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13 Math Activities for Preschoolers

Erica Loop
May 19, 2017

Math activities for preschoolers aren't just for day care teachers. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Association for the Education of Young Children, math is a must for children ages 3 through 6. If the only math that you've done lately involves balancing your checkbook, you don't have to nix the numbers out of fear.

How can you and math activities for preschoolers become BFFs? "The best approach to engage young learners is definitely to use activities that are hands-on and fun! Using manipulatives (hands-on objects) or playing games are great ways to help kids form concrete understandings and internalize concepts," says Bethany Lake, creator of the blog Math Geek Mama.

She notes that early math concepts kids need to know before kindergarten include counting to 10, connecting numbers and how many items they represent, sorting and classifying, recognizing and naming basic shapes, naming written numerals and recognizing patterns.

Jaimi Erickson, a former teacher and creator of the Stay-at-Home-Mom Survival Guide, adds, "I think preschool children enjoy any time they can get their hands on a subject ... They feel as though it is play and they are learning basic skills at the same time." Keep in mind, you don't need to pick one activity and stick with it time and time again. "I think children learn in a variety of ways, and exposing them to multiple methods will only make them more capable learners going forward," says Erickson. Still not sure what to do?

Check out these superstar math activities for preschoolers:

  1. Bug Out
    Make the adorably fuzzy 10 little ladybugs counting sticks from School Time Snippets.
  2. Use Building Blocks
    Build number recognition skills with No Time for Flash Cards' roll and build LEGO game.
  3. Get Growing
    "Measure your child on their birthday to see much they have grown," says Erickson. You can also keep a chart of your child's growth, letting her compare the numbers from year to year. You can also compare the heights of her siblings or friends.
  4. Step to It
    Move with math while playing the five little ducks on the pond gross motor activity from Life Over C's.
  5. Name Shapes
    Make a shape collage to practice geometry, with directions from A Mom With a Lesson Plan.
  6. Multitask
    Tackle chores and math lessons by counting each toy as your preschooler helps you clean up. How high can you go?
  7. Go Au Naturale
    Combine math with science and take the learning outdoors, suggests Erickson. "Count how many leaves are falling from the tree at the playground." Or take a cue from Montessori on a Budget and sort natural items like sticks into specified numbers.
  8. Make It Cute
    Practice one-to-one correspondence with Dabblingmomma's adorable decorate-a-cupcake game.
  9. Use Candy
    Lakes suggests, "Simply give a handful of candy to your child and let them sort it by color. Then, they can practice counting each color and compare." Learn Play Imagine shows that even preschoolers can count to 100 when candy is involved.
  10. Graph It
    After sorting the candy, Lake says "If you have graph paper, you can then help them make a graph of the frequency of each color, and if they're ready, you could practice adding by combing colors. For example, 'How many brown and green M&Ms are there altogether?' and help them count them all. You can also introduce subtraction by eating the candy, which is always the best part!"
  11. Introduce Money
    Play with money and sort coins with the help of Feels Like Home.
  12. Build With Blocks
    It sounds simple, but this preschool favorite actually teaches concepts such as geometry and pattern, all while helping your child build spatial awareness skills. Find learning opportunities for this simple activity at Hands On as We Grow.
  13. Create Collections
    "Sort and classify objects such as cars by color, and use terms to compare them, like 'bigger,' 'smaller,' 'more,' 'less,'" notes Lake.

Don't forget about those board games that are stashed in the back of your toy-filled box shelf. While old standards such as Chutes and Ladders are time-tested favorites, you can also use some of the board game pieces to make your own math activities for preschoolers. Read 4 Dice Math Games for Kids for some more creative inspiration!

NEXT UP: 25 of the Most Fun Games for Kids

Erica Loop is a mom, parenting writer and educator with an MS in child development. When she's not teaching, she's busy creating kids' activities for her blog Mini Monets and Mommies.

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