Keeping a preschool-aged kid busy and entertained can be a challenge. Some days, we just need to “let go and let Grover.” Of course, there are other days where we feel more ambitious. We want our kids to look back and remember all the cool things their mama taught them. From art-centric projects to reading to math, we want to leave our mark on their ever-evolving brains. And one way to do this is through math activities for preschoolers.
While teaching math to an older kid might seem like a challenge, it’s easier than you think with a preschooler. Math starts with shapes and simply learning to recognize numeric symbols. During preschool, your child will learn what distinguishes each shape. They’ll learn to count, too, and may practice tracing or writing smaller numbers. There’s a big emphasis simply on recognizing each number, understanding the value of a number (counting five fingers, for instance), and placing things in numeric order. You can practice these principles at home at any time with some fun activities that will feel more like games than “homework.”
We pulled together a few super fun math activities for preschoolers that your family can do together at home to help learn or practice what your child might be learning in preschool. (Even if they’re not going to preschool, you can still use these games to teach your kiddo some basic principles, when/if you have time.) The struggle seems especially real right now. So, we’ve tried to make it a little easier on you by including as many activities as possible that require little to no financial investment from you.
Math Activities for Preschoolers
1. Noodle Shape Making
Spaghetti noodles are just so much fun to play with! Next time you have “sketti” for dinner, hold back a few noodles. The next day, let your child play with their food by using the noodles to form different shapes. (You could also work on forming letters. Just sayin’!)
2. Use Counting Bears (or other Counting Animals)
These tiny, colorful creatures quickly capture little ones’ interest and they can be utilized in so many different ways. You could start by just sorting colors and counting how many of each color there are. If you start with small quantities, you can even try to teach some basic addition. You can also use the counting creatures to teach your preschooler how to identify and create patterns. Use some of those yard sale dot stickers (or just a couple of colorful markers) to create a simple pattern. As they match the colored bears to the colored dots, you can show them how the pattern repeats.
3. Numbered Race Cars
Do you have a ton of cars at your house? Use some washi tape or garage sale dot stickers to number the roof of each car. Have your preschool line-up the cars in order.
4. Fruit Snack Counting
At lunchtime, count the fruit snacks in their pack.
5. Clothespin Hair
Draw people on old toilet paper tubes or paper plates and assign each one a number. As your kiddo clips the corresponding amount of pins to the person’s head, they’ll form some fun hair ‘dos.
6. Washi Tape & Pom Poms
Grab some washi tape and pom-poms that match. Tape a circle or square onto the floor and encourage your kiddo to sort the pom poms that match colors into the tape shape.
7. Sort and Count Animals
Collect up all your kiddo’s animals — plastic, stuffed, or otherwise. Give them a number to hand you or to toss in a laundry basket. Count along with them as they hand over that many animals.
8. Shape Scavenger Hunt
Draw a list of common shapes. Then, send your child around the house (or yard) to collect items that match each shape on the list.
9. Index Card Numbers
First, use a deck of playing cards to teach your child how to count the hearts or spades and “make sure” they match the number on each card. Later, grab some index cards and label them with numbers. Then, give your kids some stickers and let them place the corresponding amount of stickers on each index card.
10. DIY Lacing Game
Build a DIY lacing board with recycled toilet paper tubes and a poster board. Number them in random order. Next, give your child a shoelace or a length of colorful yarn or gift wrap ribbon to lace through the tubes in the proper order.
11. Create Numbers Of The Day
Sesame Street knew what they were doing when they created the idea of letters and numbers of the day. Sometimes the best way to teach something is to focus on it almost obsessively. If your number of the day is five, do everything five times. Eat five crackers, do five jumping jacks, cook five potatoes for dinner. If the thing or activity can be counted, do it so that it corresponds with the number of the day.
12. Use Mathlink Blocks
Just like counting bears, those interlocking cubes are so much fun to play with. “Sensory kids” will especially love them. You can stack and build and that’s fun enough. But, you could also create a “BINGO” board with 9 spots. Each time they roll the dice and get a number on their board, they can stack that many blocks on the number. If they roll the same number twice? They lose a turn. Play until they have nine stacks of blocks.
13. Sing Songs About Math
Much like songs about the ABCs, there are tons of songs about math to get preschoolers adding two and two before your very eyes. Here’s one to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
14. Mosaic Math Art
All you need for this activity is colored paper, scissors, and glue. Well, those supplies and a great imagination! Depending on how skilled your preschooler is with the safety scissors, you can either cut the sheets of construction paper into squares or let them do it. Once you have a bowl full of small construction paper squares, your little one can use them (and the glue) to create their own pattern. Bonus? You can use the moment to discuss repeating patterns. Alternately, you could ask your child to pick out X number of squares of the same color, followed by X number of a different color, and so on. This will help sharpen their counting skills.
15. Make a Home Map
Ask your child to pick a room of your house, then ask them to draw a map of it. As they’re making the map, foster their spatial language skills by asking them to describe how far apart they placed items and why. If this activity goes well, you could keep doing different rooms until the entire house is drawn out!
16. Watermelon Geoboard
In case you’re unfamiliar, geoboards are a tool that can be used to support the understanding of math. They consist of square boards that have pegs, to which students attach rubber bands to form different shapes. They can be used to teach kids about shapes, planes, perimeter, area, and more. To create a watermelon geoboard, you need rubber bands, golf tees and, well, a watermelon. Then, you let your little one (while supervised) push golf tees into the watermelon. Once the watermelon is fairly covered in golf tees, your kids can use rubber bands to create shapes and more.
Math is a lifelong skill your kids will need for the rest of their lives, but number burnout is real (especially for the mama’s helping them). So we’ve scoured the internet for some of the best belly-busting jokes, that’ll leave you and your little ones with a love for math.
What did one math book say to the other? Don’t bother me. I’ve got my own problems!
What did the triangle say to the circle? You’re pointless.
What are ten things you can always count on? Your fingers.
Are monsters good at math? No, unless you Count Dracula.
What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt!
Why didn’t the two 4’s want any dinner? Because they already 8!
Why didn’t the block get invited to the party? Because it was too square.