Numicon is a fantastic maths resource which helps children visualise and understand numbers and the number system. If you are unfamiliar with it you can read my Numicon guide for parents here and learn why I love it so much. Allowing children to play with Numicon from an early age helps them to become familiar with the shapes and the numbers they represent. Here are 6 easy ways to play with Numicon at home.
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Numicon sensory tray
When using Numicon with toddlers and preschoolers it’s all about helping them become familiar with the shapes and the numbers they represent. Playing with Numicon alongside sensory materials such as rice, sand or oats immediately appeals to little children.
When you have their interest you can slowly start to talk about the different shapes in conversation and labelling them as the ‘2 shape’ or the ‘5 shape’. You could ask your child to find a particular shape or get them to collect each shape and put them in order from 1-10. If you have a large box of Numicon you could hide a whole bunch and let them find, sort and match them.
Numicon and Play dough
Numicon is the perfect addition to play dough because it easily makes an impression in the dough. Children can become familiar with the numerical value of each shape and count the number of ‘bumps’ they create. When your child is ready you could try simple additions by counting the ‘bumps’ altogether.
You could also show subtraction by cutting through the play dough to take away the correct number. Then find the corresponding Numicon shape for what’s left. It’s also great for concepts like ‘one more’ by using the ‘one shape’ to make an extra impression in the dough next to a shape.
Water bead play
Playing with water beads is so much fun and a wonderful sensory experience. They also happen to fit in the holes of the Numicon pieces! We often add Numicon to our water bead play now. It provides a great opportunity for practising accurate counting and reinforces the numerical value of the different shapes.
Pom poms or felt balls also work equally well. And cereal hoops are great if you want to practise taking away or counting backwards with the Numicon at breakfast time!
Numicon and a home-made balance
Numicon is weighted which means if you had two five pieces they would weigh the same as a 10 piece. This means it works perfectly with a set of balance scales. We made our own using a coat hanger and two clear plastic cups. You can use this to explore more and less and to show which numbers are larger and smaller.
When your child is ready you can introduce equivalence e.g. 2 and 3 is the same as 4 and 1. This would be a great resource to practise ‘find the missing number’ in an addition number sentence. For example put 3 in one side of the balance and 10 in the other. Then find which piece of Numicon you need to add to the 3 to make it balance with the 10.
Numicon number hunt
My kids love treasure hunts so this number version went down really well! I gave them a Numicon shape and they went off to find a set of objects to match the shape they had. We also matched the Numicon to the correct numeral as an added challenge.
Play with the Numicon baseboard
When I introduced the baseboard to my girls it took their mathematical thinking to another level. Filling the baseboard with Numicon in itself presents a mathematical challenge. Finding pieces that tessellate or pieces to fit gaps requires visual-spatial thinking and problem solving.
To increase the challenge you can take away the ‘one shapes’ or the ‘two shapes’ so that they can’t just plug the gaps with these. Or ask them to use only the blue and green shapes for example.
You could also introduce a dice and take it in turns to add a corresponding piece to the Numicon baseboard or use two dice to include a bit of mental arithmetic if your child is ready. You can buy a set of Numicon dice that go up to 10 which are handy for these types of games.
There are so many great ways to play with Numicon at home that will give your child a headstart in getting to grips with numbers. If you are looking for more inspiration do check out my Instagram page where I often share how we are playing with our Numicon at home.