Want to help your toddler engage in mathematical thinking? Put away the flashcards and worksheets and focus on exploring math during natural interactions with your child. The goal at this age is to help children make mathematical connections during the everyday play that they know and love!
Here are five playful math tasks that you and your toddler can do together:
- Create Numbers: Help your toddler write out numbers with different materials, such as paint, modeling dough or beads. You can create a number first and then have your child try making his own. Doing these activities in the bathtub with bathtub crayons or paint can make for easy clean up! To extend this lesson a little further, get a bowl of berries (or something similar) and ask your toddler to count out every number you create together. When you’re finished, you can eat your berries for a healthy snack!
- Build Structures: The best way for your child to explore geometric concepts is to build with three-dimensional shapes. Use Legos, Magna-Tiles, wooden blocks or other similar objects and encourage your child to build whatever comes to mind. As she builds, introduce supplemental materials, like construction paper or toy cars, to support what she is creating.
- Explore Patterns Outside: Encourage your child to explore the world around him and gather a collection of outdoor materials (sticks, rocks, pinecones, leaves, etc.). Talk with your child about the attributes of these objects and how they are alike and different, then work together to sort the collection in various ways (by color, shape, use, etc.). This is a great way to help him learn to identify and create patterns!
- Practice Measuring with Water: Any time your child is playing in water, place measuring cups and small and large containers in the water so your child can explore filling and pouring with the containers. Then, give her a problem to solve. For example, let her know that you need to fill up a large container, but you’re not sure how many of the small containers it will take to fill the large one. Work together to pour the small containers into the larger one until it’s full, counting along the way.
- Play in the Kitchen: Give your child a set of measuring cups and mixing bowls so he can “bake,” and engage him in play scenarios with mathematical connections. For example, pretend he is missing an ingredient and has to go to the store, where he will have to count out his money to pay for the purchase. Or, pretend to prepare to host a dinner party, and have him count plates, set the table, etc. The possibilities are endless!