Appropriate for:  3 years and up.

Materials:  Chocolate chip cookie cutouts. You can print them out for free here.


(For this example, assume you ask your child to take six bites and she takes two bites)

Get the chocolate chip cookie cutouts. Say,

"If you take six bites of your pasta, then you can walk around the table."

Cookie cutouts

Lay out six cookie cutouts on the table. Explain the six cutouts represent the six bites she must take. If your child does not update you on how many bites she has taken, prompt her by saying,

"How many bites have you taken? If I told you to take six bites, and you've already taken two bites, how many more bites do you have to take?"

Give her time to think. If she is still struggling, guide them to cutouts on the table. While demonstrating, say,

"Here are your six bites. You took two. One. Two."

Slowly pull the two cookies away from the group of six. Say,

"How many bites are left?"

Allow her time to think. This could take anywhere from 10 seconds (or less) to up to several minutes. Embrace the struggle. If she is able to answer, that's fantastic! If she is not, help her by saying,

"One. Two. Three. Four. You have to take four more bites."

Sum up the subtraction by demonstrating and saying,

"I asked you to take six bites. You took two, so now you have to take four more!"

Change the number of bites each time and pick the appropriate "reward" based on what your child wants to do. As she becomes more capable, allow her to do more of the talking. Let her guide you, so if she goes off-script, run with it and answer all her questions. When children are interested in something, they are more likely to be open to learning about and it and are more likely to retain what they learned.