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As a preschool teacher, I like to encourage adults to give kids tools for exploring concepts on their own. It is wonderful to see what kinds of things they come up with, and what they can learn through simple exploration or from each other. To start off our week-long number study at my preschool, I set out some number trays for the kids to explore and use alone or with a buddy. What I love about this kind of activity is that most of the things you need can come right from your craft closet. Feel free to use items you already have, or things you know your child would have fun counting. Trays that have sections or small containers will encourage kids to work on sorting and counting skills. Here are three ideas that my kids loved, along with a few examples of how they used them:
This tray includes: Felt numbers (a set of 1-10), a container of dice, four containers with small objects to count or sort, yarn number cards, and a set of large dice that I made using sticker numbers. The yarn numbers could be made out of any material. Sand-paper is common, but felt or any textured paper would work great. This gives kids practice with the movement of making the numbers as they run their fingers over them. Fill your small containers with any objects that your child enjoys using. For this tray I included wooden hearts and stars, large buttons, and red garden rocks.
This tray includes: more felt numbers and dice, a wooden number set, along with different small counting objects. The kids at my school are really enjoying sensory experiences with gems and stones, so I added some of those to this tray.
Our third number tray is full of small compartments. I decided to line ten of them with number cards, and to fill the remaining ten spaces with small items. I also set out some number tools that have pockets that the kids could fill up with the matching number of items.
Here are two great ideas that my preschoolers came up with all on their own. I hope you enjoy watching your child learn and explore too!
During this exploration the kids sorted objects by shape first. After they were sorted they counted the objects and matched them with a felt or wooden number.
During this exploration one of my kiddos picked a container of objects that she liked (the gems) and a pink die. When she rolled a number she added that many gems to her line.