It seems like everyone you meet is obsessed with STEM or STEAM-focused activities nowadays. Should you worry about this with your preschooler?
There is certainly no need to jump right into formal schooling with a little one, but it never hurts to start incorporating mathematical learning into your everyday fun.
If you expose your child to concepts in a way that seems like play, this will not only provide an opportunity for you to interact with your little learner but will probably spark an interest in the things you touch on later on.
Reading is such a huge focus during these early years – which, of course, is fabulous – and it’s so easy to do (just read, read, then read some more to your child!). What you may not realize is that it can be just as easy to integrate math into your days, too!
To have the best chance of promoting your child’s emerging numeracy skills, consider these ideas:
Live Preschool Math
If you stop to think about it, we are surrounded by mathematical opportunities all day long. Concepts such as counting, sorting and time are pretty much involved in everything we do!
The situations are endless, but here are a few ways to live math with your preschooler:
- Cook – I have yet to meet a preschooler who isn’t jazzed about helping in the kitchen, and even if you don’t trust your tyke with cutting or adding ingredients yet, there is a way they can be involved. Sorting the measuring cups and spoons by size, counting the eggs or flour scoops being added, or measuring the milk all illustrate how you can’t cook without math!
- Eat – Want to make mealtime more fun? Predict how many bites it will take to finish up that pile of spinach, then count as you eat. Compare whether it took more bites to finish that yucky broccoli or the delicious hot dog. Who has more chicken nuggets on their plate? Math just makes sense at mealtimes.
- Laundry – Sort by color, size, person, type of clothing – these are all foundational math skills that just seem like fun to a wee one.
- Clean Up – Want a way to teach positional words without turning it into a boring lesson? Put things away – the book on the shelf and then the stuffed animal above it. Make sure to sweep under the rug and push the chair in next to the table. Even right and left can be seamlessly integrated into your day.
- Count, Count, Count – Count how many crayons are in the box, how many pieces of mail arrived today (you could even graph this data to see which day “wins” the mail contest!), or how many minutes it is until Daddy comes home from work or brother comes home from school. How many steps does it take to get to the bathroom? Is it less, when you’re in a hurry? You can pretty much count everything and turn it into a game!
Read Preschool Math
Reading really does open up the whole world to your child. Although they’re not as common as stories, there are plenty of fun books out there that focus on mathematical concepts – and you can find loads of math connections to make with many popular titles, too:
- Bedtime Math – Gv and I love reading these short bedtime stories each day. Each one unveils some fun fact about the world (like how eggs make food fluffy) followed by a related math problem to solve, organized into three different ability levels. Besides the three volumes of these silly books, there’s an app for you to use, as well.
- Greg Tang Math books – I have the entire collection of these books from my classroom, and they were student favorites every year. I love how these books incorporate rhyme while posing simple problems for readers to solve. The best title for preschoolers to start with is Math Fables.
- Brian P. Cleary books – Another collection I have from my classroom, he writes books covering grammar as well as math. Math titles focus on addition, subtraction, measurement, time and more. I suggest starting with The Mission of Addition – and don’t worry so much about drilling skills, just read these silly rhyming books for fun!
- Make math connections with popular picture book titles, like I did with these:
Sing Preschool Math
Things are always easier to remember if you put them to a catchy tune. Gv learned not only the alphabet and phonemic awareness skills as a tiny tot (because my goofball teacher self only knew how to sing things like “the vowel song” when she was a baby!), but all the states, days of the week and months of the year – all because I pretty much turn everything we do into some little ditty.
(Wash, wash, wash your hands, get ‘em nice and clean!)
You can find all sorts of fun songs for free online, and this post, Top Learning Tools: Best Math Videos shares a playlist I created where you can easily find a ton in one place!
Play Preschool Math
A preschooler’s number one priority should be play, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn at the same time. In fact, most of the “toys” we have around our house are things from my classroom – because everything is a toy to a young child!
Even if you don’t have boxes and bins full of fancy math manipulatives like I do, it’s not hard to incorporate math into play using items like blocks, cars, stuffed animals, playing cards, dice, Legos, dominos, Play-Doh – really anything your child has can be used for math play!
If you’re looking for a great book that provides tons of ideas on how to easily do this, check out Preschool Math at Home, which suggests activities like holding a stuffed animal tea party to focus on one-to-one correspondence and build skills in a natural, playful way to ensure a strong foundation.
Some of our other favorite things to do are to go on a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood to look for shapes and numbers, to use shape blocks to create composite shapes and to play the game “I Spy” and look for groups of items, shapes, or other mathematical things.
You can find a few more ideas of how to play with math in this Latticed Learning post from last year.
Watch Preschool Math
We’re all familiar with how Sesame Street helps children develop a good number sense, but earlier this year, we discovered a new show that has become Gv’s favorite thing to watch, ever.
She has even already decided that she wants a birthday party built around this theme this year (and her birthday’s not until May!). I’ve written a whole post highlighting this fabulous little show that you don’t want to miss, so be sure to click on over and read Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Way to Introduce Math to Your Preschooler!
Do you have any other great tips for how to naturally incorporate math into your day? I’d love to hear!
Latest posts by Lisa Healy (see all)
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