Number Counting Matching Game

Summertime is a great time for educators to take all of those ideas from the school year and make them reality. At least, that’s been my goal during this summer. All of those notes I had about “I should make this” or “This would be a great activity” is all happening now during summer rejuvenation.

Number Counting Matching Game

Here is a free number counting matching game where children can match numbers with the appropriate number of stars. They are in color so it can assist children with the matching, but the adults should encourage the child to  count the stars to confirm the match.


4th of July Matching Game

4th of July means a couple of things for me: hot dogs, fireworks, and a bazillion American flags everywhere. With everything in red, white and blue, you can add this game to your repertoire. It’s a simple matching game with a 4th of July theme. Fun little activity for the little ones, especially if you don’t want them handling the fireworks.

4th of July Matching Game Picture

Add this to your schedule of activities for the day before the real fireworks at night. Download it, for free, at my online store.

Matching Green Shamrocks

hdr matching green shamrocks.png

March is upon us. Your classroom may be turning green. Dusting off all of those green clothes you have…like, the two pieces of clothes you have. You’re gonna get a copy of Green Eggs and Ham.

In addition, your switching out materials from the various learning areas. So, here’s a game that can support your green transition: Matching Green Shamrocks.

Matching Green Shamrocks.png

It’s a memory game matching clovers in different shades of green. There are six pairs in all. Download the matching green shamrocks file. Print it out. Cut it out. I would recommend laminating the cards. Or, paste the cards onto construction paper, then laminate. Any way, I highly recommend that you should laminate.

I’ll be printing this out for my son so he can practice is fledgling memory skills.

Download Matching Green Shamrocks.

Paper, Stickers and Towers


This activity is best used for counting practice. It’s really simple. It’s really effective.

Get a piece of paper. Colorful construction paper. Place four to five stickers on the page. You can also stamp or put little marks. Something that stands out or sparkly works well. Also, laminate if you want the paper to be more durable.

Next, find something that will randomize numbers. For example, a number cube or a stack of cards with numbers on them.

Finally, find objects that can stack on top of one another so it’ll make a tower. Small cubes, blocks, or manipulative is your best bet here.

Here’s how you play. The child picks a card or rolls the number dice. Let’s say they get a “three”. The child will choose a sticker and make a tower that is three high. Choose another number then build a tower on another sticker. The game is finished when all of the stickers are covered by the towers. Take down all of the towers and play again. There are no winners or losers to this game, but a matter of just counting and building towers.

If there are two children, you can take turns. You can also have sheets with more stickers. You can also change out what the children are stacking to make the game fresh and interesting.

This is a simple game, but the focus here is counting. Also, there is no winner or loser. You don’t count who has more towers or who has the highest. The child or children work to complete the paper, then that is it. Once again, really simple, but this has a bigger entertainment and interest value than expected. Try it out!

Don’t Drink and Drive… with a Pepsi

At age 7, I knew it was very wrong to drink and drive. You could go to the slammer. So, sitting in the back seat and watching my Dad knock one back put my mind racing. “What is he doing!” I thought. “That is so against the law!” I immediately called him out.

“Dad, you’re not supposed to drink and drive,” I said.

My dad stopped drinking and looked at me through the rear view mirror. I tried to give a disappointed look at him, but he had already turned toward my mom, who was sitting next to him in the passenger seat. She was drinking too. She wasn’t driving though, so it was okay.

I learned in school about the dangers about drinking and driving – how it leads to a lot of bad accidents and that people get in trouble and go to jail. I could not comprehend that I understood this concept, yet I was trying to hold my parents accountable to – practically – the law.

“Gib…,” my dad said. (Gib is my family nickname). My dad continues, “…I can drink a Pepsi.” My mom turned toward me, holding her diet Pepsi and nodded her head yes in confirmation.

I put my hands in the air. Well, I had one hand up because my other hand was holding a can of soda. “But I learned in school you’re not suppose to drink and drive.”

“You can’t drink beer,” my dad said. “You can’t drink beer while you’re driving. You can get in a lot of trouble and go to jail.”

“Ohhhh!” I said. So they did know. Although I didn’t really understand the difference, because my mind didn’t really understand the effects of alcohol. There was never a beer or hard liquor in the house during my entire childhood. There was a lot of Pepsi.

Still, I let it go and continued looking out the car window. Although I’m the one that learned something new, I still felt I did my civic duty.

Moral of the Story: Children learn and understand the world better and better as their ability to learn and understand gets better and better.

This idea comes directly from Jean Piaget, a mighty force in the child development field. He theorizes that as children’s perceptions and thought processes evolve and mature, so does their understanding of the world.


Piaget rocking the pocket protector like a boss!

Here’s an example of what that would look like using another story about a flying squirrel (not a story from my childhood though).

A child who encounters a flying squirrel at a zoo – for the first time – calls it a “bird”. 

Now, the child will call it a bird because the only thing he’s ever seen that flies in the air are birds. However, the child knows that what he saw is different, so his understanding of it needs to change – that there are other creatures that can fly and they are not all called birds.

So, the next time the child sees the flying squirrel, it may go like this:

A month later, the child goes to the zoo and encounters the same flying squirrel again, this time calling it “a bird with a tail.”

This is interesting because nothing has changed with the squirrel. It always had a tail. But the child, as he’s developing his understanding, gets that this is not a bird. And, although he hasn’t developed a full understanding or has the language capable to distinguish the squirrel from other flying animals, he will use what he’s got working with his current understanding – thus adding the tail part. He will continue to make incremental progress, upgrading his understanding.

Now, considering my own civic duty story, my understanding was that there was no drinking of any kind while someone drives a car. Yet, this might be understandable, because the statement is “Don’t drink and drive” and not “Don’t drink beer and drive.” Adults, on the other hand, with their more experiences and developed understanding, know the meaning of this statement clearly.

Young children make similar statements and assumptions in the classroom all the time. Have you run into these?

While in line, a boy bumps into the back of a girl. The girl shouts out, “He hit me!”

When you tell a child, “We’re going to share the crayons.” But the child interprets as “organized stealing.”

You explain to the class that everyone will take turns riding the tricycle, but of the two that are actually riding, the other 14 stand pouting with the arms folded.

If you’re a preschool teacher, you probably run into each one of these situations every single day. Furthermore, you probably also understand that, in each of these situations, the children are trying to understand a concept they don’t quite get – bumping is different from hitting, sharing is not taking, and that turn-taking ensures that everyone will eventually get an experience…

…or that drinking soda while driving won’t land you in jail.

The idea is, as children get older their brain will upgrade to the next version. And, as it updates and becomes more efficient, they are able to handle more information with better perception and interpretation of the experiences.

So, eventually, instead of calling the flying squirrel a bird, they’ll call it “glaucomys sabrinus“.  “Don’t drink and fly!”

Blue sky with clouds background

Clouds Move Slow

Clouds move… very, very slowly.  If they’re moving fast, you shouldn’t be outside.

Teaching children about weather?  Clouds are going to come up.  If you’re room has windows, you can look outside.  But students looking at moving clouds will not last longer than 60 seconds.  This is where your smartphone can come in handy.

Using my Android phone, I downloaded an app called Framelapse, which turned my phone camera into a timelapse camcorder.  While in a cafe, I turned the app on, leaned my phone against a coffee mug, and pointed the camera towards the windows.


I turned the recorder on, then I waited.  I read a book.  Journaled.  Drank some coffee.  Timelapse takes time, like baking.  And, just like baking, if you do it right, the end result will be very good.

Students may not sit and watch clouds for 25 minutes, but they could watch this video (25 minutes to record 10 seconds).  Framelapse allows you to mess with the settings to choose how long you want your video, the duration between each picture, and video quality.  If you can setup a space in your room where you can prop your smartphone – out of the kiddos reach – then you can show these kinds of videos during small group.  Imagine the conversations children will have when they see this kind of video.

Let. Them. Play.

Let. Them. Play-01

Back in the day, children use to play outside. When I was a child, I did the same thing. Not as much though. Rough neighborhoods, plus the draw of Nintendo and Sega. Good times.

But I didn’t stay inside all the time. I’d turn off the electronics and create games – both inside the house and outside. With my siblings, we made-up games such as bed hockey, rock golf, and see who could chug a two-liter of water the fastest. All games had risks of physical injury or chronic urination, but they were a lot of fun. Most of all, these games we created using available materials and our imagination.

I mean, think about a child who sees wood stakes, nails, a hammer, paint, electrical tape, and thinks, “I can make a golf club.” I made a golf club – three in fact. Blue, green and purple. From there, rock golf was made (because rocks were free and plentiful).

Learning and development are happening during play. It may be easy to see in the story I just wrote. But this kind of learning happens in all kinds of play, especially free play.  So, you must understand my confusion when people say “Young children should be learning academics. All they do is play. They’re not learning anything.”

Really? They’re not learning anything? False.

Seeing children running around – smiling, laughing, and delightfully screaming at the top of their lungs – is not mindless or a waste of time. And, play is just as, if not more important, than learning academics.

Moral of the Story: Let children play – i.e. develop, learn, and create.

Did you ever take a second language course in high school? Okay. Do you speak two languages today? Perhaps, not. Maybe you do, kudos, but most do not. I don’t. Well, why not? Most people would say that they didn’t use the language beyond their classroom assignments. Others would say that they didn’t use the language in everyday life. Either way, the second language didn’t prove useful beyond a school requirement. Therefore, your brain pruned out that second language. In my case, I don’t speak Spanish (And I’m latino and lived 30 years in California. Still, it didn’t sink in).

Okay. Let’s change gears.  Now, think about your hobbies. Your favorite things to do. One of my favorite things to do is photography. I took my first photography class in middle school (although not all schools offer such an elective, so I’m lucky). Ever since middle school, I’ve been hooked. I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of photographs. Usually, I have a camera on me at all times – digital camera or my smartphone. Beyond snapping shots, I enjoy visiting websites and reading camera reviews, reviewing camera stores, and checking out headlines for new camera announcements.

Alright.  Let’s bring this all together.  Spanish and photography.  Why did I retain my photography knowledge from middle school and not my Spanish knowledge from high school? I had one semester of photography and two years of Spanish.  Well, simply put, I spent more time with photography. I went beyond the classroom assignments and played with the knowledge and tools. I took the curriculum, then experimented and created. I purchased my own cameras.  I tried out new techniques and explored the topic deeper. Therefore, I retained the knowledge because I used it.  Additionally, photography is fun for me, so there is a positive-emotional connection associated with the hobby.

Spanish Photography

So… guess what? The same thing happens in preschool. You know all of those things that we teach in school? Well, when children play, they take what they know and they start playing it. That knowledge comes out during their play. Sure, they may be playing games and activities that are geared toward their interests – like cartoon characters, super heroes, and others. However, embedded in their play are opportunities for knowledge they learn in school to come out.  They’re actually spending more time with the knowledge and they’re strengthening the possibility for that knowledge to be rooted in long-term memory.

Second, play allows for a positive-emotional connection between instruction and fun. I’ve always done well in school, but that’s because I had a positive response toward getting good grades, completing assignments and doing good work. But, I’m sure I didn’t have the same disposition when I was three years old.  If I was going to remember something, then I needed to play.

Third, play allows children to be creative. A university instructor – who I hold in high regard – said that “play = creativity.” I agree. Children learn from teachers, parents, and other children. Play, however, allows children to take all of that knowledge and allows them to create, construct, and – in the process – reinforce what they’ve learned. Sure, teachers may provide opportunities to be creative, but the skills and feelings toward creativity is left up to the child, and therefore they must have opportunities to explore their imagination. Play allows that opportunity.

Lastly, I’m not just sounding off here. Research backs this up. Play supports all learning domains. Play supports school readiness skills. Play supports literacy and mathematic skills.  Here is some information.

Sure, you could teach a child their letters, numbers and colors. But those are so isolated and singular. It’s like that story of giving a man a fish or teaching a man to fish. Let’s teach our children to fish. Let’s allow them to have happiness, fun and positive emotions toward learning.

Let. Them. Play.

P.S.  Here is a TED Talk about how play and creativity are linked.

Teaching in the Real World: Numbers

Teaching in the Real World - Numbers

You go outside and you’ll find numbers. Not hard. Everything has numbers on them: buildings, cars, signs. But can you find them in order?

I walked out of my office and found…











Make it a game with your children.  I hide and go seek to see how fast they can find the numbers in sequence.  Also, notice how some items had a lot of numbers on them, making it easy for your child to get all the numbers at one time.  That’s cheating.  Imagine if your child found this on their walk:


This is not gonna fly!  Make it challenging.  Make them search.  Then make them go beyond ten.

Teaching in the Real World: Colors

Teaching in the Real World - TemplateTeaching colors requires visuals.  You can’t teach Red by saying it.  You need to show Red.

I have a coffee table in my home and it’s black.  If I had children and I were teaching them colors, I would say “This table is black.”  Then, I would find another example. “My shirt is black.”  I would continue to find example after example to reinforce black.

You can turn this into a game.  I took a sheet of printer paper, folded it in half long-ways and short-ways (hot dog style and hamburger style). Now there are four spaces.  I got four different color markers, wrote the name’s of the colors, and then colored under those squares.

DSC03915 copyHave your child walk around the house and find objects that are the same color.  Look everywhere.

DSC03907Something red…Yes!

DSC03909If possible, take those items and put them on your child’s paper.  For example, the tops of these cooking spray cans.

DSC03913 copyAbove are the items I found just looking around the house.  I’ve done this with my classroom students.  The game is like a treasure hunt.  Furthermore, they are reinforcing color concepts by looking for the color, touching the color, and matching the color.  Oh yeh!  Learning happening here!


Teaching in the Real World: Shapes

Teaching in the Real World - Shapes

As a child, I loved playing Nintendo.  You know?  The original.  The one that had the rectangle controllers and red circle buttons.  Classic.  Mario was my favorite game.  I would have dreams at night about finally getting to the castle with the princess inside.

“Gilbert, we’re going to the store.  Turn off the game.” said my Mom.

“Ugh.” said the little me inside.  Gotta turn off the Nintendo.

But, that did not mean that I had to turn off Mario.  I went around the store still playing the game.  My mom thought I liked touching anything and everything that was in the store.  Not true.  I was imagining that my hand was Mario and the boxes where the lands I had to navigate.  When I reached the end of the aisle, I completed the level.  “Ooooh! The cereal aisle is next!” as I anticipated hopping over the Tony the Tiger and the rooster on the corn flakes box.

As fun as that is, I – along with my mom and dad – were very fortunate that I did not break anything on my Nintendo adventures (in fact, they should have probably unplugged me for awhile.)  Still, if and when I’m blessed with my own children, they’ll have fun, but I’ll have some tricks up my sleeve to keep them occupied in the store.

For example: Shapes

It’s easy to look around the store and find shapes.  You’ll just have to make it a game.  Like, playing the game “I Spy.” If your child does not know a lot of shapes, then stick to one shape.  Such as, “Let’s see where we can find circles in the store.”  You can up the difficulty from there.

IMG_20130627_155756I spy with my little eye a white circle. (Target approves this game as well.)

Some diamonds to sit on for a short break.

I spy with my little eye a square (and a sale).

I’ve observed a lot of parents giving their children cell phones to play games.  I see this practice as a way to keep the child quiet and occupied while shopping (and give the parent some temporary peace while shopping).  I’m not against that.  We all need our breaks.  But also take the time to engage with your child that is fun and meaningful.  The more teaching/parental skills you have, the less stress you’ll be under.  Trust me!