Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Journaling with twos and threes

Lately the kids have been really interested in storytelling, reading, writing and drawing. The dramatic play area and writing center are where the kids spend most of the day engaged in some pretty vivid imaginary adventures. By the end of the day I find myself picking up several abandoned sheets of paper scattered around the room or carefully stacked up on the stairs in neat little nameless piles.

Great writers and story tellers have very vivid imaginations that are developed through LOTS of opportunities for unstructured, open- ended play. As the children play together, they experiment with scene setting, developing plots and examining themes of justice and ethics. Lots of conflicts arise both real and imaginary; as the children work through the problems they encounter, an order to their collective storytelling emerges. 

These little paper stacks are covered in scribbles that represent the day’s storytelling, book discussions, attempts at writing actual words or shared ideas scrawled out in technicolor awesomeness. 

If it were possible to decode the beautiful multi colored scribbles of the wees, you would find a rich fantasy landscape filled with superheroes, dark villains and beautiful princesses dancing among the colorful loops. 

These guys worked for two or three days with a simple wooden frame, pieces of fabric, clothes pins and princesses to create a story in which the princesses were constantly falling into the ocean and needing to be rescued. The boys used bits of string and clips to create ropes to attach to the girls so they could pull them up on land. They also made boats from wooden bowls for the princesses to escape pirates, sharks and an evil sea witch.

If those magical markings could talk you would know the children are beginning to jot down their understanding of mysteries of the unseen organs in their bodies; they want to know how poop is made, where thoughts are thought up or how babies eat inside their mommy’s uterus when you can’t even get any bottles in there. 

J and W take turns looking at each other’s work and begin drawing a map. As they draw they describe their drawings by saying things like “This is the way you need to go to get to my house”
 L chimes in and they all discuss different ways to get to their houses. They each describe attributes of their homes and the wonderful toys they have; that discussion leads to another discussion about getting together to have a playdate.

W- “To get to my house you have to go on the freeway.”

J: “You have to go 20 miles and take the free way then you turn right, then you go down to turn on Evergreen Court and that’s the way to my house.”
They’re also asking lots thought provoking questions, sharing interesting ideas and collaborating among themselves in order to develop some very complex ideas based on their shared experiences.  

I could write for days about all the wonderful things they think up in any given day or how those thoughts determine the trajectory of our daily discoveries but it’s the kind of thing you have to actually witness to appreciate in full depth.

In a feeble attempt to capture some of the secrets lurking in the preschooler scribbles, I have started a formal journaling activity with the children.

The process is very simple: 

Each child has his or her very own journal where they can record ideas centered on a topic of discussion that stems from one of our free play experiences, book discussions or writing center activities.

There are very few rules to the activity, I only ask that the children be thoughtful in their attempts at writing and that they stay on topic.

L is telling us all a very animated story about what he imagines to be in Morris's disappearing bag: a train track that leads to the north pole. A has been drawing all day. She doesn't have much to say as she draws circles of many different sizes all over her paper. I ask her what she thinks is in Morris's bag and she says "Circles.... for construction." I try to get her to elaborate but she's much too busy focusing on her work to answer so I leave her to filling out her fourth sheet of paper covered in tiny circles. It seems she is much more interested in replicating the tiny letters she sees in the book than contemplating the possibilities that lay inside Morris's bag.
If they choose to make large, fast scribbles without regard to the act of writing or if they would rather write about something unrelated to our group subject, I offer them the opportunity to work separately with a regular piece of paper instead of the writing in their journal. 

The purpose in setting guidelines to the project is to convey the idea that there should be some rudimentary structure to the act of writing. My intention is to help them understand that the idea behind journaling is to get their thoughts out on paper so that they can see what they are thinking in order to organize and expand their ideas.

While the preschoolers writing still looks like scribbles, the way they write is much more deliberate. As they talk there is some relation between the momentum of their movements, the direction of the lines they draw and an elevated level of thoughtfulness behind the things they write in their journals.

As they write, I record some of their ideas and stories.

Playing the part of reporter is tricky for me because I would much rather be talking to the kids, learning what they know and listening to the world as they see it. Instead I am working to write very quickly as all six of them are shouting ideas, musings or bits of stories to each other. 

W proudly showing his journal work for the day, he worked for well over forty minutes on generating his ideas.

