child, “If you start at 25 and make 8 jumps backwards (to the left) where do you land?” “Seventeen, that’s right!” Again, write the number model (25-8=17.) Continue with more subtraction problems.
  • Once your child is comfortable with the “forward and backward row” (right and left) functions of the grid, introduce the up and down columns on the grid.
  •  “Down,” (top to bottom) on a grid column is a plus ten function (+10.) “Up,” (Bottom to top) on the grid column is minus a ten function. (-10.)
  • Ask your child, “If your finger is on 23 and you make three jumps down where do you land?” “Fifty-three, that’s right!” Write the number model 23+30=53. Continue with more jumps "down" in different columns. (Adding by 10)
  • Vary the activity with jumps “up” for subtraction by 10. Ask your child, “If you start on 78 and make 4 jumps “up” where do you land? “That’s right 38!” Write the number model, 78-40=38. Continue with more jumps "up" in different columns (Subtracting by 10)

Number grids make math meaningful and fun. The more your child uses the grid, the better their addition and subtraction facts will be!

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Help your Kids Be Math & Science Stars

In honor of National Engineers Week (this week), thought I'd pass along some articles, resources, and sites that focus on making math and science fun for your kids. 




Loved this article that talks about teachers using every-day situations to teach math concepts.How to make math concepts stick.

Great to read how engineering companies like Raytheon are celebrating National Engineers Week by promoting innovative ways to teach math and science with a series of interactive and hands-on events for middle school students across the country.

Always smile when I read articles about students "learning mathematics in a way their parents did not."  Amen to that!

Resources: & Sites

You'll definitely want to bookmark this  fabulous book list for kids and teens courtesy of S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math)

Check out this fun math website that a teacher created for his students. How many times have we heard that people master a subject matter by teaching it to someone else. Love that the premise of this site is kids teaching kids.

OK, I know that I have mentioned this site in a past blog, but I think that the Braincake site bears repeating. Any site that encourages girls to love math and science gets a thumbs up in my book.  

Recently found a new favorite site that lists 100 Tools to Make Your Kids Math and Science Stars. You can only imagine how exhaustive this list is. This list gives math activities a whole new meaning. Whether you have a child gifted in math or one struggling to grasp math concepts, there is something here for you.

Lastly, here are a few of my favorite math and science resources and activities from our site:






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A Simple Card Game to Promote National Math Standards

“Roll for a Card” is a fun game that I have played with my own children and students to sharpen early learning skills. It's fun, easy, and takes about 15-20 minutes to play.

Items Needed: One die from a pair of dice, and a deck of playing cards. (Use the cover design side of the cards, not the number side.)

Players: One adult, one child, or up to four players in total. You can play this game at a table, on the floor, on top of the bed covers, at the beach, on a picnic blanket, or any flat surface where you and your child are comfortable.


  • Put the cards in a pile face down, in the middle of the players. The first player rolls the die and counts the number of dots on top. She takes that many cards from the center pile, to start her own pile of cards.
  • Additional players roll the die, count the dots, and start their own pile of cards.
  • The game is over when all the cards are gone. The winner is the player with the most cards in their own pile. (You may have to help your child count their total number of cards. If they do need help, simply put one card down for each number you count. This is reinforcing one-to-one correspondence yet again!)

This simple game helps your four-to-six year old understand four crucial beginning math skills named in national education standards.

They are:

  • one-to-one correspondence (seeing the number 6, for example, and correctly counting out 6 objects)
  • understanding grouping (separate piles of similar objects)
  • understanding quantity (how additional rolls of the die increase the size of the card pile,) and understanding the concept of “more and less.”


Note from School Family: Lots of helpful articles in our Building Math Skills article archive.

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How to Make Math Fun for your Child

Math facts + word problems + graphing ... does this add up to math anxiety for you and your child or does it equal fun? If you said anxiety you are not alone. I must confess that I was once in that camp as well. Math was never my favorite subject as child. When my children entered elementary school I resolved not to pass along my biases.  I quickly learned that math is taught dramatically different now, than back in the day, shall we say?  There is a lot, as parents, we can do to not only help our children succeed in math, but also like it! I just came across some articles that are good reads for math-phobic parents (or really any parent of school-age children).

