Subtraction at Dinner

Anyone who has a preschooler knows how challenging it is to keep them focused at mealtime. My spouse and I are always trying to come up with creative ways to keep our daughter at the table and eating instead of creating masterpieces out of marinara sauce on the walls. A magic eraser will get that out, right?

While out to dinner with my in-laws last month, my daughter got antsy and wanted to take a walk around the restaurant.

"If you eat five more bites of your pasta, then we can take a walk around the restaurant," I said.

"Ok," she responded.

After taking two bites she gleefully shouted,

"Mommy, mommy, mommy, I took two bites!"

The mathematician in me just couldn't hold back. It was the perfect set-up.

"Wonderful!" I replied. "If I told you to take five bites, and you've already taken two bites, how many more bites do you have to take?"

I held up my hand.

"I told you to take one, two, three, four, five bites," I counted on my fingers. 

"You took one, two," I continued as I put two fingers down. "How many more bites do you have to take?"

She reached her tiny hand across the table and counted, "One. Two. Three. Three more bites, mama!"

"Yes!" I responded. "I asked you to take five bites. You took two bites, so now you need to take three more," I continued as I demonstrated on my fingers.

And there you have it: subtraction at dinner. What made this so effective was that it happened organically. No flashcards. No drilling. No memorization.

Over the last month we have used subtraction at dinner many times and I even created cutouts to help.  You can find more detailed instructions on how to do it here.

Happy subtracting!