We have a lot of pennies in our house. With an orally fixated nine-month old in our midst, Mommy normally sees those little copper coins as nothing more than choking hazards waiting to happen.
Thanks to Mister Rogers, our view of pennies recently changed. (Get it? Pennies? Changed?!) Mommy ran across an idea for pennies in his book, Play Time. We took the idea and ran with it, creating penny activities (and some super-sneaky math and science learning) for the entire week.
Our penny fixation began with Mister Rogers’s suggestion to wash pennies. We followed his directions, mixing 1/4 cup of white vinegar with 1 teaspoon of salt. When dirty, dull pennies are dropped into the solution, they are cleaned off and become super shiny again! Basically, the copper in pennies reacts with oxygen, creating icky copper dioxide. (Yes, icky is a scientific term in our house.) The vinegar and salt dissolve the copper oxide. Being only two years old and four years old, we did not completely understand the scientific principles behind our experiment. However, we did enjoy some stinky vinegar fun.
Learning to count objects and understanding numerals are two separate and distinct skills. To understand that the number “5” stands for five objects can be a difficult concept to master. I used pennies to help me begin to grasp the concept.
Mommy wrote the numbers 1 through 10 on pieces of construction paper. Then she gave me a handful of pennies. When she handed me a number card, I put the appropriate number of pennies on the card. Any favorite manipulative (bingo chips, counting bears, buttons, beads, etc…) would work well for this.
Once I’d practiced penny cards for a bit, Mommy decided to up the ante. We put two cards together and counted the total number of pennies on them. For example, the two pennies on the “2” card and the four pennies on the “4” card made six pennies when placed together. I had fun counting all the pennies and Mommy was able to sneak in some basic math terms like “add” and “equal.”
Being only two years old, Kat is more likely to ingest pennies than add them. However, she is learning to count and recognize numbers. After she and Mommy spent some time counting short lines of pennies, Mommy gave her some of my number cards. Kat worked on tracing the numbers on the cards with pennies. This gave Kat time to become familiar with numerals while she worked on fine motor skills. And no pennies were harmed or ingested in the activity. Success.
Magnify the Experience
When we finished playing with our pennies, we used our magnifying glass to get a better look at the coins. When you look very closely at the Lincoln Memorial depicted on the penny, you can see a teeny tiny Abe Lincoln in the memorial. This was especially interesting to us, as we had just visited the actual Lincoln Memorial last week. After seeing the memorial and the president on the penny, Mommy showed us pictures of us at the real memorial! Wow! We’ve been to the place that’s on the money! It’s much, much bigger in person. (More on our DC experience in our next post, by the way.)
And the Fun Doesn’t Stop…
Although we’re done for the week, there are still plenty of penny activities out there to explore. We’re thinking about trying some penny-play-dough sculptures. Or perhaps tracing letters with pennies. Now it’s your turn. Go play with your pennies, people. Then come back and share your ideas with us!
UPDATE: We’ve linked our post to the Smart Summer Challenge. Check out the challenge at Pink and Green Mama!