My intention in recording their thoughts is to send them the message that their thoughts are worthy of other people’s attention, more importantly their thoughts are worthy of their own attention and that they should take the time to think about the things they read, imagine or wonder about. 

Journaling time is a time to learn to question, organize, collaborate, share and defend their ideas in a meaningful way so that they can develop the skills to be proficient in the ability to express themselves.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A tribute to my grandmother

My grandma and grandpa with one of their nine children.

Sadly this weekend we laid my grandmother to rest, she was one of the most compassionate, strong and gentle women I have ever known. 

At her knee I learned what it means to lead by example to lift others up instead of holding them down and to use my station in life, what ever it may be, to contribute to the well being of others. 

Without her there very likely would never have been a Daycare Diva and I am thankful everyday for her tremendous influence in my life. As I was going through my grandmother’s things I found two letters I wrote her thanking her for all she had done for me over the years. It brought me some comfort knowing she had kept them even if she didn’t remember them at the time of her passing.  

This the speech I wrote to share some of the ways she touched my life with the friends and family who gathered to commemorate her life. It is my final feeble attempt to thank the woman who has done so much for so many. 

This is the cradle my grandma rocked her children in then later taught me to rock my brothers and sisters in it as she sewed when we came to visit. I loved that cradle.

A tribute to grandma...

For those of you who do not know me my name is Geraldine. I was named for my grandmother and as a small child I was not very proud of my name. Nobody that I knew had the name "Geraldine". No matter how hard I searched I knew I would never find the name "Geraldine" printed on birthday balloons or etched in sparkly pencils like all the other names of normal girls I knew. 

For a time I was heartbroken that somehow I had been chosen to carry the curse of having the most unattractive name in a house full of girls with normal names. 

One day after being teased relentlessly for my name, I asked my mother why she gave me such a horrid name. She reassured me that my name was not horrid and that it was in fact a very special name. 

She told me that I should be thankful because as first born I had been granted the privilege of being named after my grandmother and that was a very special thing. 

That conversation was the first time that I realized that names have meaning and that names are a powerful way of linking one generation to the next. I came to the conclusion that maybe there was something special about being a part of something bigger than myself so I watched my grandmother and set out to discover the meaning of the name “Geraldine.” 

I'm the ridiculously optimistic kid in the mustard yellow shirt, pictured here with my brother Bill, (me) my sister Tina and my sister Jennifer.

According to most baby books Geraldine means spear mighty or ruler of the spear.

The first time I read the words “Spear mighty” the definition didn’t seem to make sense. I felt like it was an even bigger insult to have a name that had such a boyish meaning when both my grandmother and I were so feminine.

Now that I am older and a little wiser I can’t imagine how I ever thought of my grandmother as anything other than spear mighty. 

My grandmother was a quiet little woman with the patience of Job. 

Those who truly knew her would have agreed there was a mountain of a woman wrapped up in that tiny whisper of a body.

Grandma with a few of her kids. Not sure if she's telling him off or congratulating him on a job well done, either way you can see the love and it's pretty obvious who is in charge :)

In her younger years my grandmother raised her own nine children. My grandfather often bragged about how she also opened her doors to care for countless other children as their mothers ventured out into the workforce.  

Being the oldest granddaughter it was evident to me from a very young age that my grandmother had an almost holy reverence for motherhood and the art of nurturing. 

She made me want to be a good and loving person because I knew how wonderful it was to be loved by a good and wonderful person. 

I do my best to practice that kind love each and every day by sharing it with the children I teach.

Birds of a feather: This is my grandma's good friend Maxine who used to take inner city foster children on our camping trips. Some of Maxine's friends discouraged her from taking the kids especially since she was dependent on a walker. They worried for her safety and thought "those kids" were untrustworthy. Maxine insisted that ALL kids just need someone to care about them, spend time with them and give them a hug.  It was remarkable even as a child to see how the foster children looked after Maxine and treated her with the utmost respect. Nobody ever fought about doing chores at her campsite and there was always a lot of love.

By virtue of her inherent goodness my grandmother was a spiritual powerhouse.
Evidence of her spiritual beliefs extended far beyond the church pew out into the streets where she regularly fed the homeless, brought books to the housebound and visited fellow church members who had fallen ill. 

In fact her compassion was so great that one of her dearest friends told me with tears in her eyes that my grandparents were the only two people who would visit her son as he suffered through the final stages of AIDS. 

