Game playing is in and of itself, one of the great ways young children make sense about the world.  They learn how to take turns, test rules, negotiate conflict, work cooperatively, and practice early reading and mathematical skills. I have written about game play over the past couple of years (board games, noncompetitive games, gross motor games) and I am a big believer that teachers of young children should try and incorporate as many opportunities for game play as possible into their everyday classrooms.

Kamii’s lists several types of games that support early math concepts. These are:

• Aiming Games
• Hiding Games
• Races and Chasing Games
• Guessing Games
• Board Games
• Card Games

My favorite game – completely made up by the fabulous teachers at my former preschool- was called “Steal the Jewels.”

The premise is simple.  Take a whole bunch of shiny strings of beads (the New Orleans Mardi Gras kind work really well) and make a pile of them in one area of your indoor gross motor area, or outside, if it is warm.

The children decide the rules.  They may choose to make it a chasing game, where some children are the Stealers and some children are the Rescuers.  The Stealers run to the jewels and steal one string (or two, if the children choose that) and try to get their jewels to the Stealers’ place.  The Rescuers try to tag the Stealers, and if successful, the Stealers give up their jewels and they are returned to the original spot.

Encourage the children to make rules that prohibit grabbing the jewels from each other, or tagging too hard.  It works best if the Rescuers assign one child to be the Protector of the jewels, and only the Protector can hover around the pile.

At the end of the designated time (5 minutes, 10 minutes), play is stopped and the children  either count the jewels or weigh them.  There are now two piles of jewels: the original jewels and the rescued jewels.  Compare the weights or the number of jewels, and play again. This game is fun, exciting, engaging, and the math possibilities are strong.

What kinds of gross motor games do you play?