The first is story about a school that sponsored  a Family Lego Night. Their goal was to show parent's how they can increase their kid's math skills through play. So important to realize that math is not just about solving equations on paper and doing flash cards. 

Also enjoyed reading this blog that provided five tips for making math fun for your child. She provides some great tips for incorporating math lessons into your everyday life.

Add to these some excellent math tips, ideas, and printables and you just may be changing your mind about math too.


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Grandparents Can Play an Important Role In Educating Young Children


Research confirms the importance of grandparents in a child’s life.  The time that grandparents spend, their patience, and their full-life experiences are invaluable to grandchildren.

Grandparents are a wonderful resource of knowledge and unconditional love.

The recent loss of my mother-in-law, Mimi, has me reflecting on all she did to help and support my children, her youngest grandchildren. She was always interactive and interested in what they were doing. She was kind and loving, yet set clear boundaries for behavior.  She was upbeat, enjoyable, and loved life.I will always value her vital role in nurturing my children.

Here are some tips for grandparents to help nurture and educate young grandchildren:

  • Play board or card games that parents might not have time to play. These will promote math, reading, and following directions skills.
  • Share a hobby or interest that is important to you
  • Read stories and poems to help enhance phonemic awareness
  • Do simple arts and crafts to improve fine motor skills
  • Tell your grandchildren stories of when their parent was young (Children love that!)
  • Share traditions by making photo albums or scrapbooking
  • Cook together, for math and science skills

Treasure the value that grandparents can bring to the education of young children.

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Foundation Skills for Young Learners

The New Year is a time for reflection and resolution.  We tend to get rid of what doesn’t work in our life, and fine-tune what does.

Parents want to know how to maximize their young child’s early learning success, without putting them under too much pressure.

My experience has taught me that when you help your young child learn three core skills, you are on the road to rapid learning and school success.

I call these skills my “Triangle Base.”  They are:

  • The ability to hear sounds in spoken language. (This is called Phonemic Awareness.)
  • Understanding one-to-one correspondence. (In both math and reading.)
  • Understanding patterns. (Visual and auditory.)

Here are three easy and effective ways to practice these skills:

  • The most effective way to practice Phonemic Awareness is to rhyme! Read nursery rhymes or Dr. Seuss books to your child. Make up your own rhymes while driving. Rhyming is a powerful tool to prepare a child for letter sounds and decoding words. The more that your child can hear and say rhymes, the better prepared he or she will be to read.
  • In reading, one-to-one correspondence is simply saying what a child is seeing. In math one-to-one correspondence means seeing the numeral 7 for example, and being able to count out seven objects. A parent can help their child practice these skills by putting their index finger under words they are saying, while they point to it.  For math, roll a die and let your child count out pennies to match the number of dots on the die.
  • To practice visual patterns go on a “pattern hunt” in your house or yard. Look for patterns in floor tiles, wallpaper, curtains, rugs, etc.Your child will become a pattern detective! Listen for auditory patterns in music, such as the “EIEIO” in “Old MacDonald.”  Listen for patterns in stories that you are reading, such as “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” in the “Three Little Pigs.”

Understanding these three core skills can lead to good comprehension in both reading and math.  While these are by no means the only skills needed for learning, they form a solid foundation for early academic success.

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Awesome Website that Teaches Kids to Give Back

I'm willing to guess that many of you have kids that have computer games and  xbox, wii and Nintendo games top on their Christmas list. If you are anything like me, these are the least favorite gifts to give.

 I worry (too much, my kids would tell you) about my kids wasting valuable time online and "gaming."  My kids will also tell you I expend a lot of energy encouraging them to find other things to do with their free time. Well I just came across an website with games for kids that I would actually encourage my kids to play!