No one else was brave enough or kind enough to set aside their judgment of him and offer the compassion he desperately needed. 

She wanted me to know that it meant the world to her.

Amid all the chaos of clamoring children and her commitment to her spiritual practice grandma put herself through nursing school. She persisted until she earned her degree despite the fact that it must have been unimaginably difficult to do so. 

Then she worked the night shift in a local hospital taking care of even more people.

In 1977 - the heart of the feminist movement my grandmother received her nursing degree. The youngest of her nine children was only about nine years old. She told me that she struggled relentlessly with reading comprehension and that studying was tremendously difficult for her.  I later discovered she received a D in her earliest nursing classes, obviously she didn't let any of that get in the way of achieving her goals.

Even though she wan’t the kind of woman to go on about her accomplishments grandma was pretty proud of that nursing degree. For years her graduation picture hung over the couch as evidence of the value she placed on education and her role outside the comfy confines of her sweet smelling home. 

Seeing her take joy in having something for herself in a time when women were encouraged set their own dreams aside in favor of devoting themselves to raising children, taught me that as a woman it was good to have personal goals and it is important to make an investment in myself. 

Once her children were rooted in their own lives grandma climbed mountains, cruised oceans, rafted on raging rivers, hiked, biked and traveled to faraway lands. 

She was bold enough to create space in her life for experiencing things outside her comfort zone and she had the wisdom to know it was important to do so.

As I grew up listening to her tales of adventure it became evident that giving to yourself is just as important as giving to others. In fact when we give to ourselves we have so much more to offer the people in our lives.

Because of her I learned that altruism is even more beautiful when it is balanced against the backdrop of a life richly lived. 

My grandmother snow shoeing on a trail up north. She had countless photos of various different adventures with the names and dates carefully inscribed on the backs or bottoms of her photos.

Spear mighty -

I would have to say that my grandmothers legacy in this world is the swift, silent and precise trajectory of the many ways her acts of kindness, bravery, love, compassion, spirituality and goodness will leave an indelible mark on lives of those who loved her and that those actions will echo forth into countless generations to come.

Eight of my grandmother's nine children: Gary, Kevin, Rick, Dave, Steve, Marie, Philip and Michelle. (Joe was not available at the time of the photo)
If I live to be half the woman my grandmother was I will consider myself very fortunate indeed.

A small handful of her many grandchildren and great grand children.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Learning to write, learning to read with block play

We inherited these lovely little blocks from a cool mom who picked them up at a yard sale for us. I LOVE it when parents bring us in cool new toys because I never know what we will end up with! We usually spend some time exploring new open ended items to figure out how they work and what we can do with them.

Here we were building stairs by lining the blocks up so that they are in order from tallest to smallest. This is tricky because there are many varying sizes so she has to try many blocks before she finds the ones that fit into her plan. She also refines her fine motor skills as she carefully concentrates on lining the blocks up along the long flat block, then balances the tiny cubes on top of her rods without tipping them. The project requires a lot of precision and patience! 

 So far we’ve used the blocks for a bunch of sorting / counting / building projects such as the one above but my latest idea has been to use them to construct letters.

While demonstrating how to make letters for the kids, it occurred to me that I have sharpies in colors that correspond with the blocks. I decided to use the sharpies and the blocks to make templates for the kids so they replicate the letters correctly. 

To make the templates I built the letters then I carefully moved each block then traced it with the same color sharpie. As I worked I made sure the template showed the accurate color and size block so it could be a sorting / matching activity too. 

As I worked the kids watched and made some letters of their own on the table. They counted the number of blocks they would need to construct each letter then compared sizes of the blocks to get the correct size lines to complete the letters. Some of their letters were oddly shaped or comprised of too many lines to accurately portray the letter they were attempting to build but they had fun experimenting with their own approximations of the letters. 

Working with the tiny blocks requires a lot of attention to detail and patience. One false move could cause the entire letter to go off course. Some of the children worked intently on creating one letter for over 15 minutes before moving on to something else. 
Once we had enough templates for the kids to work, they got busy building. As they worked they practiced identifying letters, talking about the sounds of the letters and requesting new letters to build based on words they were thinking about.

One of my little ones stumbled across the letter L then he decided he wanted to build all the letters of his name. This is the process he used.

Upon building the letter L, Will asked me to make a second L because he has two L’s in his name. When he was finished constructing the letters L - L - he requested a letter W to complete his name. When he was finished making the letter W he proudly pronounced that he had spelled his name. 

