Who It’s For: Kids ages 1 to 5 years
What They’ll Learn: Motor skills, shape recognition, color comprehension, number knowledge, letter knowledge, pattern recognition
What You Need: Fishy crackers, fruit snacks (or any other fun, bite-sized foods you can play with)
Think snacks are only good for helping your children avoid starvation in between meals? Think again. Here are six ways you can use a handful of fishy crackers to totally school your kids.
1) Draw shapes
Younger kids can learn shapes by seeing them in their snack, so instead of just giving them a random pile of fish to eat, form them into a circle, triangle or enneagrammic antiprism instead. Bigger kids can tune their fine motor skills by practicing making the shapes themselves!
2) Group by color
Color can be really tough for kids to learn. (So tough, in fact, that even the super-smart Charles Darwin initially made the mistake of thinking that his own children were color blind – until he realized that it just took them a long time to learn color words.) To help your kids learn colors faster than Darwin’s did, point out and ask questions about the different colors present in your snack.
3) Count your crackers
When children practice counting, they learn not only the proper order of number words (one, two, three…) but they also learn other important lessons, like: each object gets counted only once, objects can be counted in any order, the last number word you say when you count is the number of objects you have, and that anything can be counted – fishies, fingers, the times you visit the potty in a day, aces and face cards – whatever.
4) Write letters and numbers
We love to teach children about letters and numbers, but they’re less likely to listen when it feels like a lesson. Mix up your letter and number routine by writing them with your snacks and then using your creations to start conversations:
“I just wrote a T! Can you think of words that start with T?”
“Watch me add a line to the bottom of this F and see which letter it becomes!”
“I just made a 2. Can you find that many crackers?”
(Note to any single moms and dads out there: you can try using this exact same technique to start conversations at bars. It will be a total disaster, but you can still try.)
5) Practice basic addition and subtraction
Pose word problems using the crackers as props, like, “If you have two fishies and I give you two more, how many fishies do you have?” or “If this fish swims into your mouth at 10 mph, how long will it take to fully exit your small intestine?” Kids are capable of learning basic addition and subtraction before they even begin school, and this kind of practice will benefit their later math skills.
6) Make some patterns
The ability to recognize patterns is essential when learning how to speak, read, understand numbers, play a musical instrument, become an expert video gamer or win a rap battle. So set up some scrumptious sequences like this one, talk to your kids about what “comes next,” and they’ll be spitting some dope rhymes before you know it.