**UPDATE: I've had quite a few readers asking for our burrito recipe, so I added it to the bottom of this post! **
Life can get so busy and hectic, right? I love scheduling fun activities for our family because in between all of the errands and tasks and commitments, I want to make sure that we never forget to just have some down time with each other. And why not throw a little learning in to this fun down time?
One of our favorite things to do together as a family is to have Family Reading Nights regularly. So I got to thinking the other day… why can’t we do the same thing with math?
My (almost) 4 year old son, Asher has been really into counting and (the really early stages) of adding lately. He’s experimenting a lot with talking about really big numbers. Pretty much everything is “thirty thousand and six”!
How much longer do you need before bath, Ash?... Thirty thousand and six!
How long ago do you think dinosaurs lived?... Thirty thousand and six!
My 18 month old, Ben, loves to do everything that his older brother has been doing, so he’s been pointing to objects in books and pretending to count them like his older brother does, practicing one to one correspondence.
With all of this mathematical exploration and discovery happening in my kids’ minds right now, I thought it would be the perfect time to have our first ever “Family Math Night”. Although our family night was focused on pre-K math concepts, a Family Math Night would be wonderful for families with kids through upper elementary school! (And even beyond that depending on your kids!)
Before I dive in, I want to be sure to make it really clear that ANYONE can do this with very little preparation. I spent 15 minutes cutting numbers out of construction paper, making our Math Jar, putting up ONE streamer, gathering a deck of cards and a few number candles. Our math themed dinner was an easy meal that we were planning on eating anyway. It just took me an extra 5 minutes to plate in a creative way. Other than that, there was no prep.
Our Family Math Night
To get ready for our night, I decorated the house while my boys were out. I use the term “decorated” very loosely. I cut big numbers out of construction paper and hid them around the house. I put up ONE streamer. Because it was the only one I had on hand. Basically, I wanted to set the stage that Math Night is fun and celebratory… like a party! Because Math is fun, right?? (And if you don’t think so, it’s my theory that events like this provide an invaluable opportunity for our kids to develop the belief that math is fun!)
I hadn’t told the kids we were having a Family Math Night, so when they walked in the door from an outing with daddy, I yelled “Surprise! Welcome to Family Math Night!” I know, I know. My kids are young. Maybe tame down the dorkiness a little if your kids are older. ;) But my little ones were thrilled!
I handed them noise makers (left over from New Year’s) and told them that we were going to go on a number hunt. We walked around the house, finding the numbers I had cut out and hidden, naming them, talking about the colors. I told Ash that 10 numbers were hidden, so the challenge of finding them all kept him very engaged. After we found all of the numbers, Ash suggested we put them all in order on the kitchen counter. Remember how much I love number lines? Understanding them is so important for little ones, and this is the perfect way to introduce them to your child. We made our kitchen counter number line and Ash was so proud.
Next we had dinner. You can serve any yummy meal that your family enjoys, but just serve it in a fun, mathematical way. I cut tortillas into the shapes of numbers and baked them for some homemade “number chips”! I cut the avocado and shaped it into the number 3 and cut the burrito in half and placed it on the plate, creating the number 7.
During dinner, we asked each other questions from the “Math Jar”. We asked questions like, "What is your favorite number and why?" or "What do you think would happen if all of the numbers on our planet disappeared?" You can find a printable with all of the questions in our jar here. If you have not yet accessed the printable section of this site, you can find information on how to get the password here.
After dinner we snuggled up on the couch for a math movie, Donald in Mathmagic Land. It's an old Disney movie - made in 1959 - but was one of the few movies that I could find that was really focused solely on math. Our kids were absolutely riveted, which was a bit surprising because the math concepts talked about in this movie are really advanced! My husband and I both learned new things watching it! But it has great music as well as simple, colorful images which will likely engage even very young children.
Next, we got out a deck of cards and played some math games. We played “War – highest card wins” which gave Ash some practice understanding the value of numbers. Here is a link to a document with some great math games you can play with just a deck of card. There are really an infinite number of options but this is a great starting point.
Last, I put some number candles (leftover from random birthday celebrations!) and put them in some chocolate chip cookies. We all read our numbers and blew out our candles. It was a sweet end to our fun Family Math Night.
We blew out the candle and Math Night came to a close. "Should we do this again?" I asked. In Asher's words, "I don't want Math Night to stop! YES! When are we doing it again?!"
He's requested that next time we focus on patterns.
Thinking about planning a math night of your own? I’d love to hear about it and help you brainstorm some activities! Join the Raising Smart Cookies facebook group here and post your kids’ ages and math interests (or dislikes!) for some input. Or email me here and I'm happy to give you some ideas on how you can plan an easy, fun math night for your family!
Mexican Quinoa Burrito Recipe
These Mexican Quinoa Burritos were actually made with leftovers! The night before our Family Math Night, I had made a Slow Cooker Mexican Quinoa casserole. The recipe was based on this delicious recipe from Julie's Eats and Treats, but I altered it to use what we had in our refrigerator! In the Slow Cooker, I put: 1 cup quinoa, 2 1/4 cups vegetable broth, 2 handfuls of diced fresh tomatoes (canned works too!), a can of black beans and an equal amount of frozen corn, 2 tablespoons of chopped green chiles, 1/2 a chopped onion, 1/2 of a cubed butternut squash, and a few tablespoons of our homemade taco seasoning. I cooked it on low for a few hours, melting cheese on top for the last 10 minutes.
For the burritos, I used Tortillaland tortillas (in the refrigerated section). I put some of the leftover Mexican Quinoa casserole in each tortilla, a couple of strips of cheddar cheese, a bit of chopped cilantro and rolled them into burritos. I baked them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes - basically until the tortillas started to brown and cheese was melty.
For the "number chips" I just cut out tortillas in the shape of numbers and placed them right next to the burritos as they baked! Super Easy!