The other day I knew I would need something new, and calm, to keep him entertained. He's been really interested in counting and numbers lately so I decided to create a counting activity. I used an old egg carton, some small red stickers, card stock, and dried beans to create a "counting carton."
I marked each egg cup with a number, 1 through 12, using the small red stickers. I cut the card stock into one inch squares. On one set of cards I wrote the numbers out 1 through 12 again. The other set of cards portrayed different quantities and patterns of small dots. I included the beans because I knew he would like counting the beans into each cup, matching the amount he counted to the red sticker.
My thinking was with the small number cards he could do a matching activity; he could put the number card into the egg cup with the same number.
I included the dot cards because of some research I did last year in my classroom on "subitizing." Subitizing is the ability to look at a collection of things and either instantly see how many there are or use patterns to quickly figure out how many there are. Although I don't expect Big Brother to be able to subitize most dot quantities at the age of three, I know that by playing with dot cards he'll begin to recognize number patterns and internalize some of them. This will lead to the development of early number sense, pattern understanding, and arithmetic skills. And he'll be doing it all by playing. Some of the cards had traditional dot patterns, like we might see on a dice or domino. Others were less traditional patterns. I expected for now he could count the dots and then put them into the corresponding egg carton cup. (For example, a two dot card would go into the "2" cup.) It sounds like a lot of effort for a sick day project, but having the option there to explore was actually a quick step in the creation process.
In the end his favorite thing to do was count the beans and put them into the carton cups. We did it once starting at 1 and working our way up to 12, and then another time starting at 12 and working backwards.
Once we had the beans all counted we did spend a few moments comparing which cup looked like it had the most beans and which cup had the fewest beans. Big Brother only explored the card sets briefly. He didn't like how the square card didn't really fit neatly into the cup.
A little later in the week, however, he started using the cards in a different way than I expected. He would take out a card and either read the number or count the dots. He would then find that cup on the carton and count in the correct number of beans. So, if he pulled the "9" card he would say 9, find the 9 cup, and count in 9 beans. A few more steps than I had originally planned, but in this way he had created a great system for even further developing his number sense. Of course it also gave me ideas for a few more games we can create another day using our counting carton.