I took a look at it and said, “You did a lot of great work here but I think you are missing a letter, What are the letters in your name?” He responded with “W - I - L - L”. I said “Most of the letters are here but one is missing, Which one is it?” He looked closely at the letters pointing to each one and naming it - finally he said, “I need a letter I!” So I made him a template to the letter I. When he was finished he said “There, now I spelled my name.” I came over to take a look and said “Great! Let’s sound out the letters so we can see what you spelled.” I sounded out the letters in the order he had constructed them. Pointing to each letter I made the sounds for the “word” he spelled “L- L - I - W”. 

He looked at me and giggled then he pointed to the letters (in the correct sequence but placed out of order) and said, “No! W - I - L - L spells Will”. 

I said “That is how you spell “Will” but if you want everyone else to know you are writing the word “Will” you have to make sure the letters are in the right order so that the letter sounds tell everyone the word is “Will”. “I can write the word Will on a piece of paper so you can check your letters and know if they are in the right order to spell the word Will.”

Then I asked Will “Which letter to I need to write first to spell the word Will?” Will proceeded to tell me each letter in correct sequence and he watched as I drew them slowly for him. We sounded out the word together to make sure it was right. When I was finished I placed the paper with his name above the letters he had constructed.

Will took a minute to study both the letters I had written and the letters he had constructed. Then he got to work rearranging the letters in the correct sequence so that they spelled the word Will.

When he was finished and we double checked his spelling, Will proudly called all his friends over and explained how he constructed his name.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Owlets

These adorable little guys were made from scrap paper donated by a couple of cool moms. All you need to create a flock of owlets for your crew are:

A simple owl tracing on card stock
Scraps of fall themed scrapbooking paper
Two large circles (for the eyes)
A sharpie (for the pupil of the eyes)
Felt leaves (from the dollar store)

I usually have the cutting station available a few times a month for the kiddies to practice tearing, using knives and cutting with scissors. While we were working on other things last week, I set out the paper for this project and the kids cut LOTS of paper. By the end of the week we had plenty of pieces for everyone to work with.

Next I put the templates out during project time. It took two cutting / glueing sessions to fill up the owl template.

On day four, we put it all together. I gave each child a piece of black card stock with a tree branch glued to the bottom. They added the final touches by stapling the owls in place, adding the eyes and gluing the felt leaves on the branches.

Later we googled Barred Owls and Screech Owls to compare their bodies. We practiced mimicking owl sounds then looked closely at the patterns on their beautiful earth tone colored wings. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Super Simple Fall Math Game

Fall math game

Today’s super simple math game took about five minutes to create and set up. If you would like to make one for some of your favorite little people here’s a list of materials:

Playdough - ours is home made and it smells like vanilla, so it’s perfect for fall!
Leaf gems - found at Target in the dollar bin.
2 Wooden cubes - mine were snagged from a building set but you could also find them in the craft store if you don’t have any laying around.

To set up the game: 

1.) Place the gems in a container in the center of the table. 
2.) Give each child a lump of play dough

To Play: 

The first player tosses the dice, identifies the number on the die then chooses that many gems to push into his / her play dough. When s/he is finished pass the die to the next player.

The really great thing about this game is that younger children can play with the dough and gems while waiting for the next turn because waiting can be such a L-O-N-G time when you are little. 

Also I made 2 dice numbered 1-6 and 7-12 but these guys were only able to wait, count and identify up to 6. If I had added the second set of dice I would have lost them so we will try it again when they are ready for something a little more challenging. 

To vary the difficulty consider the following adaptions to the game.

For younger players use only one die numbered 1-6.
For older players use two dice numbered 1 - 12.
Make all the dice double digits and practice identifying larger groups of objects. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Daycare On a Dime

For any of my fellow Daycare Divas and teaching friends out there looking for a great way to outfit their classroom cupboards on a dime I urge you to consider hitting up your local mom to mom sales. These amazing sales are an awesome place to scoop up great deals on gently used items. 

For those of you live under a rock and haven’t heard of mom to mom sales you should know they are magical sales usually take place in churches or schools on Saturday mornings between 9:00 and 1:00. If you don’t have any darlings of your own getting up early Saturday morning for daycare purposes might seem like a waste of a perfectly good opportunity to sleep in but as they say, the early bird gets the worm. Plus it’s WAY better than hitting random garage sales in hopes of stumbling across a fantastic find because almost EVERYTHING in the place is geared for children under the age of five.

