During spring and the Easter season, households overflowing with candy can use Marshmallow Peeps as manipulatives for a variety of entertaining and educational elementary math activities for kids including preschoolers, kindergartners, and early primary students. These learning activities can be done as part of a candy math lesson plan or at any time to help preschool and kindergarten children learn and practice new math concepts.
- To be able to try out the greatest range of these activities, look for Easter Peeps of at least two kinds (Chicks and Bunnies) and as many different colors (blue, yellow, pink, purple, green) as possible.
- Because the marshmallow insides of these candies will be soft and sticky at first, remove the treats from their packaging and let them sit on a plate for at least a day to become stiff and less sticky.
- The sugar coating on the surfaces of these candies will likely rub off on kids’ hands and your work surface, so perhaps lay down a tablecloth, mat, or large sheet of paper to make cleaning up easier after math play is done.
Teach Counting Skills Using Marshmallow Peeps
Begin by having children practice counting 1 to 10 by using a group of identical Peeps.
- Kids can lay the candies side by side and count aloud while pointing to each in turn.
- Kids can place them in numbered boxes on a sheet of paper to reinforce the concept of what the written numerals look like.
- Kids can line the candies up and then match them with the appropriate numerals in order, using magnetic or foam numbers.
- For extra practice, have kids try counting down from 10 to 1, removing the candies one by one as they count.
Once boys and girls have mastered counting 1 to 10, have them practice counting groups of candies with various numbers in each set.
- First, have kids count only one kind of Peep.
- Next, have kids count two groups of Peeps at once. For example, 3 blue bunnies and 4 yellow chicks.
- To add in some practice with sorting objects into groups, mix up two kinds of Peeps and have children sort them into categories and then count each group.
- Boys and girls can also use Peeps to build skip counting sequences to practice skip counting by 2′s, 5′s, or even 10′s, if you have enough candy at hand. Provide children with bowls or dishes for sorting the candy into groups as necessary.
Teach Addition Using Marshmallow Peeps
Once children can count groups of candies accurately, practice adding the groups together.
- Provide kids with two groups of either the same (3 yellow bunnies plus 2 yellow bunnies) or different (3 pink bunnies plus 1 blue chick) candies and have them count to add the groups together.
- Children can use the Peeps as manipulatives to practice addition facts for various numbers.
- State an addition word problem aloud and have children use the Peeps to find the answer. For example, Jun has 4 pink chicks and Ava gives him 3 yellow bunnies. How many candies does Jun have in all?
- Have boys and girls write and solve their own addition math story problems about Peeps and place, glue, or draw the candies on a piece of paper to illustrate each solution.
Teach Subtraction Using Marshmallow Peeps
Once kids can add using Peeps, introduce the concept of subtracting candies from a group.
- Provide children with a pile of Peeps and ask them to take away a certain number and then count to see how many are left. For example, give them 6 purple chicks and ask how many are left if they take away 3, or give them a pile of mixed kinds (5 blue bunnies and 3 yellow chicks) and ask them how many are left if they take away only the yellow chicks.
- Children can use the Peeps as manipulatives for practicing subtraction facts for various numbers.
- State a subtraction word problem aloud and have children use the Peeps to find the answer. For example, Maria has 7 Peeps and she eats 5 of them. How many candies does Maria have left?
- Have boys and girls write and solve their own subtraction math story problems about Peeps and place, glue, or draw the candies on a piece of paper to illustrate each solution.
Teach Ordinal Numbers Using Marshmallow Peeps
Explain that ordinal numbers describe the order of objects in a group. Lay several Peeps of different colors and kinds in a row. Each candy must be different in some way from the others. Next, point to each treat in turn and label them first, second, third, and so on. Finally, ask children to answer questions such as: Which Peep is fifth? What ordinal number tells the position of the yellow bunny?
Teach Measurement with Marshmallow Peeps
You can also use these Easter candies to help children practice concepts of measurement such as measuring lengths using nonstandard units and recognizing the difference between full, half-full, and empty to measure capacity.
- Have kids collect a variety of household or schoolroom items and measure the length of each using either bunny or chick Peeps. Discuss why it is important to be consistent in using only one type of candy when using them as a nonstandard unit of measurement. (Different kinds of candy may be different lengths.) Have children describe and compare the objects using phrases such as shorter than, longer than, and as long as.
- Place three identical bowls in a row. Fill one completely with Peeps. Fill the second one halfway with Peeps. Leave the third one empty. Have kids label the bowls full, half-full, and empty. To extend the activity, provide children with other identical bowls filled to various degrees with Peeps and have children describe and compare the bowls using phrases such as less than full, as full as, and fuller than.
Teach More Than, Less Than, and Equal To with Peeps
Have kids compare the number of Peeps in different sets using phrases such as more than, less than, fewer, equal, and the same.
- Provide children with two groups of Peeps and have them line the candies up in two rows to discover which group has more candies and which has fewer.
- Provide kids with one group of identical treats (for example, 4 yellow chicks). Then display three other groups with differing amounts of identical candies and ask kids to identify which group has more candies, which has fewer, and which has the same.
