It sounds quite clichéd to say it, but math concepts truly are embedded in our day to day lives. Introducing math as a practical and natural concept, as opposed to an academic skill that your child is required to learn for school, can make a huge difference in gaining their interest. What would hold your interest more: being bombarded with facts on flashcards or learning something in a natural, play-based way? Now multiply your reaction to that last question by a factor of 100, and you can see your preschooler’s point of view and perspective on learning. We cannot expect a 3-5 year old child to sit still and absorb and process material through a flashcard method; in fact, we shouldn’t expect any student to do that, but that’s a topic for another day. Get your preschooler interested in math with these quick and easy ideas.
Incorporate math language into your everyday conversations.
You don’t have to shove math language down their throats; this can be done in a completely nonchalant way. Talking about the size, shape, and color of things is the start to introducing basic concepts. Using words such as comparing, sorting, and adding are also important math terms that can be woven into conversations. A simple way to do this is to be very descriptive when you are asking your child to do something. “Can you please put the small, blue, square pillow back on the couch?” Math terms are naturally embedded in your request. It seems like normal conversation because it is! You will notice the more descriptive you are, the more descriptive your child will become.
Provide mini-lessons throughout the day.
While the point above discusses talking about math terms in everyday conversations, this tip focuses on mini-math lessons while playing with everyday toys and activities. If your child is playing with Legos then build a structure and compare the width and height of the two structures. Ask what you could do to your structure to make it the same size as theirs (add or take away Legos). When your child is playing with Barbies or dolls you can compare the length of their hair, compare the size of the dolls, and sort them based on the colors of clothing they are wearing. While your child is playing with dinosaurs you can line them up and have them count them or sort by color/size. The point is that no matter what they are playing with you can work in a mini-lesson. Get down to their level and start playing with them. They will be thrilled you are playing and will likely go along with any “lesson” you throw their way.
Take time for real world math.
Cooking is probably one of the best “real world” math lessons there is. Every aspect of cooking involves a math term: measuring, temperature, counting, etc. An added bonus is that kids are more likely to be interested in trying new foods (think veggies!) that they helped cook and prepare. Try out some fun, healthy recipes with your preschooler for a natural math lesson.
Add math to their home environment.
Early literacy experts will tell you that surrounding your child with a literacy rich environment will help a child become a successful reader later on. They advise you to surround your child with books, environmental print, letters, etc. The same can be said for math! Hanging a poster in your child’s play area that has shapes and colors on it, placing number magnets on your refrigerator, and keeping “math” geared toys (blocks, puzzles, toys that are easy to be sorted, etc) in their reach are all simple ways to keep math in their everyday environment.
It may seem at little forced when you start weaving math into your preschooler’s everyday life and routine. But the more often you do it, the less forced it will seem. Laying the foundation with these key math concepts and terms will make it a breeze to add in more complex math ideas as your child progresses.