We all know that taking the time to read books to our children is important. Early literacy helps ensure that kids develop a love of reading which will be critical to them for the rest of their time in school. Having strong reading skills is important since in many ways reading is key for success in all subjects.
It is important, however, to not forget about another essential subject, mathematics. Like reading, mathematics is a building block for itself and other studies, especially in the sciences.
In fact, studies have shown that early math skills are one of the best predictors of later success. Now if you are like me the mere mention of maths makes you feel slightly uneasy. The important thing to remember, however, is that preschool math is nothing like calculus.
It is easy and fun and if you help your child develop an interest and confidence in it at an early age, later they will probably wiz through calculus with flying colours.
As it turns out, mathematics is all around us in our everyday lives. It doesn’t have to take a ton of effort on your part to incorporate more of it into your routine. You can help your child increase their maths skills during a trip to the supermarket.
You can also play maths games with items around the house that your child would be playing with anyway. If you want to take it a step further you can invest in some maths oriented toys and games. The important thing is that you incorporate maths into your routine. Here are some things that you can try that don’t require a ton of effort or a lot of money.
1. Count the produce at the grocery store
Make it a game. Count how many apples you are putting in your cart. Decide how many bananas you need in a bunch and then count how many are in each bunch until you find one that has the amount that you need. You can continue it throughout the store. Count how many boxes of cereal you are getting or how many containers of yoghurt you need.
2. Use blocks for counting, addition, and subtraction
While you are constructing your block buildings talk about how many blocks you are using. Count them as you put them in place. Add one more and count how many you have in total. Change your mind and remove one then count how many that leaves and ta-da you are doing subtraction.
You can do this with Lego too. Because of the way that Lego bricks stick together you can create towers to count, you can sort and organise by colour, and create patterns to follow.
3. Practice patterns with things you have around the house
Get out four bowls and fill each one with a different object. To make it more interesting for you and your child, pick things with different shapes, colours, and textures. A good example would be cotton balls in one, stones or marbles in one, grapes in one and checkers pieces in the last. You start by creating a pattern on the table with the various items and then have your child copy it. After a few rounds of that then let them have a chance to create the pattern.
4. Play Hopscotch
Even if your child is a bit young to actually grasp the finer rules of the game you can draw a hopscotch board on your driveway or sidewalk with some chalk. Have your child hop to a specific number or hop on each number a certain amount of times. There are many different options that you can try.
5. Count landmarks on a road trip
Decide before you leave the house what things you are going to look for. You write the items on a piece of paper. It might be helpful to include a little pictogram next to the word if you are giving it to a child who doesn’t read yet. Some options might be traffic lights, bicycles, delivery trucks and red cars.
Then each time you see an item from the list the child puts an x next to it and counts how many that adds up to. You could do this on a walk as well, if the child is being pushed in a stroller or if they are responsible enough to hold onto the paper!
6. Let them measure things
For this exercise you can either provide a small desk sized ruler or a retractable measuring tape. In my experience kids like to play with both of these items. With the smaller ruler, they can measure the length of things around the house like their shoe or a wooden spoon. With the measuring tape, you can help them measure how tall they are or how long their bed is.
While it is unlikely that they will grasp the intricacies of centimetres and metres they will have exposure to the numbers and start learning the concept that things are various sizes and that there is a way to tell the difference.
7. Have them match shapes
This one requires a bit more work on your part. Get some construction paper and cut out various shapes. For example, 5 purple triangles, 4 red squares, 3 blue circles, 2 orange rectangles and 1 yellow star. Place all of the shapes in a bowl and then have your child draw out one at a time and place them in matching piles. You can practice colours, counting, shapes, addition and subtraction, patterns and more with these cut outs.
8. Colour by number
It can be difficult to find a colour by number that is age appropriate for preschool, but they are out there. Help your child create a “key” along the bottom by assisting them in figuring what colour each number represents and then placing a dash of that colour over the number. Once you have the “key” done then your child can colour in the picture practicing their colours and numbers.
9. Play Dominos
You can use regular dominoes, but if you want something more colourful you can find ‘kids dominos’ to purchase. Count the dots together and help your child match the numbers. Create patterns with the game pieces.
10. Cook something
You can have your child help with any type of cooking but baking is particularly well suited for maths practice. Have them help you identify the measuring cup or spoon. For example if you need ½ a cup of flour have them look for the cup that has the “1” and the “2” on it.
They can see that different numbers mean different sizes and that the measurement is important for the cake or cookies to turn out correctly. If you are weighing ingredients they can help with that as well. They can help pour in the sugar until the scale gets to the particular number you tell them to look for.
You can also count how many cups of sugar you are putting in or how many chocolate chips or blueberries you are adding.
In addition to these ideas, there are tons of games and activities that you can purchase that have been developed with toddler and preschool aged children in mind. These items usually feature similar themes to those discussed here including numbers, shapes, patterns and other early maths skills.
You don’t have to be a maths genius yourself to instil a love of the topic in your child. Simply being aware of yourself can help you realise all of the times in a day that you are already using basic maths. Once you are alert to it, it hardly takes any more effort to include your child in a discussion. You can count anything anywhere. Shapes and patterns are all around us if you look for them.
Having a solid understanding of mathematics is important for success in school and has plenty of future applications in everyday life. In addition, since studies show that early maths skills are one of the best predictors of success in later life it is important that our kids start school already liking math and with a solid foundation in place to help them achieve that future success.
At Harmony we practice numeracy alongside literacy to help preschoolers develop essential skills in this area. Want to take a look for yourself? Please contact us to schedule a meeting or book a tour to see if Harmony is the right fit for your child!