Christmas Shape Review “Lesson”

I love Christmas! Today I’m sharing my favourite go-to maths “lesson” for the last day of term. I would very happily do this lesson 5 times in a day. And yes, it did, unbelievably, take the class the whole 50 minutes of the lesson! I’ve done the lesson with ages 11-16, but you could definitely do this with younger kids too.

Along with Christmas, I also love origami. I think it’s a brilliant fine motor skill, and I found when teaching that a lot of kids and young people really lack some of the fine motor skills for folding and mathematical drawing and measuring.

So, Christmas meets origami for my last-day maths lesson!

Earch student needs a rectangular piece of paper. I tended to use cheap gold and silver wrapping paper, but in the pictures below I simply used A4 paper. The wrapping paper is easier to fold and more exciting, but you do have to cut it into pieces before the class arrives. They don’t have much patience for watching you cut paper. Ask how I know.


Sorry these pictures aren’t numbered but I will number them in the instructions anyway! After each section I would ask the class a question about the shape they have now folded.

1) start with a rectangular piece of paper and then

2) fold in it half length-ways. What shape is this?

3) unfold the rectangle and now do the trickiest bit of the origami – it’s all downhill from here- take the top right corner and fold it to meet the fold line you have in the middle of your paper. This new crease needs to go exactly to the bottom right corner. What shape is this? (Irregular trapezium) What new angle size have we made? (60 and 120 degrees) ,origami-star-4-to-6

4) Now fold the top edge to meet the folded edge. What shape is this? (Pentagon, irregular pentagon, concave pentagon)

5) Take the little bit sticking out from the bottom of the triangle and fold it up. Tuck it inside the triangle. What shape is this? (Equilateral triangle) What size are the angles of this triangle? (60 degrees)

6) Fold the triangle in half. What shape is this? (Scalene, right-angled triangle) What size are the angles? (30, 60 and 90 degrees)


7) Unfold your right angled triangle and fold it again the other two ways so you end up with three crease lines on the equilateral triangle.

8) Fold the top point of the triangle down to meet the crease line on the opposite edge. What shape do we have now? (Isosceles trapezium) What size are the angles? (60, 60, 120 and 120 degrees)

9) Do the same for the other two points. If you have all three of these folded at the same time, what shape do we have? (Equilateral triangle again!)


10) This step is just for the maths teaching! Unfold the little equilateral triangle you had in step 9 and then hold the three points together. What shape do we have now? (Triangular-based pyramid, tetrahedron)

11) Unfold the tetrahedron and flip it over so that the folds you have previously done look like mountains instead of valleys. Now fold the top point down to the centre of the triangle, marked by the creases you made in steps 6-7. What shape do we have now? (Isosceles trapezium) What are the angles? (60, 60, 120 and 120)

12) Fold the other two points in to the centre. What shape do we have now? (Regular hexagon) What size are the angles? (All 120 degrees)


These pictures are in the wrong order…

13) This is the middle picture. You need to turn your hexagon over and this should be really easy to do as you’ve already made all of the creases. Fold like I’ve shown in the picture.

14) The picture on the left: do step 13 for the other two points. You can see I’m holding  it down because otherwise it pops open.

15) This is the step where we get the star to hold its shape. This reminds me of when you’re closing a box lid and each of the four flaps needs to be over one of the others and under the next one. You need to tuck the last flap you folded down under the first flap, and then it will stay. Bunny couldn’t wait much longer to have the star at this point…


16) Turn it over and you’re done! What a beautiful Christmas star.

You can look for the easier answers to questions or more difficult ones, depending on the age and understanding of your students (it is meant to be a review after all!). As I was writing this I worked out that you could ask about the angles, which makes a nice extension to the activity. You could ask them to work it out in their heads through knowledge of the total internal angle of a polygon or by using a protractor.

To sum up, I find this a nice, relaxing lesson – students are happy to do it because it seems like a fluffy lesson but you can actually extend it to have some great learning and review applications.
I hope it gives you some ideas for your last few days at school this year, if you’re not already on holiday.

Merry Christmas!

8 Games for Preschoolers

I’ve written about some games for maths-loving kids (or adults!) and games we love for adults or families over the last few weeks. Today I’m going to write about some games Bunny loves. If you don’t know already, she is 3 and a half, and has the corresponding attention span (generally 1 minute per 1 year old…) so shorter games work best for her. I love including games in our day and in our homeschooling, they really engage her and satisfy her need for fun (think Sims!) while she learns. Something that every game teaches her is turn-taking – not something which comes naturally to a small person, so I’m glad for the extra opportunities! These games do not require reading, so they’re great for Bunny now.

