Encouraging early math skills with your toddler

Activities also help practice language and build cognitive development

Encouraging early math skills with your toddler

Early math skills help lay the foundation for future problem solving and logical thinking. Some activities not only reinforce math skills, but also are fun ways to practice language, foster social skills and build cognitive development.

Activities to start building math skills

Even before starting school, your toddler can start to develop an understanding of basic math principles such as numbers, shapes, sizes, patterns, spatial relationships, time and distance. Early math skill activities don’t need to be complicated. Most activities can fit into daily routines and playtime. Here are some examples:

Baking: When baking, allow your toddler to fill measuring cups, stir and pour. Your toddler will start learning the basics of counting, measuring and adding.

Taking a walk: While on a walk, have your toddler compare objects around you. You may ask, “What tree is bigger?” Point out different shaped signs, or count how many steps it takes to get to the mailbox. You can even talk about size with big steps and little steps. Your toddler is beginning to understand size, shapes and counting.

Getting dressed: While getting your toddler ready for the day, ask questions like, “What color is your shirt?”; “I see a white and black stripe on your shirt. What color would come next?”; “You have stars on your shirt, let’s count them!” This introduces your toddler to colors, counting and patterns.

Doing laundry: Let your little helper make different piles of shirts, pants and socks. Count out how many of each you have, or allow your toddler to try to make pairs with the socks. Your toddler is learning about sorting and matching along with counting.

Playing together: Play with different-sized and -shaped blocks. Count the sides of the shapes. Show your toddler how some shapes can make other shapes such as two triangles make a square. Stack blocks in the order of size; for example, biggest to smallest. Your toddler will begin to learn about shapes and the relationship between shapes.

Setting the table: Have your toddler help pass out snacks, napkins and utensils during snack or dinner. Help your child start learning one-to-one correspondence by making statements such as, “One for mom, one for dad and one for me.” 

Foundation of fun, not flashcards

Find hands-on ways to make math fun. Your toddler learns best through hands-on learning. Flashcards are not recommended.

Help your child think about their everyday experiences in terms of counting, sorting and patterns. This is the foundation your child needs to be successful. Practicing math should be playful and  woven throughout your child’s day.

If you are concerned about your child’s development, consult with your child’s health care provider.

Posted In Children's, Parenting