Apple Seed Math Activity for Kids

Some people spend their little quiet moments during the day planning their dream house or trying to decide where their next vacation will be. When my two kids give me more than three minutes to myself, I think about what I can use that empty box in the family room for, a craft to match their new favorite book, and new ways to work on basic skills like letter and number recognition.

I started wrangling kids into games, songs, and crafts when I was barely a teenager and never really stopped. Along the way I picked up a few degrees, including one in Elementary Education, and a ton of hands-on experience. I’ve been a camp leader, preschool teacher, nanny, reading tutor, childcare director, and mom. Now I spend my days creating learning activities for kids and writing about them online so that other parents and teachers can use them. I am excited to be part of PBS Parents here on Adventures In Learning.

Today I want to share this simple math activity that can be easily adapted to a variety of levels. My son who is a first grader and my daughter who is a preschooler both enjoyed it with only a few modifications. For the younger kids, it’s a simple one-to-one correspondence game, but the older children can work on subitizing (the ability to recognize amounts quickly without counting) and addition too.

What You Will Need

  • Construction paper in white, green, and red
  • Cardstock (I used 4 sentence strips)
  • Red marker
  • Gluestick
  • Dried black beans and a small container for them
  • Scissors
  • Cookie tray (optional but it will help contain runaway beans)

How to Prepare

Apple Seed Math Set Up
  • Cut the red construction paper into the shape of an apple.
  • Cut the white construction paper into the same shape but smaller.
  • Cut a few leaves out of the green paper (use scrap for this if possible).
  • Glue the white onto the red centering it on the paper.
  • Glue the leaves on top too.
  • Write tally marks on the cut cardstock with the marker.

How to Play

Apple Seed Math for Preschooler
For preschoolers arrange the apple and beans on the cookie tray and place the tally mark cards in one pile. Place the same number of beans (seeds) on the apple as is shown on the card.

Apple Seed Math for Three Year Olds

This is great for one-on-one correspondence practice as well as learning about tally marks. I was surprised my daughter knew the tally mark for 5 and could use the cards I had intended only for her brother with ease.

Apple Seed Math for Six Year Olds

For children ready for addition, give them the same setup but break the cards into two piles. Have them add the two tally mark cards together and use the beans to show their answer. We used a dry erase marker to made an addition sign, but my son said he didn’t need it so he wiped it off. Most of these were easy subitizing practice for my son, but a few posed a fair challenge.

Apple Seed Math for Kindergartners
When the tally marks were intimidating he subitized each card independently, placed each set of beans on the apple, then added them together for the sum. For us this was a good lesson in using all different math skills: subitizing, counting, adding, and using manipulatives.

More Adventures in Learning

About Allison McDonald

Allison McDonald

Allison McDonald is a former preschool teacher and director who started her popular early education blog No Time For Flash Cards as a way to keep one foot in her professional life while knee deep in motherhood. Learning should be fun and it's Allison's goal to help all parents be able to add a little fun and learning to their child's day. Allison lives in a yellow farmhouse outside of Seattle with her two kids and husband.

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  • Katy Davidson Monnot

    Great post!! I think this would be a fun one to do with Charlie who is desperately in need of some math.

    • Allison McDonald

      Thanks Katy! We had fun with it and the manipulatives are so integrated into it that you can level it so easily to each child.

  • ilyass

    That’s interesting , and I would share with you a cool software for Kids and with it’s free licence :

  • JDaniel4’s Mom

    What a great way to work on numbers with concrete materials and tally marks. My son loves writing tally marks. He will love this activity.

    • Allison McDonald

      Tally marks are a big part of kindergarten math curriculum for sure. I hope he likes it.

  • Pingu007

    The behaviour of children is very unpredictable whatever you do as a parent. The terrible twos and terrible threes are a very challenging time in the development of a child. Hopefully parets can gain something wit this.

  • gubmuhhab

    I don’t.

  • AragornSonOfArathorn

    I find it incredibly hard to believe that using parentese would contract learning disabilities. I also don’t think you know how learning disabilities are formed. You’re making a ridiculous sweeping statement which is offensive to both families and children with learning disabilities. It is like with anything, if you enjoy doing it, they will learn better, making listening fun at an early age will develop their ability to intake information and retain it.

    • IQ 152

      I have a 3.5 year old boy who just started daycare. I never ever speak nonsense to him. I am offended by parents who baby talk to their children. Other children in his group speak in a way that is painful to hear. Wah-dough, sweepie time. It may sound cute, but the language you speak with is the language you think with. Speach impediment is a sign of impeded thoughts. Dumb parrents raise dumb children.

      • Kaylee Janise

        Learn to spell before calling others dumb.

