It is very easy to overthink all of the ways that we, as adults, can teach math to our preschool-age children. Mathematical functions and concepts can be shared in the simplest ways to even the youngest children. Numbers can be explored all over the place in a child’s world! Teaching these ideas can be fun, highly interactive, and entertaining for kids, you just have to find the right way for your preschooler.
17 Activities to Try with Your Preschooler:
Look for patterns...EVERYWHERE:
Patterns are a great way to work on math with your preschooler. Kids clothing often has a great display of patterns - think about stripes! Also consider patterns around your home - tiles in the kitchen or bathroom, patterns in the fence, or in a piece of home decor. If your child loves music, there are plenty of patterns to recognize in children’s songs. Help your child to identify and copy simple clapping and rhythm patterns in their favorite songs.
While investigating shapes, children can discover the ways that different shapes fit together to build the items that we use or see everyday - cars, tall buildings, and eventually puzzles. Work together using yarn to create various shapes - circles, squares, triangles - as a budget friendly way to teach shapes. You can even use learning about shapes as a means to create some artwork together.
Help your preschooler learn about making guesses based on what they can see! Fill jars with buttons, candies, beads, or any other small items that you can find and ask your kids to guess how many of each of the items is in each jar. After they guess, they can count how many of the items are in the jar. Over time, children’s guesses will get closer to the actual amount of items in each jar, but this is a great way to get them started with educated guessing.
Anything around us can be sorted; pens, pencils, socks, shoes, cups, mugs, glasses, silverware, you name it - it can be sorted! Get them to help you out around the house by helping to sort the recycling. Even little kids can help sort papers from plastic and glass. This is great way to teach children how to organize items down to small and more manageable amounts.
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Let them “cook”:
Encourage your preschooler to help you in the kitchen! Your child can help with measuring and counting our ingredients (two eggs, three scoops, etc.). You can also supervise the usage of knobs and buttons on the stove. This is also a great opportunity to have them help pack their daily lunches or snacks as they can help portion out the foods they eat each day. For example, “I eat 5 carrots and 3 grapes at snacktime!” Think about having your preschoolers count out their Cheerios, Halloween candy, or even Easter candy! The options for counting food have no bounds! They can even help out with feeding pets if you have any!
Play a “look out” game:
While out on a walk or riding in the car, ask your child to count how many fun things they see! Those fun things could be any item that your child chooses to count - stores, fire trucks, dogs, or anything else that the child might recognize. With this activity, they can practice counting and talking about all of the fun things that have counted.
Track your child’s measurements:
Get out the ruler or yardstick to mark your child’s height on the wall. Talk about how big they are in comparison to their siblings or favorite animals - this helps them to think about themselves and the world around them. This is a great chance to introduce your child to units of measurement and help them compare and contrast the marks on the wall to see how much they’ve grown from year to year.
Use the phone:
Learning how to use the telephone has more than just a mathematical benefit, it’s also good for emergencies! Next time you’re making a call, write the number down and have your child help you dial it into your phone. This helps them to see the numbers being used, but also gives them a chance to practicing reading them from left to right. Your child gets bonus points if they can memorize the number!
Plant a Garden:
Preschoolers love helping outside when they can. Have your child assist with counting out the seeds and then making sure they put the set amounts in the right rows or pots. Once the plants start growing, they can count out the leaves and petals as well! This is also a great place to introduce science concepts about plants and plant growth.
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Color by Number Sheets:
Most young children love to color! As their number recognition skills continue to improve, they can learn to match the colors with the numbers, but early on they may need help identifying what number goes with what colors.
Aside from playing a tabletop game, dominoes can be used to teach simple math concepts! Children can count the dots on each domino, children can sort matching tiles and create stacks, and they can create shapes and towers with matching dominoes. Dominoes are a cheap game that can easily be found at most stores.
Tell the Time:
Reading a non-digital wall clock is something that even little kids can do! Clocks are everywhere, so this is something that can be worked on at almost any time! Practice reading the numbers and telling time to the quarter and half hour as they are able. Once they have reading a clock down, you can compare and contrast a digital clock and wall clock together for another great conversation about time and numbers. Don’t forget to mention that there are sixty seconds in one minute and sixty minutes in one hour!
Read a Number Book:
There are many amazing books for preschoolers! Some of the most popular include: City by Numbers by Stephen T. Johnson, Chicka Chicka 123 by Bill Martin & Michael Sampson, or How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague. Number books are a great way to practice numbers and counting, but books like these also introduce your child to other educational concepts. Not to mention a little bit of reading practice for your child. Check with your child’s teachers or even the local children’s librarian if you need more ideas, they are a wealth of knowledge about great counting books for kids!
Mark the Calendar:
Introducing your child to a standard calendar is a great way to introduce the concept of days and passing time. Have them highlight special days on the calendar (birthdays, holidays, other celebrations) and create countdowns to those special days. Working with calendars often helps children to understand days of the week and how the sequence of days happens each week. You can also have them help in creating a calendar - learning about leap years, but also how many days are in each month.
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Pay for Purchases:
Whether at a real store or while “playing store” at home, teaching children about counting money is never a bad idea. This is also an opportunity for them to practice reading numbers on price tags and counting their own money! Kids can even help search for matching items to coupons inside the store while shopping! It’s never too early to squeeze in a few lessons about money management as early as possible. Tip: Don’t take the little ones into a busy store to practice counting their money, go on a slower day to avoid a line and many waiting customers.
Play Card Games:
Who knew that teaching math concepts to your preschooler could start with a standard deck of 52 cards? Games like Memory (teaching kids to look for similar cards and pairs), War (teaching your child about numbers that are bigger and smaller), or Go Fish! (helps your child to identify and talk about numbers) are fun to play, but also have some educational value. You can also play games with various flash card decks or other game decks (like Old Maid).
Popular Phone Apps:
Let’s face it, kids know how to use some apps better than many adults! Capitalize on that and let your child practice their math skills on your phones and tablets. Some popular math apps include: Preschool Math Games for Kids, Counting Caterpillar , and Hungry Fish. These are all interactive apps that are entertaining for kids, but also give them a chance to practice math functions and number identification. Who knows? Maybe they’ll find math exciting when they’re bored! Use that screen time to their (and your) advantage.
For preschoolers, learning about and exploring numbers should be all about fun and play. Work with them to discover how numbers can fit into their everyday lives. As they see those numbers in action, they’ll get more and more comfortable with the math concepts around them. Have fun exploring those numbers (and concepts) together!
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