There are a lot of fun and engaging ways to teach math concepts at home to young children. Sometimes coming up with a new idea on the spot can be difficult. This post is full of ideas you can use anytime with items commonly found in the house.
Building math skills
The ideas in this post align with the Pre-K Printable Fun Early Learning Standards and are separated into categories
based on those standards.
You will need some basic materials that can be found around the house. You can be creative and put all kinds of interesting objects to use! Here is a list of ideas to get you started:
Working with colors is great for children of all ages. From toddlers working on color recognition, to older children that can use colors to practice sorting, classification, and counting skills.
Sorting everyday objects by Color
Collect random items from around your home. Use colored plates or construction paper to make a DIY sorting activity.
Sorting paperclips by Color
Children love using new and interesting objects.
Lay out colored index cards or construction paper and then invite children to sort colored paper clips, beads, or buttons.
Using smaller items gives children an opportunity to work on grasping skills and hand-eye coordination.
Color Match and ROll
For this game, you need a box and a variety of balls.
If you don't have colored balls you could mark a tennis ball with different colors, ball up construction paper to use as a ball, balled up socks, or use everyday objects and see which items will roll through and which won't.
Cut holes in your box and color around each hole with different colors that match your balls. Children drop the balls through the hole with the matching color.
Numbers and Counting
There are many ways to talk about numbers and engage in counting throughout the day.
Read numerals on signs, count the number of squares on the sidewalk, count the number of peas on your plate, find numerals and number words in books.
Here are a few more ideas for learning numbers and counting with preschoolers!
Sort by Number
Write the numbers you will be working with on an index card or large sheet of paper.
Place objects in a container for the kids to sort. Be sure to include materials with numerals on them, written number word, and groups of items (like paper clip chains).
Count feet and paws
Count the number of feet, hands, paws in the house!
As an extension, compare the number of paws to the number of feet, which are there more of? Add the number of feet to the number of paws, what's the total? If someone takes the dog on a walk, how many feet and paws are left at home?
Another extension: As you take a walk outside, add up the number of feet and paws in groups of people that you pass. Take a clipboard to keep a tally and count them up when you get home.
Other items you can have fun counting and comparing:
Roll and Build
I got the idea for this fun activity from No Time for Flashcards, see their tutorial here. This activity is easy to set up and preschoolers love it! If you have an appetizer tray (you can buy them at the Dollar Tree or at Wal-Mart in the summer section), it is perfect for this activity. These trays are great for so many fun sorting, play dough, and art activities.
You will need:
Children roll the die, then count the pips and determine the total. Children then find the matching numeral on the tray and select a brick from that group to build with. Repeat as often as desired to add bricks to their creation.
As children do puzzles, play memory games, explore numbers, and learn to read; they are building the skills they need to perform basic operations.
As they begin to grasp basic operations, preschoolers will work on an understanding that when they put items together, this is adding. You can support children with this concept by providing vocabulary and labeling their actions. "You added two blocks to your tower." "We need 3 bananas to make our muffins, I have one. How many more do we need?"
Here are some activity ideas you can use to support your preschooler in learning about Basic Operations using objects from around the house.
Shake and Add
This activity can be done with any small objects you have.
You need two different colors to work with.
We used small star erasers I found at Target.
Take a few erasers of each color and drop them in the cup. Ask your child to shake the cup and empty it on the table and sort the erasers by color.
Next, ask them to count the number of erasers in each color group. Encourage your child to touch each one as they say the number aloud.
Once your child knows how many are in each group, ask them to push the groups together and count how many they have total.
Be sure to describe what your child is doing using math vocabulary such as total, more, add, and all-together.
You can also assess your child's understanding of subitizing. Before they count up the erasers, as them if they can tell you how many are in the group without counting.
Greater THan or Less Than
A deck of cards can be used in many ways to support young children in math development.
We use our deck of cards for a greater or less than activity, matching, memory, and addition.
For greater or less than, we paired our cards with a chip clip. You could create the symbol out of many different objects, or simply have your child point to the greater-than card.
Preschoolers naturally start to work on decomposing numbers through play. They start to refine this skill more in kindergarten. Learning to decompose numbers helps children understand basic math operations and strengthens their overall math skills.
