Marshmallows for the Win!

Our boys don’t have a particular love for sitting still or being serious when it comes to learning, so I have to get a little creative when teaching them.

I noticed one day while reading with Hudson that he just didn’t seem to have a great grasp on his numbers 1-5.

I had the next day at home on Christmas break, and I happened upon some of those K-Cup- type filters in my cabinet.

I wrote 1-5 on the inside of each filter with a Sharpee. I was going to go to 10, but if there’s one thing I know about Hudson (and a lot of kids in general) is that overwhelming him in the beginning can shut him down completely.

I also know I have to scaffold (or break down) the game and build up to the final goal for better success. I grabbed some marshmallows, my kid, and asked if he wanted to play a game where he’d win a marshmallow if he won. Um, yes! He was definitely in.

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Here’s how I broke down the lesson for Hudson, my three-year old. He had mastered the numbers 1-3, so we were ready to move up to five. He was having some success by the end of our first try, but it was slow-going, especially since he happens to be the particularly ornery type, who think it’s funny to eat the marshmallows Elf-style.

Patience is a virtue, my friends. 🙂

1.) I asked for his pointer finger, and we tapped the numbers in the filters as we recited them. We did this about five or six times. It is important to keep the numbers in order for a while.

2.) He was really interested in those marshmallows by that time, so I had him drop one in each cup as he looked at the numbers. We did this five or six times.

3.) We dropped one in each cup reading them backwards five or six times (5,4,3,2,1).

4.) I started asking him to put a marshmallow into the cup with the number I called out. If he got all five right, I gave him a mini-marshmallow. He was starting to lose focus, and the marshmallows were pretty much the whole reason he showed up to the party, so I figured by then it was time to let the kid eat a couple. He agreed.

5.) There were some times when he got them mixed up. If so, we’d take his finger or the marshmallows and repeat the verbal recognition together. “1,2,3,4,5. 1,2,3,4,5..”.and backward, “5,4,3,2,1…” Repetition is key.

From there we kept at the guessing for a while until he started to get most of them right. After that I switched two of the filters around, went back through steps 1-3, and then started guessing again. Once he got those I moved a couple more filters around so they were all mixed together.

This was tougher because he was so used to seeing them in order. He can also count aloud really well and was using that to help him, so this made it tougher.

Each step of the process helped build his confidence. If he lost that confidence, we’d just go back to me helping him with tapping the numbers with his finger over and over until he was ready to try again with guessing.

I will get this game out only every once in a while. In between, I’ll try different games with numbers.

It takes a lot of patience, a lot of practice, and a lot of repetition, but it’s worth it in the end. Our next step, once he’s mastered 1-5, is to slowly add in filters up to ten. I will also use pennies the next time that he can add to his piggy bank.

I find that changing up the way I teach is important for my boys. They like activities much better than workbooks. They like movement much better than sitting. And they really, more than anything, love when the game is over and Momma lets them set up a marshmallow catapult. Left over marshmallows, a spoon, and a block is all you need to laugh and laugh as the marshmallows fly, zip, and zoom across the room!

Enjoy!

~Andrea 🙂

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