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August 19, 2013

Math Games {Water Balloon Equations}

Gross Motor Math Games with Water Balloons

Water balloon equations - a gross motor math game

Who needs worksheets, when we can play math games?  Okay, we do worksheets sometimes, but mostly I try to make JZ's school work hands on and unique.  Hands on activities tend to stick with kids more than written work.  (Of course he does plenty of copy work to work on handwriting.)  For this reason we do a lot of active learning, combing a gross motor activity with an educational game.  A few favorites include gross motor phonics, gross motor addition, and gross motor skip counting.  Of course the best gross motor learning games include water balloons!

For the first one hundred days of first grade JZ (6) has to write the number of the day in his hundred chart and do a few exercises involving that number.  One exercise is writing out three equations with the number of the day as the sum.  Most days he writes the equations out onto a sheet of paper, but some days I like to come up with a fun game.

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buckets (or other containers)
hula hoop (or other target)

Directions:  The number of the day happened to be 18 on this particular day.  I wrote the numbers 1-9 on water filled balloons and put them in one bucket.  I wrote the numbers 9-17 on more balloons and put them in the other bucket.  JZ pulled a water balloon from one bucket and read the number.  He had to figure out what number he needed to make 18 and find that numbered balloon in the second bucket.

Water balloon equations - a gross motor math game

Once he had two balloons totaling 18 he tossed them into the hula hoop target.

He was adamant that I took a few turns.  I still had him do the math, but I tossed the balloons.

After tossing several balloons into the center of the hula hoop, JZ thought it would spice things up if we took turns holding the hula hoop in the air.  He even wanted me to move it from side to side when I held it up for him.

J-Bug (4) joined us at the tail end of our game.  JZ figured out what numbers he needed, and J-Bug found them in the buckets.  This was a great way to work on math skills at each of their levels, equations for JZ and number recognition for J-Bug.  This game could easily be adapted for any age or math level.  Water balloons could be used for number recognition, ordinal numbers, multiplication, division, skip counting and more.

I so wish I had been standing further back for this photo, so I could have fully captured the moment.  J-Bug accidentally nailed JZ in the head.  It was hilarious.

JZ thought it was awesome.  He thought of every possible way to make 18 with two numbers including 18+0 which I forgot to write on balloons.  After all the numbered balloons were gone, the boys asked if we could fill up more water balloons and have a good old fashioned fight.  It was a blast.

For more gross motor learning games follow my Active Learning board on Pinterest.

Water balloon equations - a gross motor math game

Click the images below for more gross motor educational games:

Gross Motor Addition Game Gross Motor Activity to Practice Skip Counting Gross Motor Phonics Games


  1. That is so cool, we are so doing that tomorrow. My kids love water balloons and I quite like a bit of sideways head stuffing. Love the photo with nailing on the head! That must have been plenty of fun.

  2. This looks so much fun!! Who does love water balloons :)

  3. I LOVE this idea! What a fantastic way to introduce Singapore Math kids to number bonds!!!

    I featured this on TGIF this week! Thanks for linking up and sharing your creativity with the rest of us - hope to see you linked up again later today!

    Have a GREAT weekend =)



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