Many of the games we play I find online for free, by searching other blogs and Board Game Geek (which is a forum-style website where people who play games and invent games share free print-and-play files). Some of the traditional games we play are in this list. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one then I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

1. Busytown by Richard Scarry UK/US

This reminds me of a giant Where’s Wally? (Waldo) page, but as a game board. It’s 2m long, so you need a big floor space! It is a cooperative game (my new favourite game style, if you have any favourite cooperative games let me know!) so there’s no friction between the players. If you spin a GoldBug (don’t ask me why it’s called that!) then you take a GoldBug card, look at the item on it, and then all the players have 30 seconds to find as many of those items as they can. When you find an item, you put a magnifying-glass shaped marker on it. Then you count them up and everyone gets to move forward that many squares! This has helped Bunny so much with her one-to-one correspondence (counting one for each one object), visual discrimination (important for learning to read – think distinguishing b from d etc) and teamwork (dividing areas of the board between players to hunt for objects). It’s fun for adults and children too! Thanks to Uncle C for buying it for Bunny!

2. Don’t Break The Ice UK/US

This game gets mixed reviews for various reasons. It takes at least as long to set up a round as to play it (generally about a minute for each, depending on how well your children will follow the instructions to wait, take turns, etc). An adult has to set it up because it’s too hard for children to do themselves. When playing, you take it in turns to hit one block until it falls out of the ice rink; the person who makes the big block with the polar bear fall out of the rink is the loser. If you have more than two players, the loser from the first game is out and has to watch the remaining players play until everyone bar one person has lost. This may not work well for bigger groups. It’s quite noisy – kids using plastic hammers on plastic blocks isn’t the nicest noise ever. So why do we like it? For Bunny it’s quite difficult to have the self-control to only tap one block out and to take turns. These social skills are important to develop and this game is a nice way to do it. It provides lots of teaching moments! I’ve linked to the Frozen version, since it’s currently much cheaper than the original!

3. Operation UK/US

already wrote about how we use Operation in our house as a fine motor skill game for Bunny. She asks to play every few days. It’s a fun way to do some fine motor practice. We don’t use it as a game – taking turns, using the cards and money etc – but we will definitely progress to that once she is older and can play with the battery pack in so that the buzzer works!

4. Dominoes UK/US

The domino set we use was mine when I was little – I love the nostalgia! It has animals and numbers on it so Bunny can learn to match the pictures, rank the numbers (e.g. when starting we ask who has the highest double, and that player goes first), and connect the number of animals/pattern of animals with the numeral on the domino. I struggled to find similar modern dominoes, so the UK ones are pirate-themed and the US ones are animal themed.

5. Number Cards

We have a set of number cards, and you can use them in so many ways! Games of Snap, memory matching games, and war games. For a war game, you can give a player a number of chances to see if they can beat the card on the table with a higher number. These games teach numerals, value of numbers, and comparisons between numbers. You can find them cheaply in shops or if you want to print your own, Life Over C’s shop has some great number card packs with game ideas you could buy.


UNO is a fun game you can use to teach colour- and number-matching. I cut out the trickier rules (like the bit where you say “uno”…) and introduce them as Bunny gets older. If you’re playing a card game with small people it might be worth investigating making or buying card holders UK/US.

Games on our wishlist:

7. Pengoloo UK/US

You collect penguins from the centre of the board/layout by rolling dice and matching the dice colour to the colours of eggs under the penguins. You have to remember where coloured eggs were when others are playing so that you can get the penguins on your turn! 6 penguins on your iceberg wins the game. I think this will be good for colour-matching, turn-taking, communicating, strategy and concentration span.

8. ThinkFun Swish Junior UK/US

These transparent cards are so attractive! You lay out 12 cards on the table and then look for a “swish”. This is when cards match by one card having an outline of a shape in the same place that the other card has that shape. You can have 2-card swishes, or swishes that require more cards to be stacked up together. This should make it really fun and challenging for the whole family! I think Bunny should be old enough to work cooperatively on this game now, though ThinkFun recommend it for ages 5+.

So if there’s anyone little left on your Christmas shopping list, why not think about some of these games as a present for them?!


Teaching Tots about Treasure

In a shop – food, homewares or (the worst) toys:

“Can I have this?” Small Child.