      • Language

        Well I agree on the point that parents who don’t know how to speak well teach their children to speak the same way. I never hear my neighbor speak to her infant only at him. He discovered his ability to make sounds other than crying about 5 months ago, and is almost 2 now. The poor child screams all the time! Now I’m starting to recognize what he is saying with his screams, the things his mother taught him. “Stop that nowwww!” “Come heerrr!” It’s “parentese” but spoken only at a high volume and from a distance. It’s all the kid can say, sooooo sad.

  • stella

    My son now 16 months but he still don’t known call me & my hubby. What we speak to me. Seem he understand. Any good advise. Thanks

  • stella

    Is he have a learning difficulties?

  • SPEDGranny

    So that you know, you cannot “contract” learning disabilities! LD’s are not communicable diseases. Using “Parentese” will not cause LD’s. I used it along with singing rhymes, lots of spoken (and correctly) pronounced words, lots of labelling and lots of age appropriate books and adult modelled reading. My son’s first words started at 9 months. His first complete sentence was at 11.5 months requesting a highly desireable item. To learn language you must hear language. Using “parentese” also provides the extremely important component of language acquisition – human interaction! Remember, articulation is developmental. This means your child is unlikely to produce all sounds until they are “4 ish”.

  • wrknmoshn

    Learning Disabilities are not “contracted.” LD is a difference in the way a baby’s brain processes information. It is not the result of poor teaching or poor parenting. It is inherent in the child. There is actually a strong genetic link for learning disabilities. In young babies, parentese allows the baby’s brain to break down the sounds in the words she hears and it begins to help her develop phonemic awareness – a critical skill for the later development of reading. Parentese is absolutely not “babytalk.” It is an elongation of vowels in real words wrapped in an attractive package of varying tones and pitches. No one is implying that you use parentese until a child begins school, but in the very young baby, parentese actually attracts the baby to words and sounds. A very good thing for development of receptive and expressive language, reading and spelling.

    • A.friend

      “Your neighbor” is actually quite misinformed and an atrocious speller. It is highly disrespectful to parents of special needs children to reduce their struggle to a simple matter of talking to their children the right way. Most parents of special needs kids that I know have struggled and tried just about everything to help their kids. These are the parents that are willing try anything for their child. The point is not whether or not it is their fault. Chances are likely that if they are good parents, they feel guilt anyway, regardless of our opinion. In other words, if you can’t help, don’t have a child with special needs or haven’t read research regarding these issues, the very least thing you can do is keep those kind of comments to yourself!

  • Victor Ndonnang

    Interesting!I have learned a new word today. I have been practicing Parentese with my little boy without even acknowledging it. I will use your advice to do it in a more better way. I’m using French (my first language) and English (my second language) as well and hope It will help my child becomes bilingual in the future. Is It a good or bad thing doing it in both languages?

    • EmLo

      I think doing it in both languages is awesome. Research has shown that babies’ little brains are pre-wired to learn language quickly and they can certainly pick up more than one!

  • Keh06c

    I’ve heard conflicting views on this….I majored in linguistics/anthropology and again in communication disorders. At the first university I attended the professor was pro-parentese and mentioned the same views above; however, at the second university I attended we read newer research articles that gave evidence that this actually stunts language growth in children. Also, everyone does not speak parentese…it is more prevalent in middle class America. Language acquisition varies depending on culture, socioeconomic status, parent education, religion, gender, etc….BUT this does have some merit and I am definitely guilty of it because I feel it builds an emotional/trusting relationship between the caregiver and child :-)

    • truth_be_told7

      I spoke it, and my kiddo, now three, speaks very clearly and has a large vocabulary for her age.

  • LeanneSB

    does she speak? mine never did.

  • biteme

    I speak to my three month old like this, I honestly don’t believe that it hurts them at all. As I’m sure you all have noticed, every parent reads up on stuff like crazy from the moment they see that they are expecting or in the least before or a little after the child is born. I have found much more in favor of parentese than not. Children learn words by repeating sounds until they get the hang of the new sound, then moving on to the next sound. Then they start puting sounds together to make words. I have read many articles and passages from books that say it doesn’t matter how you teach them as long as you put forth the time to teach them. Personally, I speak in parentese all the time, jist hoping to hear the wonderful, adorable sounds my little sweetheart makes. I think as long as you talk to the little one, they will pick up language. Though I totally understand the benefits of parentese. Please don’t bash each other. Oh, and learning disorders aren’t typically from this kind of things. Most learning disorders are present from birth and others occur from a parent not working with the child, but some do just happen at no fault of anyone and it certainly has nothing to do with the nonsense language you speak to your child when they are four months old. Rant over!

  • URLowclass

    Baby talk is baby talk no matter what you call it. If you speak to your child like this, he will grow up to be as stupid as you sound.