A round up of some simple and fun ways to help your young child learn math.
Do you want to help your preschooler get to grips with some early math skills before they start kindergarten?
Introducing your child to math in a positive and fun way at a young age is so important. By helping your child gain some basic math knowledge and skills, you can really give your child a head start as they enter kindergarten.
Knowing some basic math from their preschool years means that children can really approach math with confidence when starting school.
Teaching early math skills to your preschooler doesn’t need to involve workbooks, worksheets or anything ‘serious’ like that. In fact, there are lots of simple ways to introduce some number work and basic math skills into the activities you probably already do with your kids most days.
So, without further ado, let’s get started. Here are 8 simple ways you can incorporate a bit of math into your preschooler’s day.
1. Numbers and counting at the grocery store
Believe it or not, there are a fair number of opportunities to bring in a bit of math when you’re out shopping for groceries.
In the fresh fruit and veg section, get your child to count out whatever fruit or veg you’re buying into the bag. So, for example:
- “Can you help me count 5 oranges?” or
- “Please can you put 10 mushrooms into the bag?”
You’ll also usually find numbers all around the store to spot, for example each aisle is usually numbered, as are the checkouts.
So, when you’re in the store, encourage your child to look for different numbers. For example:
- “We need crackers! Shout when you can see the aisle with the big number 4!”, or
- “Let’s head for checkout number 6 – can you show me which way it is?”
At the end of your shopping trip, count the shopping bags: “How many bags of shopping do we have altogether?”
2. Create art
I think it’s fair to say that most kids love to paint, draw and create art of their own. If you want to incorporate some math into your child’s art activities, why not do some art activities involving shapes?
For example, why not check out this really cool block painting activity by Michelle from Taming Little Monsters. This activity is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers and uses sponge shape blocks to create different pictures.
Creating artwork using shapes makes for a really nice relaxed and enjoyable way to introduce basic shapes and their properties. For example, with all the blocks out on the table, ask your child to find a circle, or find a square. You could ask them to count how many corners the square has, or to find which shape has no corners.
3. Cooking or baking
Cooking or baking make for great opportunities to introduce some basic math concepts to your little ones.
With small children, grab every opportunity to count things. For example:
- “Can you add 3 more spoons of cocoa to the bowl?”
- “How many cookies have we put on the cookie sheet so far?”
- “Can you count out 12 cupcake cases onto the baking sheet”
- “Let’s put 5 smarties on top of each cupcake. Can you count them out for me?”
Baking also allows opportunities to introduce very basic fractions – for example, the idea of one whole, halves and (possibly!) quarters.
Sticks of butter are great for demonstrating halves or quarters, as are anything circular like cookies or pizzas.
4. Games and activities
Fun, hands-on activities are an easy way to include some math in your daily timetable.
For example, one of our favourite hands-on math activities at the moment is to do a number card scavenger hunt. We hide number cards around the house and my preschooler hunts to find them all and then uses them to construct a giant number line.
We also really like doing number puzzles or matching activities that are hands-on and require no writing, like these heart puzzles for the numbers 1 to 20.
If you’re a fan of board games, we’re currently enjoying lots of math-packed games by UK company, Orchard Toys. Our favourite of their collection is Spotty Dogs. This game practices counting skills and number recognition and we really like the different pooches!
5. In the car
Counting in the car. We count all sorts of things that we can see out of the window when driving around on car journeys.
At holiday times, we take counting to the next level. At Christmas, we count the number of Christmas trees we can see in people’s front windows. For Halloween, of course, we count pumpkins on people’s porches.
Even at non-holiday times of year there are lots of things to count if you’re in the car for any length of time: dogs, mailboxes, people wearing hats… You name it, you can count it!
Time in the car is also a great opportunity for singing number songs, which leads me nicely to point number 6 below…
6. Singing songs
Singing songs is a great way to help young children learn about numbers and counting. If you spend a lot of time at home with young children, I’d say it’s pretty likely that you already do a fair amount of singing of children’s songs (anyone else break out into enthusiastic renditions of ‘The wheels on the bus’ when times get tough?).
So, why not replace a few rounds of ‘The wheels on the bus’ with some number songs?
There are so many great songs that have numbers in. Some of our favourites are:
- 10 in a bed (great for counting down from 10 to 1)
- 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed (counting from 5 down to 1, plus a life lesson about jumping up and down on beds too much)
- 5 little ducks (counting from 5 to 1 and a great example of how not to keep track of ducklings)
- 12345, once I caught a fish alive (counting from 1 to 10)
- Dr Knickerbocker (number 9) (counting from 9 down to 1. Nice for the number 9 to get its own song instead of it always being about the ever-popular number 10)
- This Old Man (counting up from 1 to 10)
- 5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer (counting down from 5 to 1 and my personal favourite – who doesn’t love a good space-themed math song?…)
7. Bath time
Now, you may not associate bath time with math, but there are a few simple ways you can include a bit of math whilst also getting the bath time routine done.
As well as the usual favourite bath toys like boats and ducks, why not include some foam numbers?
They float about on the top of the bath water and they stick to the side of the bath when wet. These are inexpensive to buy (they usually come in a set along with one set of letters as well – bonus!) and you can do loads of fun activities with them in the bath.
- With young kids, simply ask your child to find a particular number amongst the bubbles – “can you find the number 3?”
- Find all the numbers floating in the bath and see if you can order the numbers by sticking them onto the side of the bath – first try ordering them from smallest to largest, and then from largest to smallest.
- Ask your child to find a number in the bath. Then get them to splash in the water that many times. For example, if your child finds the number 5, they should splash in the water 5 times!
As you can see, there are lots of quick activities you can do with these numbers.
8. Story time
Love reading with your kids? Yes, me too.
And it’s so easy to incorporate a bit of math into your kid’s story time by reading a great math picture book.
Related post: 9 awesome math picture books for kids.
There are so many great math picture books out there right now, which do a wonderful job at explaining and clarifying a whole range of math concepts (whilst also being really enjoyable to read).
My favourite math picture book for preschoolers at the moment is 10 Magic Butterflies by Danica McKellar and Jennifer Bricking.
It’s such a charming story (with both loads of math and a great message about being happy with who you are). Math-wise, it’s all about pairs of numbers that total 10. It’s certainly been a big hit with the preschooler in our house.
So there are our 8 simple ways to include a bit of math in your day. Introducing math to your preschooler can be a lot simpler than you might think. Thanks for reading!
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