Introducing Zero!

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Travis and I had some toddler math fun this week, playing with the concept of zero.

He’s familiar already with “empty” and “nothing,” thanks to the age-old trick of hiding an item in one hand but not the other, and having a child guess which hand is full. Whenever I reveal the empty hand, I’ll splay my fingers and say, “I’ve got nothing!” He cracks up every time.

So it only seemed a small step from there to introduce the concept that nothing is another way of saying zero. To play with the idea, we did a few easy games.

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Label a piece of construction paper with 6 squares, numbered 0 to 5. Give your child pennies or other tokens, and see if he or she can put the correct number on each square. The 0 square should stay empty of course! Travis was great at leaving the zero blank, although his counting got creative on squares 4 and 5, still tougher concepts than 1 and 2!

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The second game involved eating Fruity Bunnies (no hardship there!) a favorite snack. Choose any treat or small candy that your child loves, and lay out 3 to 4 bowls, some filled with the snack, some without. Your toddler then gets to put a big 0 in the bowls that have no snack.

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As he continued eating, more and more bowls got a 0, making this a little introduction to the idea of subtraction, as well. Travis had so much fun laying down his orange 0 cards that he almost didn’t mind when the bunnies were gone!

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Finally, we played a game outside with cards numbered 0 to 5. If Travis drew a 5, he had to march 5 steps, and so on (his counting got a little creative here, too, of course!)

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But if he drew the 0, he had to… freeze! 0 steps. A cute movement-play way to introduce the idea of nothing.

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