A few things to keep in mind....

  • Be aware of recalled items, especially when purchasing infant items like highchairs, swings, cribs and strollers.
  • Never ever, ever buy car seats second hand!
  • Hit up the sales in upscale neighborhoods because rich kids have tons of cool stuff that they hardly ever use and it’s all in pristine condition.
  • Double check to see if all the pieces are in the box, believe it or not some people will try to pass off their junk for a few bucks knowing it’s crap - I’m pretty sure there’s a special place in hell for them.
  • Go in with a dollar amount in mind, or you will likely overspend. (That being said I have to leave my purse at home and only bring cash otherwise I will go to the ATM because I have no restraint when it comes to buying kids stuff.)
  • Keep a running list of things you need in your phone so when you get there you will remember what you are looking for.
  • Go early if you are looking for big ticket items like train tables and jogging strollers the good stuff goes quick.
  • Stay late if you want to scoop up deals from over worked moms who don’t want to drag a bunch of crap back to their car.
  • Keep track of your purchases they are tax deductions!

Mom to mom finds of the day.....

I went in with 20.00 determined not to spend a dime over that and this is what I came out with.

A bag of penguins and five Arctic books for 2.00, how cool is that? I will use it in my sensory bin during the winter for sure! I’ll probably add it to a giant hunk of foam or packing peanuts for building igloos, we could google the different kinds of penguins to learn about what makes them unique.... there are at least ten uses for these guys right off the top of my head.

I also found this awesome race track to continue our investigation of downward slopes, gravitational pull and speed. We could also use it as a springboard for conversations about simple machines and levers. Four cars are loaded at the top then you hit the lever and they all go flying down the track, as the track narrows more two cars go careening off either side until finally one car hits the finish line. Love that it folds up for easy storage too!

Below in my stash is a little collection of cars will be great for our small world construction sites or to be tossed in our beautiful new sand box once it has sand.

 I also found a Connect Four launching game, I spy, Critter Crash, Playskool play tiles, alphabet Beads, Sparkly Beads, some science books, a word building game and a puzzle.

Construct, Deconstruct and Reconstruct to nurture flexible thinking

When I’m looking at board games I always look for ones that have good nuts and bolts. Something we can take a part and use for a few different things other than what the game was originally intended for. It's good for baby brains and good for my overstuffed toy shelves  Also using parts of games for different activities encourages kids to think outside the box and to use things creatively in their play. 

Some examples of open ended use of games are:

This critter crash - This game can be used for patterning, sorting, building, counting, adding groups of objects or pressing into clay (the pieces are textured). 

This connect four launcher - This game has two launchers that promise all sorts of fun for the kiddies in making up target games or shooting across the light table and keeping score. We can also use the acrylic trays for sorting / counting / observing small items on the light table. The launching disks can also be used in stringing projects, or for dropping on pegs. We could also use the disks for placing over specific letters for letter hunt games on paper.

This little building kit was not quite as awesome as I hoped it would be but it still has lots of potential. I broke one of my own rules by not looking in the box before buying it. Instead I asked the mom if it had all it’s pieces, she said it did but she was wrong. Four pieces and the diagram cards were missing. I was a little bummed about it but after playing with the pieces I decided it is going to be a “what can you imagine” kind of a thing. The kids know that when I set out a tray of objects and say "What can you imagine?" I am looking forward to seeing how their own ideas emerge as they work with the objects.

The building kit does have a working motor so it’s good for building simple machines that move. I'm sure my little engineers will conjure up something cool with it. 

As a way to extend their thinking we will take photos of the children's creations before they are dismantled during project time. Later in our large group discussion I will pull the pictures up on the computer screen then ask each of the children to share the steps they used to construct their own machines. The pictures will serve as a prompt to help them recall and retell their process in building.

Kickin’ it old school....

Sometimes I come across really old school games like Connect O Straws and this Playskool tile game. They are usually a lovely shade of burnt orange or avocado green and sold in boxes held together by yellowing masking tape. These little gems always make me smile. They are super cheap and kind of ugly so it’s easy to overlook their hidden potential. Toys from the 70’s are the best open ended toys on the table. Their simple design and no fuss no muss pieces are a great workout for the imagination.

