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Research indicates that learning math early contributes to better math achievements later in school and even better achievement in literacy. The same study points out that the most predictive thing for later success in school is entering school with math skills.
This is why we’ve compiled a list of 15 amazing math activities for preschoolers that will help you introduce preschoolers to math concepts in a fun and engaging way. Read on to find out more.
15 Math Activities for Preschoolers
1. Sorting Colors
Sorting and classifying objects in different categories is highly beneficial for practicing preschool math as it encourages the child to think analytically and it will build the foundation for later math skills, such as algebraic operations.
The best of all? Preschoolers are naturally drawn to sorting stuff, and you might often notice them engaging in arranging their toys in categories. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to get them engaged in additional sorting activities!
One sorting activity that you can do with a preschooler is sorting colors. To do this, use three (or more) types of colored tape and create different shapes on the floor with each tape type. For example, you could create a big red triangle, a green rectangle, and a yellow square.
Then, get plenty of small pom-poms with the same colors (in this case, red, green, and yellow) and ask the child to sort them inside the floor shapes according to the color. And if you happen to be tight on money, here’s how to create your own pom-poms out of yarn.
2. Sorting by Type
Next on our math activities for preschoolers list, we have sorting by type. You’ll need some duct tape for this activity as well, as you’ll have to create a large frame on the floor. The frame is empty on the inside and this where the child is supposed to sort the appropriate objects. However, in contrast to the previous sorting activity, they don’t sort the objects by color, but by type.
For instance, bring plenty of animal counters, including farm animals like cattle, pigs, goats, horses, and wild animals such as elephants, lions, hyenas, rhinos, etc. Place the animals in a pile on the floor and ask the child to separate the farm animals from the wild animals by putting the farm animals inside the frame and leaving the wild ones outside of it.
Another variation of the game that may be easier, in case you don’t have access to animal counters, is to use fruits and vegetables and have the child classify fruits on the inside and vegetables on the outside of the frame (or vice versa).
3. Counting Bears
Plastic counting bears are a colorful educational manipulative for preschool children who are learning to count. But they’re also ideal for exploring patterns. To create a pattern recognition activity with counting bears, you’ll need a pack of counting bears and a large sheet with circles. This is one of those math activities for preschoolers that kids find fun, which is why we had to include it on our list.
As the counting bears come in five different colors, color the circles using only these five colors in order to create an ABC color pattern. For instance, if you have 7 rows, one circle will be green, the next one yellow, and the third one blue. Then you’d repeat the pattern with the next three: green, yellow, blue, leaving the seventh circle empty.
Ask the child to arrange the counting bears on top of each corresponding circle, so as to match the color. That is, a green bear should be placed on the green circle, a yellow bear on the yellow one, and a blue one on the blue one. Then, ask the child to observe the pattern and identify what color to use to color the seventh circle and what type of bear should go on it.
4. Graphing With Coin-Flipping
Graphing activities are very useful in helping the child familiarize themselves with the ways of showcasing data. From drawing bar graphs to pie chart manipulatives, you can find plenty of creative ways to practice some graphing.
This can be something as simple as creating a bar graph by flipping a coin. Take a sheet of paper and draw a head and a tail. Both the head and the tail are placed under a column of squares.
Now it’s time for some coin-flipping! Ask the child to flip the coin. Every time they get a tail, they color one square from the tail column, and every time the result is head, they color a square from the head column. Limit the number of times they flip the coin (ex: 20) so that when you reach 20 times, the child can compare and contrast which bar is higher.
5. Graphing With Bowling
This can be either a group activity or an activity that you do with your child. The goal is to create a bar graph while bowling. Thus, to do this activity, you’ll need a bowling ball and pins. In lack of a bowling ball and pins, you can also do this activity with plastic cups and a tennis bowl.
Then, take a large sheet of paper and add a line at the bottom with the following numbers: 1, 2, 3 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. These numbers will represent the number of pins the children managed to knock down. Write the following question on the paper: “How many pins did we knock down?”
You’ll also need sticky notes that will be placed on the paper sheet in a column over the corresponding number each time a child knocks pins down. For example, if one player knocks down 5 pins, they put one sticky note in the column over number 5. If the next student knocks down 5 pins again, they add a sticky note to number 5 again.
