Some of my favorite counting activities for preschoolers are button drop counting games. They are quick and easy to prepare, can be adapted to almost any theme (here is one to go along with my farm unit), and the kiddies love them! Today, I’m sharing a Valentine’s themed button drop game, including three variations in difficulty, making these activities appropriate for preschoolers through second grade.
You may have already noticed that we didn’t use buttons in this activity. I happened to accidentally find some heart shaped pony beads for next to nothing in cost, so I chose to use beads instead of buttons, but the overall idea still applies.
Begin with a “mat”. In this case, the mat is made up of three layered felt hearts that have been glued together. Place the mat in the tray. The tray is important as it catches the buttons or beads when they drop. Count out the number of buttons or beads you would like your child or students to focus on counting. For my preschoolers, it is usually ten, after some practice closer to twenty.
This is the basic set up for any of the following variations.
The Original Button Drop Counting Game – Preschool
Invite your toddler or preschooler to play the original button drop counting game. (Always supervise young children, since button and beads can cause choking! Never leave your child or students unattended). The child gathers the buttons in his hand, holds his hand about four inches above the heart shaped mat, then drops the handful of buttons. They will scatter about, some landing on the mat, some not. The child then counts how many buttons fell onto the mat. Then, gather up the buttons and do it again!
Variation 1 – Kindergarten
The game is played in the same way as described above, except that the child names how many beads fell onto the specific color of heart within the mat. You can extend this activity and invite the child to transfer each set of beads to a graph, or for more experienced kindergarteners (and some preschoolers), the child can mark the graph with dot markers or stickers. Of course, with the inclusion of a graph, a discussion of the graph use before the activity, as well as discussion of the data afterward, will most likely be necessary.
Variation 2 – First Grade
For the third variation, the game is played the same as stated in the preschool example, with the exception that the first graders can practice composing and decomposing ten by recording “happy” set of numbers. For example, if seven buttons fall onto the mat, the student records that in a chart,with the number of buttons that did not fall onto the mat (three) recorded in a second column. This helps students recognize set of numbers that compose, or add up to, ten. More advanced first graders can be challenged to write the algorithm for each set of numbers on the chart (7+3=10).
Variation 3 – Second Grade
The second grade variation is played the same as described in the preschool version, with the exception that the different colored heart have different values for “points,” like playing skee ball or darts. The white can be assigned a value of three, for example, so each bead that falls onto the white heart is worth three instead of one. The light pink heart a value of two, and the darkest heart a value of one. Students can record their data onto a chart and then at the end of the activity define which drop gained the most points.
So you can see that such a simple button drop counting game can be tweaked in multiple ways to fit the needs of various students. In fact, in a differentiated classroom, a teacher may find it appropriate to challenge certain students with different variations, so not every student will be practicing the same skills in the same way.
If you use this game with your child, or in your classroom, or if you have used something similar, please tell us about it by posting a comment!
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction