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There are lots of cool number game ideas out there that I love, but I also really wanted to find some fun activities that tied number into “real life” as I’ve got a hunch children enjoy numbers more if they’re using them all the time in everything they do. (I’m fascinated by the stories of bookies’ kids who struggle with school work but can do truly amazing mental stats at 5 because of so much early exposure to numbers).
The “Big Bird Watch” in the UK has provided a really fab opportunity for this. Basically every year, people all over the country spend a few hours recording the birds that come into their garden. Grandma and Grandpa and the god parents are signed up, so littl’un was keen to join in.
The real thing is too complicated – you have to record the most number of each bird you see at any time – so we’ve made our own simple chart. Each time she sees a particular bird, littl’un colours a square in and if she sees 2 she colours 2 squares in etc.
We only put it up last week but littl’un has got really excited about it, dashing to colour in a square every time she sees a bird. And it’s given us lots of opportunity to explore and talk about numbers.
I have to confess it took me a while to twig the big difference between a child who can remember numbers in order and a child who can count. Basically reciting numbers is no different than reciting a nursery rhyme, whilst the question “how many?” involves all sorts of strange concepts that we take for granted like:
- counting all the things in a set
- only counting each thing once
- only using 1 numeral for each object
- the last numeral we count is “how many”
The bird chart gives us lots of chance to ask how many ..
- birds are there in the garden?
- magpies are there in the garden? (magpies are big faves!)
- magpies are there on the chart?
- birds are there on the chart all together? (which is starting to involve some big numbers)
We’ve talked a lot about which bird we think will “win” our bird watch. Littl’un is convinced the magpies will triumph but my money is on the pesky pigeons! Every time she colours some more squares in we have a look at who’s winning which allows us to both talk about and see visually, for example:
- which bird has the most squares coloured in?
- does magpie have more squares coloured in than pigeon?
- who has the least squares coloured in?
- have robin and blackbird got the same number coloured in?
Can we fix the results?
It’s just started to get cold in London so we’re going to make some fir cone feeders for the little birds later this week, (covered in lard and rolled in seeds), and keep our eyes peeled to see if this encourages the blue tits and great tits out of the neighbouring trees and even attracts the gold and green finches who only come occasionally.
We’re going to start a new chart once the feeders have gone up so we can compare the numbers and see if we have more little birds when we put out special food for them.
Once it’s all over at the end of January, we’re going to cut the charts into strips so we can do a final ordering by the size of the strips and work out how many each bird got and who got the most and who was the “big bird watch” winner!
Sorting and grouping
If the interest is still there, we’ll also try some sorting and grouping into different sizes of birds and different families of birds and adding all their numbers together to see for example if there were more big birds or small birds
So far this has been a really fun activity with the only slight reservation that I am not sure the RSPB should totally rely on our numbers – Gruffalo’s mummy claims she saw a chaffinch and Crocodile that he saw a great tit and I am not sure I believe either of them!
We’re trying to spend plenty of fun time on number each week and some of the other activities we’re really looking forward to trying from our numbers pinboard are Counting fun with ping pong balls, Active maths games, Domino parking lot, Number recognition clock and A stroller number race!
I would love to hear your ideas, do link them up below …