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Need a quick ideas for popsicle stick math activities?
If you remember me mentioned about popsicle sticks being my favorite math materials, yes it still apply until now. Popsicle sticks are soooo versatile, you can come up with many learning activities using this inexpensive supply. And popsicle sticks, or some people called them craft sticks, are perfect to use as introduction to the concept of numbers sense with real objects. So what are different ways you can come up using popsicle stick for math activities?
[Updated on August 2nd, 2019]
Activity: Counting to 10 with popsicle sticks
Recommended age group: 3-6 years old
- popsicle sticks/craft sticks (I used these colored jumbo craft sticks)
- 10 disposable plates (or any containers you can put label clearly)
- marker/pen to write the numbers
There are varieties of popsicle sticks/craft sticks nowadays, you can use any kind of them;
- Natural wood small craft stick (this is the traditional size, 3/8 inch wide)
- Natural wood jumbo craft stick (wider stick, 3/4 inch wide)
- Colored small craft stick
- Colored jumbo craft stick
- Wavy craft stick (this is popular for wedding/event decor too!)
If you’re curious about my favorite pick to use:
This is wider than the traditional craft stick (about 3/4 inch wide) and has 6 bright colors. The size is just perfect for little hands to handle! Tips: I saw recently this is on sale. If you can get them for less than $8 for 500 pieces, that’s a good deal!
Preparation time required: 5-10 minutes
- counting to 10
- color grouping
- number sequencing
How To Play
Miss U (3y 1m) just started learning to count. She already recognized the numerals from 1 to 10.
She already knew how to show me the numbers 1 to 5 using her fingers (6 to 10 is a bit trickier for her left hand fingers). So I thought I can introduce her on the concept of counting to ten.
Montessori Spindle Box Inspired
Two months ago I attended one Montessori workshop.
I was quite amazed with how they taught math with the materials, how children were introduced to the concrete concepts of quantity first, before continuing to the abstract context of ‘numbers’.
The concrete concept means, they learn by actually seeing, touching, and counting with real items.
The concept of numbers is when they learn the numerical symbols of 1,2,3 and so on.
Then I searched further about their math materials and how they use it during the lesson. One of them is the spindle box method.
Montessori spindle box is a set of two boxes. One box holds 45 wooden spindles, the other one is an empty wider box divided into 9 compartments in it, labeled from ‘0’ to ‘9’.
The child would put the spindle into each compartment starting from ‘0’, with the number of spindles to follow according to the numeral labels.
So the main idea is, for the child to recognize the quantity, of ‘how many‘ items.
I recreated similar ideas, but with popsicle sticks instead of the wooden spindles.
Here I used small disposable plates as the containers.
I also label each plate with the numbers in three forms;
- the numerals,
- the wording in English,
- and the wording in Bahasa Indonesia.
This is also to help Miss U with her reading vocabularies.
Here I have 5 different varieties of learning ideas you can do with your preschooler.
Varieties of learning activities
Counting to 10
Similar to the spindle box activity, I ask my girl to put the popsicle sticks on the plate according to the number.
Put 1 stick on plate with number “1”, while saying out “One”.
Then put 2 sticks on plate with number “2”, while saying out “One, two.”
And so on, until plate number “10”‘s filled up.
Practice Color Grouping
Now I arrange the empty plates near her, starting from the smallest number to the biggest. This time we’re using the colored popsicle sticks to practice color grouping AND counting.
I started with pointing the plate and read the number, and ask for (how many) (which color) sticks. Like, “Ok, may I have one – green stick please?”
Then, “Now can I have two – pink sticks please?” And so on and so forth.
Of course sometimes she needed help to count the bigger numbers.
The challenge for her was, to be able to count correctly, to avoid skipping any sticks or double-count some sticks.
Learn Number Sequence
When she got bored with the sticks, she played with the plates. So I asked her to arrange them in one line.
Since we already have numbers written on those plate, we can then practice the number sequence.
I asked her to arrange from 1, then 2, then “what is the next number?”, all the way until 10.
What’s the Missing Number?
The child can also learn about missing number in sequence. Arrange the number from 1 to 10, but skip 1 or 2 numbers in between. Then ask the child to guess what’s missing from the sequence.
Let’s Count Down!
Do a count down, ask them arrange the numbers from 10, then 9, then all the way to 1.
Here you can start to introduce the words “smaller” or “bigger”. After 10, 9, 8, then ask “What is the next smaller number after 8?”
Variations for Older Kids
These are only some very simple ideas of using popsicle sticks to play basic counting to 10. If your child already master this skill, you can still use those popsicle sticks for a lot more learning activities.
Here are some more ideas:
Matching Numbers and the Words
Use a marker to write number 1 to 10 on each popsicle stick. Then write the words “one”, “two” etc until “ten” on another set of sticks. Ask the child to find the correct pair of the number and the word!
Learning Pattern Sequence
This is not number related, but it’s also one the concept your child will learn in grade 1 Math; pattern sequence. Basically they’ll learn to recognize when a same thing (same shape, same color) is repeated again in a set of objects.
Set up a simple A-B-A-B sequence with your colored popsicle sticks. For example, arrange in one row on this order; green stick – red stick – green stick – red stick – green – red.
The child is then trying to guess what stick should come after the last one. Green! Then red! There you go.
Other Counting Ideas
Need some more variations? Instead of the popsicle sticks, I also love to use some other colorful supplies for counting activities for my preschooler:
Have you tried other way to use popsicle sticks for math activities with your preschooler?
Share your ideas below!