By Michael Hartley
One of the best toys my mom ever gave me was a collection of plastic tiles of all diferent shapes, sizes and colors. There were square tiles, round tiles, rectangular tiles, red tiles, blue tiles, thin tiles, thick tiles... A whole box of combinations!
But it's not just the tiles. It's the games she suggested I play with them. She would arrange three loops of string, each one intersecting the other two. Then she'd tell me "this string is for yellow shapes. This one for triangles. This one for large shapes." Then she'd watch while I arranged the shapes in the correct (or wrong!) places within the loops of string.
As a kid, I had hours of fun arranging the tiles in piles, in the loops of string, or just scattering them all over the floor. I'd compare them, stack them, try to fit them together. Hours and hours of fun. It was one of my favourite toys. And the whole time, of course, I was learning mathematical concepts. Shape, size, color, similarity, you name it.
I've made this game available here, so the children in your care can enjoy it as much as I did - and also learn as much. Unfortunately, it's a bit hard to download plastic! But if you have a color printer, you can download and print a set of tiles here. It's probably enough to print them onto paper or cardboard. If you can, print two copies, and paste one onto thick cardboard, so your child can learn thin versus thick as well as different colors, shapes and sizes. Laminating the tiles will make sure they last longer, but I don't know how easy it is to laminate thick cardboard!
Some game suggestions :
- You could get the child to play the game I mentioned above, with the loops of string
- You could show the kid a tile, then ask him or her to find a tile which is similar. Once they find a tile, ask why it is similar. The ask them to find tiles which are similar in a different way (so if they gave one the same colour, ask them to find one the same shape, for example)
- Show the kid two tiles, and ask him or her to explain how the tiles are different, and how they are similar.
- Set tasks like "Find a large, red, circle", or "Find a tile the same colour and shape as this one, but bigger", or "Find a small blue shape with three corners. What do you call this shape?"
- Or, just leave the little tyke to enjoy some unstructured play time with the tiles.
If you like what you've just read, sign up for this site's free newsletters: