Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Math: Halloween Inspired Math Activities and Books for Babies and Toddlers

Over the weekend we visited with baby bookworm's grandparents, "Nana" and "Pap".  Since they hadn't seen her in over two months, they (of course) showered her with gifts in the form of her favorite "toy" (as if my house needs more books).  But, grandparents are for spoiling, I guess.  At least she was spoiled with something educational and something that she loves.  Oh, and I can't forget that she also got a "treat bag" full of Oreos, pretzels, and mini Hershey bars that I'm about ready to throw out the window because she now keeps asking for her treat bag at breakfast (thanks, Nana).

What I can thank Nana for, though, is this really cute Halloween recordable book that she gave to baby bookworm called 10 Little Pumpkins.  It is very similar to the Five Little Pumpkins (sitting on a gate) book (and song) that I have recently written about a couple of times.  Of course, 10 Little Pumpkins has few added verses! 

10 Little Pumpkins "Record a Story"
Baby bookworm likes this book because it has some funky music that plays along with each page (she likes to dance), and the pumpkin illustrations are pretty darn adorable. 

I like this book because I can get five minutes of peace with it.  The book is a wildly entertaining toy that she can play with and "read" all on her own! 

What I like even more about this book is that we used it as the basis for practicing some math skills.  Here's a recap:

  1. I let baby bookworm "read"/play with the book for awhile on her own.  This part was pretty easy, and I got a few things done around the house.

Reading the book on her own - helped her to familiarize with the story
before our lesson in math
     2. Then, we had a conversation about the front cover of the book.  My goal with this was to have her
         practice counting to 10, and to see if she could identify the number 10.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Wow, look at all of those cute pumpkins on the cover of the book! Can you guess how many pumpkins there are?"

Baby Bookworm: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" (said very quickly while randomly pointing to various pumpkins)

Me: "Well, let's see...let's count them together. (I grabbed her pointer finger and then began to count) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  There are 10 pumpkins all together.  Do you see a number 10 on the front cover of the book anywhere?"

Baby Bookworm: (points to the letter i) "That's the letter i"

Me: "You're right, but we counted ten pumpkins.  The number 10 is right there (and I pointed to the number). This book is called 10 Little Pumpkins. Can you show me the number 10 now?"

Baby Bookworm: (points to the number 10) "Right there!"

Me: "Way to go, you're right.  Now let's read the story."

      3.  As we heard Nana's voice read the story, I pointed to each pumpkin at the appropriate point and
           I also used my fingers as a counter as the story went along.  When she read, "the first one..." I held up
           1 finger, when she read, "the second one..." I held up 2 fingers and so on.

Identifying the number 10 on the first page
      4. Then we read the story again, but this time I kept count with little pumpkins that I bought from 
          Walmart (I really bought these because I thought it would be fun to hide them with treats, much like
          you might do with Easter bunny eggs).

      5. Following the second reading, we played with some Halloween stampers (also found at Walmart).  I  
          created an "equation" based on the story [an elementary school child may be able to do this on their  
          own] by using the the pumpkin stampers.  Then I showed baby bookworm that there was a pattern in
         the book.  One pumpkin, two pumpkins, two pumpkins, two pumpkins, two pumpkins, one pumpkin. 

         We counted all of the pumpkins in the equation and I wrote the numbers beside them.  I asked her to
         identify the pattern (the numbers 1 and 2, as well), and the number 10.  I even told her that the plus
         sign and equal sign are symbols (but obviously the concept of an equation and symbols is well, well
         beyond her capacity).

Our "equation" based on the book

In keeping with the math and Halloween theme, we also played a sorting game for fun with some colored spider rings and the small pumpkin buckets. 

Baby bookworm sorted the four colors of the spider rings into different pumpkins

And we completed our math lesson with a read through of one of our favorite Halloween books, Treat or Treat Countdown.

Trick or Treat Countdown

Love the cute pumpkin numbers in the book

Don't forget to point out the number words as well!

 In summary, this lesson covered a wide range of mathematical skills including:

Additional Notes on Mathematics Learning for Babies and Toddlers

Think your baby is too young to be learning math? Research shows that the foundations of mathematical thinking are amazingly present at a very young age….take a look at some findings I’ve summarized from Robert S. Siegler’s book titled Children’s Thinking (copyright 1998).

*Research has shown that babies under 6 months of age can discriminate one object from two, and two objects from three (discriminating among more objects than that poses a problem for babies)

*Studies have also shown that 5-month olds can realize the consequences of adding and subtracting small numbers of objects (sets of one to three)

*Understanding of ordinal properties of numbers (such as more or less) begins slightly later between 12 and 18 months of age

*By about 3 or 4, children become proficient at counting by applying “principles of counting

*Most 5-year olds can count to 20 or higher, know the relative sizes of numbers 1 to 10,  understand the one-one principle that each object is assigned only one number word, and that the order of counting objects is irrelevant  

Remember, children's literature is a fabulous resource for learning mathematics! 

I am sharing this post at learning ALL the time's weekly link up - Favorite Resource This Week.
Please check it out for some other great learning ideas!


  1. Thank you so much! We are all Halloween inspired at my house this week and my guys are LOVING it. I am going to share this on facebook.

  2. Kim, you are the best! These activities would probably work well with older kids. The sorting task was well in line with her skills though. I always try to challenge! I'm still getting around to finishing my Versatile Blogger post, by the way - thanks again.

  3. What great ideas! Thanks for sharing with Favorite Resources.

  4. Thanks Susan for checking the post out. I loved your post on the paper fashions! I will be thrilled when baby bookworm is old enough to "play" and learn from things like that. It seems like so much fun. I have been trying to comment on your blog but it won't go through for some reason. I read and enjoy though!

  5. Thanks! I'm sorry you're having trouble commenting. I'm not sure what the problem is...have you tried this:
    Once you type in a comment, you click on "post as" and then you sign in through whatever method you'd like. After you finish, you click "post comment". Sorry to clog up your comments with this. If it still doesn't work, please let me know.


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