When we had a chance to see The Lakeshore Early Math Activity Center, I was so excited. This is not just a math activity, but a whole activity center that includes adorable elephant manipulatives.
As I’ve mentioned before in some of my reviews, there are just some companies that, as a former teacher, whose products I know are going to “wow” me and Lakeshore Learning is definitely one of them. This set of games and manipulatives is phenomenal.
Sorting, Patterns and Counting, Oh My!
The Lakeshore Early Math Activity Center is a very sturdy, classroom-grade set of games. It is comprised of 36 colorful, heavy duty (and cute!) plastic elephants in small, medium and large sizes. Also included are 4 activity mats for of sorting, patterning and counting. Each mat has a place to put those elephants. I love how tough the elephants were and that the activity mats are high quality and laminated. Even the box they came in is strong and suitable for frequent use!
Checking it All Out: Sorting, Patterning & Counting
Lakeshore Learning indicates that the Early Math Activity Center is for kids ages 2+ and that the activities meet State and National Standards, with which I would completely agree. Kid Tester #1 (3 years old) and I promptly went to what I would call work and he called play. This game is win-win that way.
The first game we played was the sorting by size activity. There are circles on the activity mat for small, medium and large elephants. After setting a small, medium and large elephant on the floor next to the mat, I asked KT #1 where he thought the small elephants go. He pointed to the smallest circle and placed the small elephant there. He repeated the process for the medium and large elephants.
After having one elephant of each size on the mat for reference, KT #1 went about taking each elephant from the box, comparing it to the sizes of the elephants on the mat and placing it in the appropriate circle. He enjoyed this activity and seemed excited that he could do it pretty much independently.
Next we played the color sorting game. The color sorting mat is simply a grid of elephants of various colors. KT #1 started placing green elephants markers on the green spaces, red on the red and so on. He was equally excited about being able to master this game fairly quickly.
Then came the counting activity. The mat has 20 leaves with the numbers 1 through 20 on them. I let KT #1 look at the activity mat and try and deduce the rules of the game from that. After all, learning is about guiding, and directing, right?
Learning in Action
First, KT #1 put one elephant on the leaf with a “1” in it. Then he put 2 elephants in the “2” leaf and so on until he reached about 7 and discovered that 7 would not fit on that place, but that he was running out of elephants and would not have enough for the rest of the board.
He dumped them off of the board and just put one elephant in each square, counting as he went. This time he had enough to get one elephant in each square (with some left over) and had counted them up to 20.
We played the patterning activity last. The mat has rows of elephants with different color patterns on it. The first row is red-yellow, red-yellow, red-yellow, white-white, with the blank elephant-shaped spots being the empty places where the child can finish the pattern. KT #1 was able to do this pattern, putting the red and yellow elephant markers in their places, finishing it with a red and yellow on the two empty spots. The next row has a more complex pattern — blue-green-green, blue-green-green with three blank spots to finish the pattern.
He had a bit more trouble with this one and needed help, as he did with creating his own pattern on the last row of nine blank elephant places. That’s not surprising for his age; I think an older child would create patterns without any problems.
Lakeshore Learning: Educational and Imaginative
We really loved the Early Math Activity Center, me because it’s a learning toy that can be used in so many different ways and for so many different ages, and the Kid Tester because it’s just so much fun to play with colorful elephants! He wanted to play again and again and then wanted to take the activity mats out and make up his own rules, showing that Lakeshore has created not only an educational toy, but one that opens up the imagination as well.