Written by guest contributor Shayna Ghattas of Snack Size
The oatmeal is too hot, it’s not hot enough. The eggs are too soft, they aren’t soft enough! These are the battles we face and choose to fight or forfeit before 8 am!
We know as parent’s that our children need to be nourished before setting out in the world. Whether it’s school or day care, play group or swim class – their tummies need to be fed to learn. In my experience as a both a Kindergarten teacher and mom of three under 7, I know first hand how important a good breakfast is for development. Engaging children in meaningful and authentic learning simply can’t happen if they are wondering when it’s snack time! When breakfast is a struggle, turning the meal into a game is a great way to both nourish the body and fuel the brain for the day ahead.
Cereal might be my best friend when it comes to breakfast because all three children LOVE it (3 out of 3 is a huge win!) and also gives me 6 minutes to make the coffee and pop in some raisin toast while they “play” with their food.
Here are 3 ways to use cereal at your house to get kids minds engaged and tummies fed:
1. Dot Plate Cheerios
Cheerios are the best! They are toddler safe and big kid approved! This dot plate activity is super easy to set-up and great for fine-motor practice and subitization, which is the ability to quickly recognize quantity, without counting, and one of the building blocks of strong number sense. To make the dot plates, draw circles in a variety of quantities (start 1-5 and build to 10) on paper plates. Have your child place a cheerio on each circle and count as they go. We used chopsticks for added fine motor and pincer grip practice. Small kitchen tongs would also work well!
2. Stack it up
Hannah, my 4 year old, remarked one morning that 1 Cheerio looked much smaller than 5 when they are in a “line”. When children see quantities as bigger or smaller, they begin to understand stable order (the concept that things increase or decrease in size) which is a fundamental principle of counting and quantity. When they see quantity in a visual way they can engage in more advanced mathematical thinking like addition and problem solving. Using something tangible, and fun, like Cheerios, makes the learning playful while also engaging in real mental math.
Grab some playdoh, toothpicks, a pair of dice and Cheerios for breakfast time mental math. Roll the dice, stack the cheerios, add and Munch!
3. Alphabit A-Z!
And because it’s all about balance, sometimes we eat treat cereal! Alphabits letter sorting using a mini-muffin tin is great for letter recognition, identification and also delicious! Letter sorting is great for early literacy development. Being able to categorize letters based on common attributes (round ones, straight ones, pointy ones) helps them begin to identify them, which is essential for reading and writing. Have your older child write his/her name or high frequency words (Hello, Grade 2 spelling tests!) or skip the sorting by letter altogether for a sensory activity with younger children. The act of picking up and scooping cereal into the muffin tin is great for hand-eye coordination and fine-motor control.
I know, I know. Meal time can be crazy and the last thing on your mind is setting up anything but the coffee filter but the added bonus of these activities is the peaceful, calm and focused children who are ready to take on their day. They are engaged while you make the meal, pack the lunches, do the dishes and drink ALL the coffee! Give it a try and let us know how it goes!
About the Author
Shayna Ghattas is an elementary school teacher and mom of three children under 7. She founded SnackSize to help parents engage their children in at-home learning activities that are educational, playful and (often) yummy! Follow her on instagram at @_snacksize for more literacy, numeracy, and sensory activities for young children.