developing numeracy skills through play

Across the country and in our fine state, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) have become the focus of education reform initiatives. Solid STEM learning is being promoted as a benefit for our country and our communities as well as a vehicle for achieving one’s career goals.

Though our toddler and preschooler are a long way from setting career goals, they still benefit from some foundational numeracy skill building. A worthwhile activity in any home, it’s doubly important in ours since I have no intention of sending my children to preschool. Here are some activities for preschoolers that we have tried as well as some that we have yet to do.  

Number sense:
Count food items at snack time, for example 15 grapes.
Practice simple addition and subtraction with small toys or blocks.
Play a memory game. Ask your child to look at a row of 3 numerals. Cover the numbers and ask him repeat the numbers in order.
Use songs and rhymes to teach the sequence of numbers.

Ask your child to arrange blocks in order to copy patterns or shapes you have created.
Cut out craft foam shapes. Use them to teach the names of shapes and to design animals.
Fill a bowl with snack crackers of different shapes, such as circles, triangles and squares and ask your child to sort the crackers by shape.

When it’s time to put away laundry, ask your child to sort the socks into pairs.
Play “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” with toys. Choose four toys, three that have one trait in common. For example, three stuffed animals and one plastic animal. Ask your child, “Which one is different?”

Work together to measure and weigh various objects.
Compare toys by asking questions such as, “Do you have more horses or cows?” and “Is the blue or the red car smaller?”

Math language:
Practice using comparison words such as bigger/smaller, more/fewer, and similar contrasting words. 

Do you have any preschool learning games you’d like to share? 

The U.S. Department of Education publication Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics offers more good ideas for parents and caregivers.

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