Last week the kids used connect o straws to build some really cool things on the light table, can't wait to see what they come up with while using all our cool new stuff next week :)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Experimenting With Angles and Moving Objects

The other day the kids made up a racing game with the cars, some cardboard tubes and some plastic tracks. As they worked together and separately they experimented with shooting the cars down the tubes from various angles. They seemed especially interested in getting the most cumbersome tubes to rest on the top of the sandbox seats, then they would climb up on the seats to peer down the tubes as they sent the cars careening down the tubes. This game went on for quite some time and the tracks took on many different shapes throughout the course of their experiments.

The children took joy in discovering how to extend the tubes, add other pieces to the tracks or change the look of the tracks by stacking closed tubes on top of open tracks. They also set up little cross roads by setting smaller tubes across the tops of larger tubes. 


Noticing their interest in the plastic tracks and cars, I decided to pull the remainder of our tubes out and give them a scrub so we would have more tracks to work with in the upcoming days. The children love all sorts of washing projects so we ended up with a crowd of boys who wanted to help wash the tracks. As they cleaned the tracks they discovered that they could make little chutes to direct the water off the end of the table. I wondered aloud if he could they could find a way to use the chutes to fill a bucket with warm soapy water. They got to work experimenting with positioning a bucket under the chute - it took several tries but eventually they got it. 

After working with the bucket one of my little guys seemed interested in finding a way to extend the track by positioning some tracks next to each other. The tracks didn’t stay together very well and we were running out of time for the activity so we decided we would take a look at how we could make longer tracks another time.


For our third investigation of angles, tracks and extending tracks I set up this waterworks station:

The crates serve as the highest point, then the largest rain gutter extends over the water bin and that runs down into a third level - the water table. I also added this little work table and a step stool for the children to climb up on so that they could see the highest level of the waterworks. They really enjoyed the challenge of climbing up to the highest level without spilling their water! 

We also had this little water bottle set up on the side for the children to practice filling their cups as they waited for a turn to climb or work in the most coveted spaces around the table. 

Some of the things we noticed while working: 
A watches as the corks are carried down the track and over the edge to the sensory bin below. While she works, the track slips and is positioned so that it forms a bridge rather than a downward slope. A looks confused so she moves it back and forth for a bit until she thinks she has fixed it. She tests the track again but the water does not move as quickly so she goes to the end and dumps a larger amount of water off the edge of the track. After watching her work I asked her “What do you think would happen if you moved the track up a little higher?” She moved the track up to the highest point so that it created a dramatic downward slope and the water / corks moved very quickly to the bottom bin. All of the other children came to see her track. 

While working at the water table S watches his corks move down the track and off the table. He repeats the process several times and as he works his track moves so that the downward slope of the track moves in the opposite direction. He dumps a cup of water onto the track and all of his corks go down the slope into the sensory bin. S notices the movement in the opposite direction and says “Hey! they’re going the wrong way.” Then he continues to dump water on the tracks and watch the corks move in the opposite direction.

Our youngest waterworks participant was primarily concerned with filling / dumping cups of water then watching it run off the end of the rain gutter into his cup. He also put several corks on top of the crates and dumped cups of water over the corks until the flow pushed the corks through the crate holes into the stack of crates. Then he peered through the holes to see where they went.

While working with the water spigot some of the newer children were having trouble figuring out how to get the water out. The children who had more experience with the tricky spigot helped figure out how to position the container just right so that water would come out. As they worked together on the project the other children were patient with the child who was trying to figure out how to get it to work, then they all took joy in his success when he finally accomplished his goal. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Counting Gems on the Light Table

One of my favorite projects this week was the counting game we worked on at the light table. This little game was pretty simple to put together. If you would like to make some for your peeps you will need:
  • Small adhesive frames (mine came from Arts and Scraps),
  • velum or drafting paper, 
  • sharpies
  • glass gems
I made the number cards by placing a frame on some drafting paper, drawing the number then trimming off the excess paper. When I was finished they looked like this. 

Then I set up the invitation for the game by placing one acrylic tray of numbers and a second tray of gems on the table like this ....

As more children were drawn to the table, a game emerged. Each child drew a card from the pile then counted out the appropriate number of gems from the pile to place on the card. As the children waited for their turn with the cards, they lined up their gems in different configurations and counted to themselves.

Simple and beautiful!