For young children, playtime is learning time. Through play, kids discover their world, figure out how things work, expand their vocabularies, acquire physical and mental skills, become sociable, and learn math concepts. A youngster’s natural fascination with numbers, counting, and shapes makes early childhood a perfect time to discover the mathematical world. These five activities are sure to make acquiring math skills so much fun kids won’t realize that they are learning.
Provide food in various shapes: round veggie slices, chickpeas, blueberries, triangular crackers and slices of cheese and bread, diced carrots and cucumbers, and anything else you can think of. Name the different shapes or ask children to do so. Encourage kids to create animal faces, people, or objects from their favorites. You can ask them to use only one shape or a variety. Be sure to photograph each food artist with his or her creation.
This game has twenty cards: ten number cards, each with a numeral from 1 to 10, and ten quantity cards. You or a child can draw pictures or use stickers on the latter—for example, seven flowers to match the number card for 7. Index cards work well. Shuffle the cards and lay them face down in four rows with five in each row. Each player turns over two cards. If the number on one piece matches the quantity on the other, he or she keeps them. If not, they are turned back over and the next player takes a turn. When all the matches are found, the player with the most cards wins.
Watching DVDs is a favorite pastime. Their catchy music and captivating action combine to make them great learning tools as well as wonderful entertainment. This Math DVD for kids introduces youngsters to the world of numbers and shapes. Addition, subtraction, and telling time are some concepts kids learn. If children associate acquiring skills with positive experiences, they will remember them much longer—and equate learning with fun.
Lego blocks are great math teaching tools. There are so many ways to use these favorite playtime items for this purpose.
- Greater than/less than: Write numbers 1-20 and the greater and less than symbols on slips of paper. Provide piles of same-size blocks in two different colors and a base. The child draws two numbers and places one on the left side of the base and one on the right. He or she decides if the left numeral is smaller or larger than the right and puts the symbol between them. The child tests the answer by making two towers with the same number of blocks as each number and determining which one is taller.
- Count by 2s: Begin with a brick with 2 studs, then increase to 4. As proficiency grows, group blocks into sets of 5, then 10, and have the child count by each number.
- Geometry: Encourage children to build towers of different heights and various types of structures. Not only are the youngsters demonstrating their creativity, they are improving spatial perception and geometry smarts.
Let the child choose one or more plants. Plant seeds or seedlings either indoors or outdoors. As the plant grows, ask what shape the leaves are and how many are on a stem or in a group, and look for patterns. Measure the plant at regular intervals and chart its growth. If the plant produces flowers, talk about the shape of the petals and the whole blossom. More than one plant provides opportunities for comparing size and parts of each.
By incorporating math-centered activities into play time, you are ensuring that kids grow up with a greater appreciation for the world of numbers—and will look forward to math class in school. Let the fun begin!