You can support your preschooler in this skill by giving them a set of objects, have them count them. Then have your child split the objects into two groups, count the objects in each group.
You can then provide the vocabulary and summarize the information to increase understanding. "You had 10 goldfish, you split them into two groups. One group has 7, the other has 3. 7+3=10. Can you split them up in another way?"
Measurement and Data
Children love to measure and make comparisons!
They are naturally doing this all the time "I'm bigger than my brother." or "My pizza is smaller than his."
They are also naturals at collecting data!
Engaging in activities that support children in further developing these skills helps children to lay a solid foundation for more complex math and science skills later on.
Here are some fun and simple ways to support your preschooler with measurement and data.
Cooking and Baking
The first activity that always comes to mind when I think of measurement with young children, is baking. Children LOVE to bake.
Use a simple recipe that uses a few ingredients that children can measure themselves.
Consider making things like smoothies or fruit parfaits where children can be a little more creative with the recipe and measurements.
While baking with your child, point out measurement terms "Can you please add 1/4 cup of sugar?" and show them how to measure. Explain that the measuring tool needs to be filled in order to add the correct amount.
Extension: Add a set of measuring cups to the bath tub or for outside in the sand and dirt for children to practice these skills during play.
Sorting Buttons by Size
Grab some buttons and a tray (or a few bowls) and invite your preschooler to sort by size.
No buttons? Try these objects in a variety of sizes: paper clips, cut shapes from construction paper, cut pieces of yarn, coins, pom poms
Measuring without a ruler
One learning standard common in preschool and kindergarten is using items other than a ruler or measuring tape to take measurements.
Sort, count, and Graph
For this activity you'll be gathering random items from around the house in a variety of colors.
Children love to explore new and interesting objects. Be sure to collect items with different textures, shapes, and sizes.
There are lots of fun ways to practice geometry with young children. In this category we are exploring: 2D shapes, 3D shapes, shape attributes, and positional phrases.
Which Shape is Missing?
This is a fun activity you can do anywhere.
This activity helps children understand shape attributes and helps them work on memory skills.
Start with an empty table, place 5-6 objects on the table, each a different shape. Have your child close their eyes, then take away one object. Have your child guess which one you took away. If they don't immediately know, give them clues such as: "The object has four sides" or "the shape has 5 points" be sure to describe the features of the missing shape.
When your child is ready for more of a challenge, include less common shapes and try using shapes cut out of construction paper so they are recalling only the shape rather than an object.
Here is a fun way to work on understanding positional phrases.
For this activity you need something that children can stand on and hide under, a sturdy laundry basket works great.
Start by giving your child one direction, alternate between:
When your child has mastered these directions, try giving them 2-3 directions at once "First, sit next to the laundry basket, then sit on top of the laundry basket,"
Go On a Shape Hunt!
Go for a walk around the neighborhood, or even through the house and to hunt for shapes!
Bring a checklist of shapes, or bring a clipboard and blank paper for your child to draw the shapes they see.
Advanced preschoolers may enjoy keeping tally marks of the shapes they see and adding them up when they get home.
Tape Shape Jump
For this activity, you just need masking tape. Alternately you could take this activity outside and do with sidewalk chalk.
Use the masking tape to create large shapes on the floor.
Then challenge your child to jump to each shape and identify the shape they jump to.
Extend this activity by asking your child to describe the shape. At first they may need guidance in this "How many sides does the shape have?" "Does the shape have lines or curves?"
Patterning and Sorting
Children naturally practice sorting and patterning through the play they engage in daily. Have you ever seen your child line up their little cars by size? Sort their m&ms by color?
There are many ways to support these skills. Two important things you can do are 1. Observe, identify, and label what they are doing "I noticed you sorted your m&ms by color" 2. Extend their learning "I noticed you created a pattern with your cars, green/blue/green/blue...can you add another color to your pattern?"
Here are more fun ways to practice patterning and sorting with your preschooler.
Patterning with Paper Clips
Set out paper clips of 2-3 different colors, invite your preschooler to connect them together using a pattern.
As a bonus this is great for fine motor control and hand-eye coordination!
Patterning with Cereal
This activity can be done with cereal or pony beads.
Provide your child with cereal in 2-3 different colors. Encourage your child to thread yarn through the cereal, creating a pattern as they go!
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