“No.” Parent.

Please can I have this?” Small Child.

“No, it isn’t on the list/in the budget/what we came here for.”

Option 1: Child throws a tantrum and you have to punish them and leave the shop in embarrassment.

Option 2: You find a cheaper option and allow the child to have it.

Option 3: You completely give in and wish you hadn’t made an issue of it to start with.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t been that successful at finding other options. One good way to avoid the discussion is to shop online…! Anyway, one thing we are doing which is helping Bunny to understand why she can’t have everything she lays her eyes on is teaching her about money (i.e. treasure – I just liked the alliteration. Sorry if you were looking for pirate-themed activities.).

We started this a couple of months after Bunny turned 3 (just after we found Dave Ramsey). We pay her 50p for each of her paying jobs. These are unpacking the shopping and helping me to change the bedding. This means she can earn £1 per week. She doesn’t get any other pocket money or allowance, though sometimes she will receive gifts of money.


This may be the point in this post when some people get upset at how we are training our child, but for us it has benefits.

I usually find with any parenting advice that everyone loves their own method – which is fair enough, as they’ve tried it and it worked brilliantly with their own child(ren) – and will argue for it, perhaps to the point of making you feel that your way is wrong or harmful for your child(ren). I try to listen, hear their idea, decide if I like it and want to investigate more, or that I don’t, and if it is the latter I will try to nod along and not take it to heart as an attack, and won’t try to argue my point as it won’t change their opinion. That doesn’t mean I would like hate-replies to this post though…! It doesn’t mean I’m always that great at doing it either. I love to argue my point, but in parenting conversations it’s just not that helpful.

So how do we teach Bunny household responsibility if she gets paid for jobs around the house? Well, there are lots of jobs she doesn’t get paid for. She sets the table for dinner, tidies rooms with me, makes the beds with me and sometimes helps me clean (though that is playing really!).

So, now that we have been doing this for a few months, what has Bunny learned?

– She can earn and save up money for something for herself. A little while ago she was able to buy this Thomas the Tank Engine (US affiliate links – if you purchase after clicking an affiliate link I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, thank you in advance for your support if you do purchase through my link) for her wooden railway set, with £10 of her own money which she had earned and saved herself. We’ve really tried to emphasise the big achievement this was to her!

– Bunny definitely knows the connection between work and money. I can’t neglect to pay her – she remembers! She will remember, even if it is a day later, that I haven’t paid her yet for the work she has done.


– “You can spend money on something to play with or eat” (I just asked her what she knows about money)

– When we find ourselves in a shop and Bunny asks for something, we have another option: “You can buy it with your own money if you want it (and have enough)” – I always make sure to tell her that it means it will take longer for her to save up for whatever it is she is saving up for at the moment, and I might ask her to think about it overnight and we can come back the next day if she still wants it, if it is a larger purchase

– Along with the last point, Bunny knows that you can’t buy everything you want. Money is finite!

What does she not yet understand?

– More coins does not mean more money! She knows that the coins have values but she hasn’t made this connection yet.

I’m sure that there are many more things which she doesn’t understand yet but she has definitely made so much progress in fiscal comprehension in the last 6 months. I just want to make clear that we are teaching her about money for her benefit, and that the supermarket scenario shows us a child with a lack of understanding about money and therefore a need to learn. It does happen to have benefits for us as parents and as a family too, but they are life lessons which are firstly for Bunny herself.

So the main points are:

– Do small jobs around the house to get paid (immediately), though these are not the only jobs the child does, and if the child refuses to finish a job they don’t get paid

– Encourage the child to save up for something they want to buy, and count as you go along – only so much to go, only so many weeks, etc

– Get to buy the toy and celebrate by getting the child to tell friends and relatives all about their achievement!

I hope this helps you to think about how you might teach your tot about treasure. Don’t forget what I said earlier about parenting advice!

Linking up to Tot School at 1+1+1=1.


10 Games We Love

I’ve mentioned before that we love games in our family. While Bunny was really little we really struggled to play games for a few reasons (partly related to sleeping issues and sleep deprivation issues). When she was a small toddler she just wanted to be involved in what Mummy and Daddy were doing, which means that most games were no good – anything with tiles or small counters just had pieces flying everywhere when she came to look.

