Early Math Skills for Preschool Kids

Preschoolers are full of curiosity about the world around them. You probably hear the questions, “Why?” “What is . . . ?” and “How do . . .?” many times each day. As your 3-4-5 year-old become more aware of the world, you will find that the answers to their questions involve basic math concepts - space, geometry, more than, less than, etc. Rather than trying to teach your child math as a separate subject, show them these concepts in your day-to-day activities. By doing this, you are helping them understand that math is not just something you have to do at school and that math is not limited to a chalkboard or a piece of paper, but rather, math is all around us and is helpful every single day.

Around the house

During the course of an ordinary day there are plenty of opportunities to talk about math. Start with basic concepts like “How many plates will I need to put on the table for dinner?” Have your child count out the plates. At snack time, go ahead and play with your food. Sort raisins, crackers, or even M&M’s by color, size or shape. Line them up and count them. Have your child guess how many will be left if you take away 1 raisin? 2 raisins?

Take turns guessing how many steps it is from one location in your house to another. Ask your child why he thinks you need fewer steps than he does to cover the same distance. Spend a rainy afternoon going on a hunt for certain shapes in your house: rectangles, circles, squares, etc. Talk about how shapes can be flat (a piece of paper) or three-dimensional (a sofa cushion).

Fill a rimmed cookie sheet with sand, beans or shaving cream and have your child practice copying numbers by tracing the shape in the tray with his fingers. The texture helps children remember the shapes even before they are ready to write the numbers with a crayon or pencil.

Outside Math

There are countless ways to teach math while you play outdoors.

  • Guess how many shovels of sand it takes to fill the bucket
  • Using a variety of objects, guess which will hit the ground faster when dropped from a high step or ladder.
  • Create a number line on the sidewalk with chalk. Play games similar to hopscotch moving back and forth from number to number.
  • Using a chair or picnic table, have your child demonstrate concepts like on top of, under, next to, etc.
  • Find shapes in nature - help your child see that some leaves might be a combination of ovals and triangles. Count the petals on flowers.
  • Use rocks, acorns, pine cones and other found objects to create addition and subtraction problems.
  • With the same found objects, guess how many will fit into a bucket or box. See if your container holds more rocks or acorns - get children to compare their results.

Make learning math concepts fun and part of everyday life to set your child up for success in school.

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