Photo credit: r. nial bradshaw/Flickr
Your child is almost never too young to learn basic math principles. In fact, giving young kids a good foundation in basic math literacy can help pave the way for academic success down the road and make day-to-day functioning in the future that much easier (hello, tip calculation).
And the good news? You definitely don’t need to be a math teacher to help impart these concepts to your kids. Preschoolers are naturally drawn to math because it exists in the world around them. As such, there are a ton of organic, fun ways to help your preschooler understand math principles.
You can count items at snack time, count down the days on the calendar until an important event, practice moving a certain number of spaces on a board game, measure their height, and sing songs with corresponding movements such as “up” and “down.” Kids learn best through dynamic and hands-on activities, and that goes for math, too.
Here are four ways you can help your preschooler learn math.
Help your child develop a sense for numbers by counting. Count food items at dinner or snack time (“3 baby carrots,” “7 crackers”) and count down the days to a child’s birthday or a big holiday on the calendar. Use toys to practice simple addition and subtraction and have kids move pieces on a board game, counting the spaces as they go.
Teach basic geometry by playing with shape and patterns. Have your child’s name the shapes of blocks, cookie cutters, and other items. Place cookie cutters in a pattern on a cookie sheet or placemat—or better yet, use some cookie dough and then eat your “lesson” after!
Your child is always growing, and while this is unfortunate for you emotionally, the growth is a great way to teach him measurement concepts! Measure your child’s height every month or two. Show him his progress and how you use a tape measure or yardstick. Mark his height on a growth chart or on the door frame (just like your parents did it!). Help him compare his height to months past, and if he has siblings, have him compare his height to theirs, too.
Math involves spatial relationships, and there are lots of fun ways to help familiarize your child with these. Teach her to stay to the right on escalators, and that the fork goes on the left and the spoon goes on the right of a place setting. You can also play games where you direct her to hop to the left and then to the right, or run far from you and then come back halfway. Music is also a great tool: use songs that have corresponding movements to teach kids concepts like “up and down,” “left and right,” and so on.
See, math isn’t so boring after all! Try these strategies and games at home and help your child build a solid foundation in math.