The website is called Generation Cures.  Here's how they describe themselves: "Generation Cures is an online community for kids and families that helps raise funds for research critical to finding cures for childhood diseases. It's a fun, fascinating, educational experience that uses games, videos, puzzles and more to teach kids and their families that, through the power of giving, they can make a true difference in the world."

What I love about this online community for tweens:

  • Really fun games that do a good job of engaging critical thinking and reasoning skills, while teaching kids about science and math!
  • Videos about some amazing kids. So inspiring.
  • At every corner, kids learn about helping others and giving back. 
  • Biggest love: the community teaches tweens that you don't have to be an adult to make a difference. 

With vacation upon us, I am definitely going to encourage my kids to spend time in the Generation Cures community.  This holiday season, teaching our kids about giving back is a gift we can give them that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Just like the credit card commercials say: priceless. 



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Kids' Holiday Gifts: Give the Gift of Learning

With Holiday shopping upon us, parents often ask me for suggestions of games or toys that will enhance their child’s learning.  Here are some simple, inexpensive educational toys and games for 4-8 year olds.  These help young children develop and strengthen core skills.

For Reading Skills:

  • Alphabet Bingo
  • Word Bingo
  • Scrabble Junior
  • Monopoly Junior
  • Small CD player with headphones and books with CDs.

All of these reinforce letter and word recognition.  In addition, they enhance skills such as following directions, word building and listening. Monopoly Junior does double duty, helping to reinforce reading and math skills in one game.

For Math Skills:

  • Dice and a deck of playing cards
  • A piggy bank full of mixed change
  • A set of Dominoes
  • Number Bingo
  • Uno Junior

All of these are great for promoting one-to-one correspondence (counting the correct dots on the dice, for example,) simple addition (adding dots on the two sides of the domino to find a total,) playing card games (like “War” to learn the meaning of more than, and less than,) visually matching and recognizing numbers, recognizing coins and learning coin value.

For Fine Motor Skills:

  • Checkers or Connect Four (A vertical checker game)
  • Lite Brite
  • Child art sets (crayons, markers, paper, paints, scissors, etc.)
  • Legos
  • Etch-A-Sketch

These games and toys help strengthen small hand and finger muscles.  This is a necessary skill for writing, cutting, and coloring in school.

A great hidden bonus in playing board games is the natural social interaction that takes place. This social interaction, such as taking turns, winning or losing graciously, and cooperating, etc. are crucial for school success.

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Don't Let Those Girls Lag in Math & Science

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a woman using a microscope.

Recently came across this blog that talks about  encouraging girls to excel in math and science. So I knew that the work force, in these areas, is still male dominated --but I didn't know just how much this is true. This quote from the blog actually left me stunned (and a little appalled):

 Although women make up approximately 50% of the general work force in the U.S., they only represent 9% of workers in the science and engineering community. With such a low percentage of female interest, the government is expecting increased worker shortages through the first decade of the 21st century for the information technology (IT) industry.

Anyone else think these numbers are crazy bad? These numbers are certainly not an indicator of abilities. That's why we need more programs like this "Get Smart Day" that was offered in Wisconsin. 

As a parent of a daughter, the stats mentioned above propelled me to look for info and sites to pass along to parents so they can expose their daughters to the fun side of science and math.  

Found some really great sites to get your daughter started:




Does anyone else have some tips or websites to share with parents of girls? Is your community running any programs to encourage girls to excel in math and science?

Very interested to hear your perspective on how parents  of girls can help foster a love of science and math.

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More Math Games for Kids:Coin Recognition

The four main coins used in the United States are the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. Often children find it difficult to distinguish between coins. Young children must be able to recognize different coins, before they can grasp the more difficult concept of coin value. A fun way to practice coin recognition is to play a game I call "Coin Match Value Game" (in the Print and Use section of this site).

