Don’t you just LOVE maths? No? Well, I can’t say that we do either. Numeracy is something we tend to incorporate a little bit of here and there in other things that we do, but we rarely work on it separately. It’s not one of Penguin’s strong points and he’ll easily get frustrated with it, and once that happens the learning stops. So, most of the time, I just sneak in a little bit of counting here and there, so that Penguin can learn it in a natural way.
However, when reading this post the other day, I was reminded about ‘feeling’ the numbers, using a multisensory approach. I thought back at some of the ways we’ve tried working on that before, and I found myself thinking that it would be fun to do some maths on its own again (maybe I do love maths a little bit after all??). But it would have to be combined with something that Penguin already loves. Something that appeals to his sensory preferences. And as you might already know from some of our other posts, Penguin has a strong and long-lasting LOVE for playdough.
So, I made a simple playdough mat with three areas on it: One for writing a number, one for writing that number in letters, and one for working on feeling that number. And since it’s February and love is all around with Valentine’s Day coming up, I went for a bit of a love theme, and got a heart-shaped cookie cutter out to go with this.
I also made up a fresh batch of playdough. And I would have put the recipe here, but it was a bit of an experiment (I tried using cornflour, for making a brighter white playdough) and it turned out slightly more crumbly than I would have liked it. So if you’re making your own, just use what you normaly do, or check this post for what we’ve used before, with great results.
Anyway, I scented the playdough with mint, because we love it. And the stuff wasn’t a complete failure, it just wouldn’t work for rolling out thin ‘snakes’, which I’d thought could have been good for shaping the numbers themselves, and perhaps even the letters, too. As it was, we used an erasable pen instead, and that worked perfectly well. Alternatively you could use loose letters and numbers such as magnetic ones, or shape the numbers from something else, like a bit of pipe clearner perhaps?
When setting up the table, I added a few more items for playdough play, and allowed time for a bit of free play before getting on with the more structured maths stuff. And Penguin couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
After a little bit of free exploration of the new, bright and minty, somewhat crumbly and a little ‘rubbery’ playdough, I wrote ‘five’ in letters at the top of the laminated playdough mat, and got Penguin to help me write the number in the heartshape, in the top corner. I then asked him to roll out some dough and make five hearts, and put them in the remaining area in the mat.
After that, I showed him how we could split the hearts into two groups, and count how many we had in each group, adding a plus sign between the groups to show how 3+2 makes 5 and so on. I made sure Penguin was physically involved the whole time, in the moving around and counting of the hearts, to get the feel of the numbers. He also really enjoyed erasing the black pen lines with his fingers. To start with, I was writing the numbers, but after the first couple of examples I let him do the writing, too.
I’m not sure we’ve discovered a love of maths, but this activity worked pretty much as I’d hoped it would. It was enjoyable and appealed to Penguin’s sensory preferences, and we managed to work on maths in a fairly structured way without getting stressed or frustrated. So we’ll be happy to comtinue with this, and I’ll be likely to make similar set ups with different themes in the future. Love it 😉
If you feel inspired to make your own playdough mats but don’t have your own laminator yet, this one seems to be a decent and fairly inexpencive option, and it’s currently on special offer through Amazon: Cathedral LM400 A4 Laminating Machine You’ll also need laminating sheets to go with it, such as these.
This post has not been sponsored in anyway and I’m including these links for your convenience. They are affiliate links, which means that if you go on to make a purchase of the product via these links, I may recieve a small comission from Amazon, at no extra cost to you. This would help towards the running of this page and our activities. Thank you 🙂