Another hazard of gaming and parenthood is the rattle of dice. Whatever you do, you can’t wake the baby! I found a solution to this online (in the BoardGameGeek forums) – use a fabric placemat or napkin to roll the dice onto! This has seriously changed our ability to play games during naptime. Polystyrene or foam cups can help with the rattle if you use a dice cup too.

All that to say here are some of our favourite games, some which we can play as a family with help or adjustments for the smallest person, who is 3 and a half (I’ve used a code “F” – Family – for this), and some which I play with hubby while Bunny sleeps (I’ve used a code “A” – Adult – for this – not because it is rude but because it is difficult or too easy to mess pieces up!). If you like the look of a game and want to click over to Amazon to buy it, (remember Christmas is on its way and there are plenty of people you might want to buy for!) you should know that all the links are affiliate links, and thank you in advance! If you buy after clicking on an affiliate link I receive a small commission on anything you buy at no additional cost to you.

1. Carcassonne UK/US

This is a tile-laying game which never turns out the same and makes a really pretty picture. You make a map with cities, fields, roads and more, which you can score from in various ways. You don’t (necessarily) know who is going to win until the very end. There are lots of expansion packs for it too. (A)

2. Pandemic UK/US

I got this for Hubby for his birthday this month and we’ve had a lot of fun playing it! It is a cooperative game, which is great as neither of us are good winners or losers, so at least we can be happy or miserable together! You fight the game to try to cure 4 epidemics before various losing situations happen. (A, Bunny does like to join in when she is awake, but she tends to get bored after a few turns and we always tell her what moves to make anyway)

3. Nab-It UK/US

A tile-laying game which has similarities to Scrabble or Upwords, so you create a sort of crossword grid, but without a board. The strategy element comes in through laying your tiles on top of other players’ tiles, so that when the game ends you gain points for words in which you have laid the highest tile. (A)

4. Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot UK/US

This is a card game in which you collect carrots (while collecting bunnies and killing other players’ bunnies and trying to avoid the death of your bunnies). The winner is not the person with the most carrots, but the one with the correct carrot! This means that when the game ends, pretty much any player (as long as they have at least one carrot and at least one bunny) can win! There is a lot of strategy involved in the game but the actual choice of winner is somewhat random. This is quite good for us as it means that the winner doesn’t feel as proud – because there is an element of luck – and the loser doesn’t feel as upset – because it’s not really their own fault! (A)

5. Quirkle UK/US

A tile-laying game with colours and shapes, in which you end up with a “crossword” grid but it is based on colour- and shape-matching. The game scoring is where it gets a little more complicated, so if we play with Bunny then we don’t bother scoring – though we try to stick to the other rules when we play with her. (F)

6. Star Fluxx UK/US

This is a fun card game in which the rules change as you play! They can change (e.g. number of cards you pick up or play in a turn can increase or decrease) or you can add entirely new rules (e.g. a maximum hand-size limit) and the winning scenario changes frequently too! That is true for any Fluxx game – there are a lot of variations – but as a child I experienced a lot of Star Trek and so I find the Star Fluxx amusing. There are other SciFi references too – to Star Wars, Hitchhikers Guide and more. (A)

7. Uno UK/US

An old favourite card game with lots of versions out there to entertain you and your family. Bunny can pretty much get on with playing this with us, though scoring is tricky and little hands don’t like huge handfuls of cards – try looking for card holder tutorials online or you can buy them on Amazon UK/US. (F)

8. Monopoly UK/US

Another old favourite! I do love Monopoly, and took it into my head (when I was at University) to make my own version, based on my college. A few years ago, before Bunny was born, I made a version for Hubby called Pokémonopoly. It just adds a little interest and fun factor – especially the Chance cards. Yes, I laugh at my own jokes. (A)

9. Monopoly Deal UK/US

This card game version is a great idea – shorter gameplay than the full board game, so it will actually fit into a nap time. It makes a nice change! (A)

10. Exploding Kittens UK/US

This card game is a little rude – bottoms, gas and back hair, not swearing (there is an explicit version too so make sure you choose the one you actually want) – and involves exploding kittens. Not real ones, obviously. In case you wondered, I’m not a cat person. Anyway, the strategy is in trying to avoid picking up an exploding kitten, keeping defuse cards in your hand, and trying to force your opponent to pick up an exploding kitten! It’s a fun game, light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek. I especially like that you don’t need a huge table space, just room for a draw pile and discard pile. (A)

Thanks for reading through some of our favourite games! I hope they give you some ideas for family or grown-up fun after your Christmas dinner.