To Play: Take a King, a ten card, a five card, and an Ace, of any suit, from the deck. Or, you can go to the "Print & Use Tools" link to print a sheet with a copy of the cards you need. Put the cards, or sheet, face-up on a table. Your child sits facing the cards. Put a pile of mixed coins on the table next to him or her. Place a quarter on the King, a dime on the 10, a nickel on the 5, and a penny on the Ace. Let your child sort the rest of the coins by matching them to the coins on the cards. This “Card-Coin” match is better than sorting coins alone. It allows your child to recognize coins, while subtly reinforcing coin value.

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Hands-On Math Games; A Fun Way to Improve Skills

Math games are a great way to practice skills and allow your child to visualize abstract concepts. For these two games you will need a deck of cards, and a pair of dice.

  • Start with twenty-five cards from the deck and one die. Place the cards face down in a pile. Roll the die. If you rolled a “four” take four cards from the pile. Next person rolls and takes that number of cards from the pile. Game is over when all twenty-five cards are gone. Winner is the one with the most cards. You may have to help your child count their cards. To vary the game, substitute twenty-five pennies for the cards. Count coins to determine the winner. To increase the difficulty use the whole deck of cards and two dice. Add the dots on the dice to determine how many cards are taken.  This game reinforces one-to-one correspondence. (One of my Triangle Base Skills.)

  • Remove the sixteen face cards from a deck of cards. Use the remaining number cards to play “War.” Put the pile face down between two players. Take turns turning over a card. The card with the higher value wins both cards. If you both turn over a card with the same value, go again. The winner then takes all four cards. Game is over when all the cards in the deck are gone. The winner is the one with the most cards in their pile. You may have to help your child count their cards at the end of the game. This game is a valuable tool in teaching the concept of “greater than and less than.”
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Math Games to Help Your Child Understand Numbers

Saying numbers and knowing what numbers mean are two different and distinct mathematical skills.

Your child might be a champion counter, yet not be able to identify the number “8″ out of numerical sequence. He or she might be able to recognize the numeral “12,” but be unable to count out 12 objects. Knowing how to match numbers to objects is basic, mathematical one-to-one correspondence.

Practicing one-to-one correspondence helps your child make the connection between seeing, saying, and knowing.

Here are three easy activities to help your child practice one-to-one correspondence in math.

  • Put a small pile of pennies on a table. Say, or show a number between one and twenty. See if your child can count out the number of pennies that you named. If he can’t do it by himself help him count out the correct amount.Have him put the pennies in a straight line, pointing to each penny, as he counts in sequence.
  • Take the Ace (to represent one) through 10, of one suit, from a deck of playing cards.Line the cards, left to right, from the Ace to the ten.Below the card have your child place the appropriate number of pennies.Once your child can easily do this from one to ten, mix up the cards and place them out of sequence.  Practice until your child can match the pennies to the numbers shown on the cards.
  • Play “Roll for a Snack.” Use a small snack cup or plate. Take one die, from a pair of dice, and have your child roll it. Count out a goldfish cracker, raisin, Cheerio, or favorite small snack for each dot on the die.Continue rolling and counting until the cup or plate is full.Who knew that counting could be so delicious?

(To increase difficulty use two dice and add the dots.)

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Have Some "Cents-ible" Fun!

Empty those piggy banks and help your child make some "cents" of coins and counting with a game I call: "Stop, Drop, and Roll." This game can be played on a table, on the floor, or even on a beach blanket! Items needed: Fifty pennies, and one die from a pair of dice Players: One child, one adult, or up to four players Time needed: Fifteen to thirty minutes Directions:

  • The "banker" makes a pile of fifty pennies, and puts it in the center to create a bank.
  • The first player rolls the die.
  • If she rolls a "four," she takes four pennies from the bank and puts them in her own pile.
  • Next player rolls, and takes that number of pennies for his pile
  • The game is over when all fifty pennies are gone
  • Winner is the player with the most pennies

Once your child can easily do this, increase the challenge.

  • Put 100 pennies in the bank
  • Have each player start with their own pile of twenty-five pennies (for four players,) or fifty pennies (for two players,) and zero pennies in the bank. Roll the die, and take the number the player rolls from the player's pile and return it to the bank. The winner is the first player to have no pennies left in their pile.
  • Or, roll with two dice and total the dots before collecting pennies from the pile.