- Make a row that mixes up two different colors and kinds of Peeps. For example, line up pink bunnies and purple chicks. Then ask, Are there more pink bunnies or more purple chicks?
- Give children a magnetic letter V or an index card with < printed on it, as well as an index card with an equal sign printed on it. Then give them two groups of Peeps of varying amounts and have them visually represent which number of candies is more than the other or less than the other, or whether the two groups contain equal amounts of treats.
Teach Estimation with Marshmallow Peeps
- Spread a large pile of Peeps on the table and have children estimate to the nearest 10 how many candies there are.
- Make two piles of the same kind of Peeps and have kids estimate which pile has more candies and which has less. Have children line the candies up in two rows to check their estimations.
Identify and Extend Patterns and Sequences with Peeps
Give children practice with identifying, completing and extending, matching, and creating patterns and sequences with different kinds of Peeps.
- Start by providing children with a simple pattern to complete such as AB (yellow chick, blue chick), AAB (two yellow chicks, blue chick), ABB (yellow chick, two blue chicks), and ABC (yellow chick, blue chick, pink chick).
- Next, introduce more difficult patterns such as AABB, AAAB, ABBA, BAAB, and BAAA. You can either have children identify which candy comes next in the pattern or extend the pattern for another whole segment.
- Next, introduce more complicated patterns, such as ABCD, AABC, ABBCD, and ABACADAE.
- Now, provide children with lines of boxes drawn on paper and piles of different kinds of Peeps and have them build their own patterns. At first, ask them to build specific kinds of patterns from scratch (AB, ABC, etc.), but then let them invent their own repeating sequences and ask a partner to identify what pattern they have built.
- You can also build a growing pattern and have children construct the next line.
- Or set up a pattern and have children compare it to several other patterns and identify which other pattern is the same.
Practice Using Words That Describe Direction and Position with Peeps
Introduce and reinforce concepts such as inside, outside, left, middle, right, top, bottom, above, and below with candies.
- Move a Peep inside and outside a box and have children identify its position at various times.
- Place two different kinds of Peeps in a row and have children identify which candy is on the left and which is on the right. Then add a third Peep and practice identifying direction again, asking questions such as, Is the blue bunny to the left or the right of the yellow chick? Which Peep is in the middle of the other two?
- Line up three different kinds of Peeps in a vertical row and ask questions about position, such as, Which candy is on top? Which is in the middle? Which is on the bottom?
- Using the same line of vertical Peeps, ask questions such as, Is the blue chick above or below the yellow bunny?
- Draw a three-by-three grid on paper and fill it with Peeps of different colors and shapes (if you don’t have 9 different kinds, fill the empty squares with other types of Easter candy). Then have kids practice describing location by having them use position words to identify which kind of candy is located in the left center space, the bottom left space, the top right space, and so on.
Practice Sorting and Classifying Using Peeps
Because Peeps come in the same shapes and colors, a group of assorted Marshmallow Peeps can give kids great practice with sorting objects by attributes such as shape and color.
- Provide kids with a pile of candies that are the same shape but different colors, like blue bunnies and yellow bunnies, and have them sort the pile by color. (Kids can also sort candies of three or four different colors.)
- Provide kids with a pile of candies that are the same color but different shapes, like blue bunnies and blue chicks, and have them sort the pile by shape.
- Provide kids with a big pile of mixed Peeps of different shapes and colors and have children decide which attributes they will sort by and how many groups they will make. Children might separate out one group of similar Peeps and keep the rest in one big group, they might sort by shape or color, or they might make different groups for each kind of Peep.
- You can also introduce children to using Venn diagrams for sorting and classifying objects and communicating information visually about the categories in which each object belongs.
Introduce Multiplication and Division to Preschoolers with Peeps
Although preschool or kindergarten might seem like an early time to introduce the concepts of multiplication and division, using real-life objects like Marshmallow Peeps can make these processes easier for young kids to understand. Provide children with bags, plates, or baskets as needed to assist them in splitting the candies up into different groups.
- Sit 4 children at a table and pass out 2 Peeps to each. Ask how many Peeps the children have in all and note that 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 8. Then note that you have given out 4 groups of 2 Peeps, which is again 8 Peeps in all, so 4 groups times 2 Peeps equals 8. Repeat the activity with different numbers of groups and different amounts of items given to each group.
- Next, introduce division by giving a child a pile of 12 Peeps and asking him or her to give the same number of Peeps to three friends. After the child has passed out 4 Peeps to each of the other children, discuss how 12 Peeps divided among 3 children equals 4. Repeat the activity with different starting numbers and different numbers by which the original amount should be divided.
- To extend the activity, make up multiplication and division math story problems for kids to solve or ask them to make up their own. For example, Ethan has 9 Peeps and 3 friends and wants to put an equal number of candies in each friend’s Easter basket. How many Peeps does each friend receive?
Marshmallow Peeps are a cute (and tasty!) manipulative that will get preschoolers, kindergartners, and early elementary students excited about learning and practicing new math skills during the season of Easter. For more ideas for candy math lesson plans or learning activities involving sweets, check out suggestions for learning activities for Owen’s Marshmallow Chick.