After a few rounds, children will end up with a bar graph that has columns out of sticky notes and will be able to analyze the visual representation of their bowling as a group, and compare which bar is the highest and which is the lowest.
6. Learning Shapes With Geoboards
Many parents or preschool teachers use geoboards to explore the different geometric shapes. If you can’t afford a commercial geoboard, it’s actually pretty easy to create one. Just grab a large corkboard, a few push pins, and a few rubber bands.
It only takes a few minutes to arrange the push pins on the geoboard, just make sure they’re arranged in parallel rows and columns to facilitate the activity. Create a few task cards in advance, with a task line and an image of a certain shape that the child is supposed to create on the geoboard.
For instance, if the child gets a task card with a rectangle on it, and the task says: “I can create a rectangle”, then the child uses the rubber band to create a rectangle.
As children manipulate the rubber bands and re-create the images from the task cards, they are working on their attention spans and fine motor skills, while memorizing what a specific geometric shape looks like.
7. Matching Shapes
Next on our math activities for preschoolers list is the matching shapes activity, which is perfect for a larger group of kids. So if you’re a kindergarten teacher looking for a way to practice shapes with the children, make sure to give this activity a try. It will get kids moving and burn some of that extra energy!
You’ll need to prepare a variety of shapes. You can simply use color paper to draw them on and then cut them out. The exact number will depend on how big the group of children is. Make sure you have every shape at least twice (two rectangles, two circles, etc.) and that one shape is big and the other small.
Then hand out the shapes to the children, each child should get one shape. Tell them the aim of the activity is to find a match for their shape (ex: if one child has a big triangle, they should find the other kid that is holding a small triangle).
By matching shapes of different sizes, children will learn that shapes are the same regardless of their size. That is, a triangle is a triangle and a rectangle is a rectangle, whether small or big.
8. Geometry Jump
Geometry jump gets your kids jumping around to learn the different geometry shapes! All you need to do is draw geometric shapes in different colors on the driveway, such as a circle, triangle, square, etc. For children with more advanced math skills, throw in some octagons, hexagons, trapezoids, etc.
Now ask the child to stand right next to the shapes and tell them you’re going to play a game that will involve jumping from one shape to another. As you shout out a shape (ex: circle), the child tries to quickly jump on the circle shape.
When you notice that the child is starting to master the shapes, you can increase the pace at which you shout out the shapes. Just make sure that the shapes that you’re shouting out are within reach of the child so that they don’t get hurt.
If you want to make the game more challenging and practice quick reasoning skills, you can try having identical shapes, but with different colors. For instance, your ‘game board’ could have 1 white circle, 1 red circle, 1 blue rectangle, 1 green rectangle, 1 yellow trapezoid, 1 blue trapezoid, etc.
Then, instead of shouting out just the shape, you shout out both the shape and the color and the child has to quickly think where to jump to. Again, increase the pace as the child becomes more comfortable.
9. Counting Pine Cones
This is a simple outdoor activity that you can use to help the child practice numbers and counting. You’ll need pine cones and some colorful chalk and then you’re all set to go!
Draw numbers on the driveway with colorful chalk, you can use a different color for every number to make it more visually stimulating. Start with 1-10 numbers and then add additional numbers as the child’s counting skills progress.
Bring a pile of pine cones and ask the child to put the corresponding number of cones under each numeral written on the driveway. That is, the child should put 3 cones under number 3, 5 cones under number 5, 7 cones under number 7, and so on.
In lack of pine cones, you can easily adjust the activity to any material you’ve got in your neighborhood, including leaves or small stones.
10. Apples on a Tree
This activity involves practicing counting while putting apples on a tree. You’ll need a printed apple tree drawing (or simply draw an apple tree on a sheet of paper yourself). Just make sure the apple tree doesn’t have any apples on it as the aim of the activity is for the child to place a given number of apples on it.
You’ll also need 2 dice and some small pom-poms. Include pom-poms in two different colors, for instance, yellow and red, as these will represent the apples.
Ask the child to roll the two dice. The dice closer to them will signal the number of red apples and the dice that is rolled farther away will signal the number of yellow apples on the tree.
Let’s say the child got a 5 and a 3 after rolling the two dice, with the 5 being closer to them. They should then put 2 red apples and 3 yellow apples on the tree. Repeat until the child manages to count the pom-poms quickly.