At the end of a game have each player put their pennies in stacks of two. Count by two's to determine the total. If all the pennies can be put in stacks of two, then your total is an Even number. If one penny is left over then your total is an Odd number. Help your child count by two's, if necessary, until they can do it! Engaging in this kind of play helps your child develop their mathematical thinking and problem solving skills, all while having a great time with you!

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Everyday Money Management for Kids

There are lot of great books and articles about teaching kids to manage money. Like most parents, my husband and I are always looking for everyday ways to let our kids apply what we learned in the books and articles. A couple of summers ago, we stumbled upon a great money management learning experience for our kids.

It was nearing the end of summer and our family was looking at our summer list. You know, the one you create when school gets out - with all the fun things you want to do that summer. As usual, our list was longer than our summer!

Looking at the list, they said, "We never went down to the Cape this summer!"But there was a problem one that my husband and I were not sure whether we wanted to share with our 9 & 10 year olds: we had already gone over our summer recreation budget. We decided it was not a bad thing for them to hear that we'd love to go, but the funds didn't allow. Well, when we told the kids they were disappointed but then my daughter said, I have an idea! We have that huge jar of change down by the dryer “why don't we use that to go to the Cape?!" My first reaction was: Ah kids, they are so innocent! Then I thought, why not? And so our unique Cape adventure was born.

First, we went to the change machine at the local supermarket. To our surprise, our laundry change had added up 205 dollars! Sounds like a decent amount of money but the kids even knew that this was not enough for a hotel and meals for a weekend. Lucky for us we camp! We told the kids that we would foot the bill for the campground for the two nights but that we were going to hand the money over to them and they were going to determine how to spend the money for everything else. Next, we introduced the concept of "want versus need." Now we have had this conversation with our kids before. But trust me when I tell you, that explaining this to them when it's our dime, as opposed to their money that they need to stretch for an entire weekend-- is an entirely different animal! Also, we were able to explain that your wants versus needs are constantly shifting… when you're on vacation you may put a fun activity as a need, whereas on a daily basis this isn't the case.

The second good lesson in money handling came before we left: estimating. How much do you think it will cost us to eat meals out… to play mini golf… to take a bike ride? After they did the rough estimation, they realized that we probably weren't going to have enough money to eat all our meals out and go mini golfing, as they originally planned. Then an amazing thing happened: they said they wanted to use food we had in the house so they'd have enough money to do some fun stuff down the cape or buy an ice cream if they wanted to. Choose pb & j over the clam shack? Yep. When Mom and Dad aren't paying, at least!

Our Cape weekend was a lot of fun for everyone. We did a lot of things that didn't cost a penny; beach, bicycling, kite flying. I have to admit that it was really nice for my husband and I not to be the NO people when it came to spending money. On the second day, after we had spent most of the day bicycling, the water in our water bottles was getting low and warm. We were passing a little store and the kids asked if we could get a cold drink. We said, "it's up to you. Is that how you want to spend the money?" Well, they went in the store and came out empty handed. "Did you know that the drinks we like cost 3 dollars a bottle? We want to save that money so we can get ice cream later." Ahhh, now we were getting somewhere!

All in all, it was a great experience. Our kids did a great job keeping track of and handling the money. But most importantly they learned you don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun. They also learned that when it comes to your money, you have to make a lot of choices. Not always easy and fun ones. But in the end, they thought through what was important to them, made decisions that served the whole family (not just an individual) and they felt good about those choices. Overall, a good lesson for life.

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How to Sneak Learning into your Child's Play

A parent's summer dilemma: How to strike that balance between letting your kids have R & R and keeping their brains active --to prevent the summer slide. Came across this article that lists 9 tangible ways to create fun, summer learning opportunities. Some really great, imaginative ideas that you and your kids will love. Of the nine, my favorite is to "take a learning stay-cation"! For ideas of places to do this in your area, check out our article about the Top 20 Destinations for Learning. It's all about finding teachable moments!
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016