Garden Days: Growing our Maths Skills

Inspecting his new building project after completion, a week later my son still grins when he goes into the greenhouse.

Recently we started to build the greenhouse that has been sitting in a box for literally months. It provided a plethora of opportunities for my four year old to practice Maths and fine motor skills. Afterwards, I couldn’t help feeling that it was a rich home learning opportunity that I could have easily missed. There was number recognition,  shape recognition, counting, pattern recognition and lots and lots of deep breaths as I reminded myself to be patient.  I am also hoping it helped reinforce the value of using instructions to guide a project!

The site for the greenhouse. Moving the old shed exposed the running bamboo enough to finally pull it out. Fingers crossed we got all the roots.

Before we started building we had to prepare the site. Our most recent hailstorm punched holes in the roof of an old garden shed that had seen better days, so it was time to get rid of it. It means my greenhouse will have a concrete floor which has advantages and disadvantages. It also happens to be in a spot which has extra shade in Summer. It was incredibly satisfying to finally rip up the running bamboo that had grown into the old shed.

Fine motor skills – using an allen key was very exciting for a four year old who wants to do real work.

My partner and I got the base laid out before inviting the children to get involved. My daughter declined for the most part, she had other important business that day involving the cubby house. My son got straight into using his tiny fingers to manipulate the small bolts. Soon he was using the allen key too and the oodles of patience I was practising was rewarded with enthusiastic smiles from my boy. Fine motor skills – check!

My daughter’s participation was inconsistent, but she was there to help with number recognition when needed.

All the parts were numbered as they often are in flatpacks. This was a great opportunity for my son to practice number recognition. When we got to the higher numbers we had good talks about what two numbers together meant and he paid attention to this valuable knowledge presented in a real world context. My daughter helped with this too and it’s amazing how a six year old can simplify things for a four year old when the adults are struggling. Number recognition – check!

When it got windy my son helpfully found a rock to keep the instructions open at the right page! Fingers crossed that this is reinforcing the concept of using instructions as a guide!

We talked about shapes a lot! We didn’t just name them, we also talked about how the shapes went together and predicted how the pattern of the building might progress. Later I saw him trying to apply some of the concepts with his building blocks. Shape recognition – check! Pattern recognition – check!

There were plenty of distractions along the way! We had to stop and examine bugs frequently.

It took a full day, but my greenhouse was built and awaiting use! Yes, the job took longer and I made a few extra mistakes along the way. It’s hard to teach a little boy and follow badly written instructions at the same time!

The greenhouse waiting for many propagation adventures!

In the end, we got it done and my boy feels a genuine sense of accomplishment every time he sees the greenhouse. I don’t think he realises how much he (and I!) learned along the way.

Once the greenhouse was built, the box became a boat – of course!

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