Math does not need to be boring.
It does not need to be on a worksheet.
It does not need to involve flash cards.
Math activities for preschoolers can (strike that) MUST be hands-on and engaging. This round up is full of 10+ preschool math activities that go way outside the workbook or computer screen.
Preschool math is not just memorizing numbers
When we think of preschoolers and math, the natural space to head to is memorizing number names and counting.
But math is so much more than reciting words in order or identifying the name of a symbol (which is literally all the route counting and naming numbers is) and cannot reduce it to something so trivial in the preschool years.
Especially not when these kids and their math skills are worth so much more.
Looking for more structure each day?
Check out Playing Preschool: Busy Toddler’s 190-day at-home activities program
10+ Outside the Worksheet Box Math Activities for Preschoolers
I grabbed together 10+ activities that are perfect to illustrate this “point” that we can’t / mustn’t relegate preschool math to memorizing numbers.
Kids need the opportunity to:
- Build conceptual understanding of math principles (this is the “why” in math. For example, in grade school, many of us were taught to “carry the 1.” We were never taught what the 1 is or why we are “carrying” it. We missed the conceptual lessons and were taught to memorize a process. We want more for our kids that following rules in math – we want them to actually understand it.)
- Grow their own thinking and problem solving skills (instead of kids looking to us for the answer or finding it in the back of the book, let’s celebrate their thinking skills in math which are 100x more important than their “found the right answer” skills)
Let’s move away from the idea that math is about finding the perfect answer into math is about the process, the concepts, the critical thinking, the problem solving, and sure – eventually the “right” answer, but that cannot be the sole focus.
When the “right answer” is all kids are after, it has an incredible opposite effect to what we are after: they believe right is the only goal, that process doesn’t matter, and that thinking and problem solving aren’t valued.
We want kids who look for the answer, look for ways to solve problems, and look beyond basic memorizing.
Easy Math Activities for Kids from Busy Toddler
Each activity is linked and I also give a brief explanation so you know the basic idea before you click.
Let kids spend time with, explore, investigate, and sort coins. Make sure to keep a close eye and excellent supervision with this activity.
Roll & Dot
This activity is part probability & statistics and part fine motor skills. Kids roll a dice and keep track of how many times each number is rolled.
Have an older child? Try two dice and track numbers 2 to 12.
Addition. Subitizing. Graphing. Printed numbers. Understanding numbers can be composed by different combinations (5 and 1, 3 and 3, 4 and 2). What doesn’t this activity have?!
Introducing a Ten-Frame
Ten-frames are the conceptually bell of the math ball in the current era of math education AND FOR GOOD REASON. Your child will spend a lot of time with ten-frames in early elementary school, but we can use them in preschool too.
Check out this post for what a ten-frame is and how to use one.
Roll & Cross
This is a FUN math game. Create a large dice (or use a small one). Kids toss the dice and race to cross out the numbers as fast as they can.
For more challenge, use two dice and numbers 2-12. For even more challenge, make the game a head to head competition. It’s shockingly fun.
Paint shapes within shapes within shapes. Why not give kids a fun way to interact with these two-dimensional beauties?
How Much is 100?
100 doesn’t make a lot of sense to kids: it’s abstract. This activity makes it concrete but also manageable.
DIY Board Game
Board games are FILLED with math, but what if your child got to make their own game?! This activity is GOLD.
Recognizing flat shapes on paper is one thing. Recognizing those same shapes in our environment is another. This activity goes way beyond basic memorizing of shape names.
Now I know we said we were going beyond memorizing numbers, but this activity does: this is the conceptual base for understanding addition as the combination of two groups. Instead of just saying 5 + 4 = 9, this activity shows the whole process.
Giant Shape Match
In this activity, kids begin to see how 3-dimensional shapes have 2-dimensional faces. This is HUGE. Not only that, these faces repeat (a square is a face on cubes, rectangular prisms, and triangular prisms).
When we talk about introducing preschoolers to math beyond memorizing numbers and counting, this is the kind of activity that exemplifies that.
Go beyond memorizing in preschool math
Don’t limit preschoolers to math flashcards or counting activities. They can do so much more, learn so much more, become enriched with so much more math.
What’s your favorite math activities for preschoolers? Comment below!
Susie Allison, M. Ed
Susie Allison is the creator of Busy Toddler and has more than 2 million followers on Instagram. A former teacher and early childhood education advocate, Susie’s parenting book “Busy Toddler’s Guide to Actual Parenting” is available on Amazon.
Leave a Comment