Preschool Math through Play?

Playing is fun, and you read everywhere that “play is learning”.  Well, great—you definitely want your kids to be learning as they play!  But can your child really learn preschool math through play?  Is it as simple as just sticking a toy in front of them?

It actually can be that easy (yay!), though it doesn’t always work that way.  Naturally, a well-designed, high-quality, open-ended toy has built in learning opportunities.  For example, using a toy with small pieces to pinch and grasp naturally builds fine motor skills.  And, toys with pieces of various color, shape, and size naturally build preschool math skills like sorting and patterning

But how can you help to take things a step further?  How can you help your kids learn in a playful, developmentally appropriate way?

Today I’m sharing 3 quick, easy, preschool teacher-approved (that’s me 😉 ) ways to do just that.  Let’s play!

3 Easy Ways to Help Build Your Child’s Math Skills 

Preschool math is everywhere!  Think colors, shapes, comparison and position words, numbers and counting.  All you have to do to encourage these skills is to engage with your kids in the simplest ways as they play with a toy.

Let’s take a look at how to engage with your kids as you play with them using this Cuppies & Cream felt board set.

felt cupcakes spread on envelope and rug

Let’s name colors and positions

“Oh yum!  I think I’ll make a yellow cupcake with blue frosting… Let’s see.  Here’s the yellow…  Now I’ll put the blue frosting on top…  Oh!  I need a cupcake wrapper.  Which one should I use?  The green one?  Okay, here it is!  Yellow, blue, and green…yum!  Let’s eat the whole thing—nomnomnom!”

All the words I’ve underlined are math words!  It’s amazing how you can just fill your child’s brain with math vocabulary and concepts without really even trying, isn’t it?  Okay, let’s try another one.

Let’s count and compare:

“Janie, can we make a BIG ice cream cone together?  Okay—how many scoops should we use?  Two?  Okay, onetwo!  But I think we can make it even bigger!  Let’s add two more scoops… Now we have onetwothreeand four!  Wow—four scoops?!  That’s a giant ice cream cone!  Let’s take a bite!  Slurp, slobber, slurp!”

See what I mean about how easy this is?!  Plus, these are likely preschool math words you use all the time.  Incorporating them into play is important–and it’s easy!  Okay, let’s try one more.

Let’s sort and create patterns

Lining things up is an activity that lots of toddlers and preschoolers love to do. And, it’s actually a preschool math skill—and a first step in creating patterns.  So, let’s build on this natural play activity and incorporate sorting as well.

“I think I’ll make a long line of candles.  Can you help me?  Okay, first I want purple.  Thank you… Now, red…”  Keep going until all your candles are lined up end to end.  “Hey, wait a minute.  I bet we can find more purple things!  Yes!  That’s purple frosting—oh, and purple ice cream!  Let’s put all those purple things together.  Do we have more red things to go with the red candle?  I wonder where we should put all our blue things?…”

As you can see, math really does happen so naturally as you play.  Math language and awareness are enhanced when you join your preschooler in their play*—and it hardly takes any extra effort at all!

*I think it’s important to note that you want all of this to be fun for your child (and for you!)  So, if they aren’t interested in joining you, that’s fine.  You can continue to model by playing the way I’ve described above, talking out loud to yourself.  OR, just watch how your children are playing and copy them!  None of this should feel forced to either of you—and of course it should be incorporated along with other ways of playing with the toy—in the case of this Cuppies & Cream set, simple creative play where you’re pretending to cook.

Ready to put your newfound teaching skills into action?

Shop all the felt goodies you can use with these methods 



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