There are certain skills your child should begin to master between the ages of 2 to 5. Let’s begin with finger and toe rhymes and follow through to naming numbers, counting, and other math concepts that young children learn through everyday experiences in the world. Much of early math learning happens without planning and there are so many things that you teach to your children without formal lessons. Even young toddlers can grasp concepts to form a foundation for math that they will be learning at school in the future. Below are things to do at home that help your children develop these early math concepts.
Start By Introducing Math Words
It is very important that young children hear and begin to use the language of math as early as possible. Vocabulary increases quickly when the parent answers a child’s question with new words and phrases. If the child says, “cracker or cookie,” begin to expand the statement with descriptive words and include words that make math concepts real in everyday life. Think about talking about direction, size, and color. So you might want to answer your child’s call for a cracker or cookie by saying, “You may have two crackers today. Do you want the square or round ones?”
When playing games or singing songs, practice directional words such as over, under, beside, and through. For fun, plan an obstacle course so your children can go over piles of pillows, through boxes, around chairs, and beside the tables. Encourage them to tell you what they are doing as they go through the maze using pre-math words.
Make up games where you give directions and the children follow your lead. For example, you might ask them to run around a certain tree, crawl under the picnic table, peek under a bush, and then sit beside you for a hug and rest time. While playing with directional commands, sing a piggyback song (one that you make up the words) to help children follow directions. For example take the familiar song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and change the words to “If you’re happy and you know it jump three times” or use other commands like turn around twice, hop on one foot, and so on.
Learn to Count and Recognize Numbers
Make it a habit to count together when you pass out a snack or fold laundry – any type of household chore can be counted.
A fun activity is to take an egg carton and write a number on the bottom of each section. Make sure to be age appropriate and start slowly. A very young child may only be able to count to five, but with time will progress. Give you child small objects that he/she can place into the egg cups, like buttons, pebbles, cereal pieces, etc. Count together as your child places the correct amount of items into the corresponding cup.
Don’t forget to sing counting songs daily. Encourage the children to hold up the correct number of fingers as they sing. Think about singing “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” or “Six Little Ducks Went Out to Play.”
Talk About Sizes
Most children have an easy time understanding the concept of size. Use the words “big” and “small” when addressing objects with your child. Quantities including “more” or “less” are harder to understand. Work on one concept at a time. In the kitchen when looking at snack containers, ask, “Which has more – the cookies or the crackers?”
Let the children play with plastic measuring cups – filling and emptying them with water in the kitchen or bath and sand when playing outdoors. Indoors, help children compare sizes of objects in the room. Which ones are “large, big” and which are “small”?
Continue your preschool math activities with fun projects everyday. Play games that teach matching, sorting, sequencing (patterns) and don’t forget about shapes. Your obligation as a parent and first teacher is to introduce simple math activities to your child to prepare them for life’s pleasures and school concepts that are required in the near future.