This practicing addition busy bag gets the process of addition into the hands of school age children and even preschoolers. The more hands on a learning activity is, the younger the child is who can explore it. I truly believe our kids can learn big concepts-or begin to explore them-from a much earlier age than most people think. As long as we use age-appropriate learning activities and develop them to be as hands-on as possible (for children who learn best that way), you can talk about almost any elementary math concept.
I started introducing the process of addition to my children when they were nearing kindergarten age-around 4 to 5 years old. We did it for fun; just as another of our at home learning activities. I was not trying to teach them the concept of addition for mastery at this age, but just introducing it in a fun, hands-on way to see how they did with it. It doesn’t have to be stressful to teach our children challenging concepts.
Addition is the most basic form of math problem, so it can be easily explored by children as young as preschool age. I made a simple addition busy bag for practicing addition concepts to encourage my preschooler to identify numbers, practice counting skills, and even stretch her ability to write numbers. (This is an optional step, so if your preschooler is not writing numbers yet, you do not have to use that part.)
What you need to make this practicing addition busy bag:
2 pieces of construction paper
Pom poms (or Lego bricks or paper clips or cotton balls)
Zip top bag (for storage)
Dry erase marker (optional)
Tupperware lid or small bowl
- Write numbers 1-10, twice, and numbers 11-20, once, on one piece of construction paper. (I used yellow.)
2. Cut the numbers apart to create number cards.
3. Draw a blank addition equation on one piece of construction paper. I used boxes in place of where the addends and answer would go. Draw these boxes large enough to fit your number cards.
4. Laminate the number cards and addition equation mat if desired. (I love this little laminator…and laminating has helped this activity last for years!)
5. Set up the addition busy bag by arranging the pom poms (or math manipulative of your choice) on a lid or small bowl.
6. Then, place the equation mat on the table. Arrange the number cards next, face up so they can be easily seen.
How to Play with the Practicing Addition Busy Bag
When the activity is set up, you can talk your child through the parts of the busy bag activity and how they are used.
I showed my daughter how to pick one number card to place on the left side of the addition equation, and another number card to place on the right side of the addition equation.
She then counted out pom poms for each number creating two groups of pom poms.
I told her how when we add we are combining two groups so they become one new group all together. So, I showed her how to slide the pom poms from the two groups together to make one larger group.
Next, she counted all of the pom poms together to find the total.
When she found the total, she wrote that number in the answer box on the addition equation mat. If your child is not writing numbers yet, or you do not want them using dry erase markers, you can help them identify the number on the number cards that matches the answer. Place that number card in the answer box and the addition equation is complete.
At first, or with younger preschool kids, it may be best to just focus on picking two number cards, counting out the two groups of pom poms, and then counting them all together without worrying about showing the answer.
There are many ways to leave this activity open-ended and child directed.
Additional Hands-On Math Activity:
To create a second activity with this practicing addition busy bag, simply use the number cards and pom poms.
Arrange a few number cards on the table and leave the pile of pom poms for your child to use. Your child can go around to each number card and count out how many pom poms equal that number. The numbers they don’t know, they can skip and you have a built in assessment of how their counting skills are progressing.
What other ways can you think to use this practicing addition busy bag idea with your kids?