11. Broken Heart Numbers
This is a matching activity that focuses on number recognition and counting. You’ll need some red construction paper, a marker and some scissors. Draw hearts on the construction paper and cut all hearts in half in a zig-zag way.
On one half on the heart, write a number and on the other half of the heart, draw small hearts that will correspond to the number written on the first half. For instance, if you wrote the number 4 in the first half, you’ll need to draw four hearts in the second half.
Now mix up the heart halves in a pile on the floor and start playing! To avoid making it too complicated, you can simply put all the numeral halves on one side and all the small heart halves on the other.
Explain to the child that they’ll need to match the heart halves with the appropriate numbers, so as to mend all of the broken hearts!
12. Animal Matching
This animal matching activity is a great group activity that any preschool teacher can easily use, but if you’re a parent wanting to practice some preschool math with your child you can easily adapt it to an individual activity, as well.
You’ll need to either get some printouts with animals or draw a given number of animals on different cards yourself. In addition to the animal cards, you’ll need to create number cards that have a certain number written on them.
Give a card to each child, either an animal card or a number card. They’re supposed to go around the room and try to find their match. For instance, if a child got a number card on which the number 7 is written, they’re supposed to find a child that holds an animal card with seven animals (these could be seven lions, seven monkeys, or any other animal).
Just make sure to explain to children that they’re not supposed to shout out their number or animal quantity. They should simply go from one child to the other and ask the other child to flip their card. The first pair that manages to find that match wins the game!
13. Ice Cream Math
All children love ice cream, so they’ll have a blast playing one of their favorite math activities for preschoolers! You’ll need an ice cream box, ice cream cones, and some ice cream tongs. And of course, you’ll have to make some ice cream and put it in the box. Alternatively, you can simply purchase a box of ice cream.
Explain to the child that this activity involves role-playing – they’re the ice cream vendor and you’re the customer. As a customer, you approach them and ask them for ice cream with a certain number of ice cream balls. They take your order and count the number of balls they put in the cone.
Afterward, you put the balls back into the ice cream box and repeat the activity with a different number. Once the child manages to get all numbers right, you treat yourselves with some delicious ice cream!
If you don’t want to use real ice cream, a simpler variation of this activity is to create an ice cream cone out of paper and use some tom-toms as ice cream balls. Use small tweezers to place the balls into the cone. Everything else stays the same, you’re the customer placing orders at the ice cream shop and the child is happy to serve your ice cream orders!
14. Symmetry With Ladybugs
This is a creative way to learn symmetry and reinforce counting skills in children. To do this activity, you’ll need a drawing of a huge ladybug (without any black spots on its wings), a pencil and rubber, and some black playdough.
Write the following sentence on top of the ladybug “I have x black spots on my wings”. The x stands for the number of spots the ladybug has on its wings, and you’ll modify it each time according to the number you wish to practice.
For instance, if you write “I have 8 black spots on my wings”, the child is supposed to create 8 spots out of the playdough and place them on the ladybug’s wings. In the next round, you’ll erase the number 8 and write 10 or any other number you wish to practice.
Just make sure you are writing numbers that are even, as the aim of the activity is to practice both symmetry and counting skills, so the child will need to place the same number of spots on both the left and right wing of the ladybug.
15. Lego Measurement
The final activity on our math activities for preschoolers list involves legos. Since standard units of measurement, such as inches/centimeters, pounds/kilos, quarts/liters, etc. might be too complicated for preschool children, you can rely on non-standard units of measurements that use common things that children already know. One example of this is Legos.
Grab a pile of Legos and place them on the floor. Just make sure that the size of the Legos you gather is more or less the same. Alternatively, you can use any other type of toy building bricks, as long as they fit together.
In the meantime, the child should choose a few of their toys and place them on the floor next to the Legos. Explain to the child that you’ll try to do some measurements and size prediction together, with the help of the Legos.
Then ask the child to measure one of the toys they chose by placing legos alongside the toy. For example, if the child brought their favorite teddy bear, have them measure how tall this teddy bear is by stacking Legos next to it.
Now the child should have an idea of how many legos it takes for a given object, ask them to predict how many Legos should be fitted together for the rest of the toys. Use a chart with prediction and result to compare the answers.
This article enumerated 15 amazing math activities for preschoolers that will sharpen your children’s math skills and get them ready to start school!
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