Looking for a Halloween math activity? Try this “Ghost roll and feed” activity for counting, addition, and subtraction practice. Using a hands-on approach to math, this no-worksheets activity is perfect for Halloween.
How do you prep this Halloween math activity?
This entire math center is based around a creamer bottle with a face drawn on it (aka my feeble attempt at a ghost). Hopefully you do a better job with your ghost.
My creamer bottle ghost is about to pull overtime as the basis for a fantastic Halloween math activity: the ghost roll and feed. This magical math activity supports children in their counting, addition, and subtraction practice.
RELATED: Looking for more Halloween activities for kids to try? I’ve got tons!
Busy Toddler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about these links in my disclosure policy.
- Creamer bottle
- Pom pom balls – I use these in so many pom pom ball activities
- Giant dice – You can get these at the Dollar Store, too
How to make the ghost container
This is a pretty easy step one: it’s just a creamer bottle with a face drawn on it.
See? Told you it was easy!
My creamer bottle came white which made it extra perfect for this, but you can also paint a bottle if you need to.
I dumped out my bag of pom pom balls and a grabbed my fabulous dollar store giant dice to get things started.
Halloween Math Activity 1: Counting
For my newly 4-year-old, I gave him one single die and his job was to roll, identify the number he’s rolled, and put that many pom poms into the ghost.
This perfectly matched the stage of math he’s in: understanding that numbers have value and being able to recognize that numbers mean the same amount no matter how they look.
This is such a fantastic way for him to practice:
- Numeration: the rapid recall of a set of objects without having to count them (like how you know immediately that you’ve rolled a 6 on the dice)
- One-to-One correspondence: touching and counting one object at a time
- Value: Understanding that 6 = six of something (in this case, pom pom balls)
Pretty amazing how a child can learn all that just from some pom pom balls, a creamer bottle, and a dice – ghost roll and feed FTW.
Halloween Math Activity 2: Addition
For my 5-year-old, her version this Halloween math activity was on joining numbers together.
She rolled two dice, identify the numbers rolled, and join them together to feed the ghost the sum of the two numbers.
Example: When she rolled 5 and 3, her job was to identify and count out 5 pom poms, then 3 pom poms and combine them into a group of 8 pom poms to feed to the ghost.
Again, she’s learning so unbelievably much from her version of the ghost roll and feed.
- Conceptual understanding of addition
- Recognizing that addition means joining two groups to make a larger group
Halloween Math Activity 3: Subtraction
For my 7-year-old, his job was to roll the dice and position the numbers into a subtraction sentence. This meant he needed to understand that the larger number need to be put first in the subtraction sentence before finding the difference.
Just like with his siblings, he worked on so much math:
- Conceptual understanding of subtraction
- Procedural understanding of subtraction
- Understanding the value of numbers and how to find the difference between two number
Why is the ghost roll and feed better than a Halloween worksheet?
SOAP BOX MOMENT: Don’t get me wrong: I love a good Halloween-themed word search, or word scramble, or crossword puzzle… but worksheets are 2-dimensional learning and we are not raising 2-dimensional kids.
Worksheets are typically fill-in-the-answer, multiple choice, or matching. These are low level skills that do not require children to conceptually understand a concept. They also allow for guessing answers.
Despite how popular they are, worksheets don’t actually teach kids.
They let them demonstrate a skill they already know… but they aren’t teaching them anything new or letting them build foundational knowledge.
A Halloween math activity like the ghost roll and feed is completely different. Instead of circling “how many are there” on a paper, my preschooler use his hands to count out how many pom pom balls.
So instead of writing the answer to 6+3 on a worksheet, my middle child (kindergarten) could see and touch the joining of number groups. My first grader, similarly, could make the physical connection to subtraction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Try them! Never, ever, ever dismiss an activity as “too easy” or “not challenging” enough. If I only did things that challenged me, I’d never make brownies again or do a 300-piece puzzle. Practice is always a good thing.
Start with the counting activity. Once they’ve played that for a while successfully, introduce the addition component.
Let them sit with addition for a few days before exploring their understanding of subtraction.
Pom pom balls are a choking hazard. Please use your best judgment as the adult. Every child will be “safe” for supervised pom pom play at different ages. There is no firm line between “can have pom poms” and “cannot have pom poms.”sh
Kids are a little like cats. They like to come at activities on their own time. I typically sit an activity down and give a quick demonstration. Then I walk away. Quickly.
Sometimes, my kids immediately begin playing.
Sometimes, it takes them a little while to warm up to the activity. I don’t rush it. I let them decide on the activity when they are ready.
This also means I leave activities out for a while. This activity lived on my fireplace for more than two weeks.
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
Leave a Comment