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French Fry Game

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I love it when a game so cheap to make is such a big hit!  When my daughter was nearing 3 years old she LOVED counting.   She would proudly count to 30 with only a few mistakes.  BUT...she couldn't correctly count a pile of 5 pennies.   I think our preschoolers hear 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc., so much that they are working off of memory and can easily repeat it.   I wanted her to be able to apply her knowledge.

One night on a McD's visit she ran out of fries.   She wanted some of mine.  I offered her 3 and ONLY three and we counted them carefully into her empty bag.   That planted the idea for a game.  The manager gave me 12 boxes that night.   I went home thinking to use fun foam but it isn't thick enough.   If memory serves me correctly it was my son who suggested cutting up a sponge.

I bought a large kitchen sponge [on sale too] and cut it up.   I didn't worry about perfect rectangles or equal lengths.   I think you should avoid sponges with any anti-bacterial chemicals in them just to be safe.

I wrote the numbers one to ten in the back top edge of the boxes.   I also included dots to represent the values of the numbers.


SKILLS:

ONE TO ONE CORRESPONDENCE
Tap each dot as you count. THEN count each french fry as you drop it in the box.

ADDITION
We use an empty box to represent the equal function.  I think this allows kids to VISUALIZE that adding INCREASES your number.   If the problem was 2 + 3 = __ I would have my daughter first count out 2 fries into the 2 box and then 3 fries into the 3 box.  Then she is reminded to MOVE the fries from the 2 boxes into the empty box.  I wanted her to SEE how adding means 2 smaller groups becoming one larger group.

SUBTRACTION
We would start with a larger number like 9 and I would ask her if I could eat 4 of her fries.  I would pretend to eat them, keeping them in my lap. Then I would say "If you have 9 fries and mommy eats 4 of them how many are left for you"?  I believe in teaching word problems early - that, IMO, is the test to see if a child can apply a concept.  You would be surprised at what these little people can do.

DIVISION
I asked for more holders at our next trip to McDonald's.  As we play I 'order" a number of fries and see if they can be shared by 3 empty holders [to represent me and the kids] or by 4 to include sharing with dad.  Of course you can use any other numbers like dividing the fries by 2 or by 5 or whatever.

MONEY
My kids often jump into imaginative play using the fries as props.   My oldest will bring out his fake money cash tray.   We have the most fun with ridiculous prices - like $5.17 for 8 french fries :-)  I believe that this game could be used to gently introduce coins to the younger child or as a fun drill for the child who is struggling with 1 nickel = 5 pennies.

SOCIAL SKILLS
I am sure to model what I deem to be appropriate customer service skills. Not the sluggish 'here or go' you have mumbled at you nowadays.   I speak clearly and use proper sentences.  Even my little girl will say "hello, what would you like today?"  My son gets a kick out of saying "would you like any fries with that"?  He thinks it's funny!  We order other food besides fries and have a grand old time.

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