Math – just saying that word is enough to make many of us cringe. However, it’s an essential skill and everyone must learn it.
Helping your preschooler develop a solid foundation in early math literacy can have a huge effect on their future academic success, but math doesn’t have to be tedious and boring. As all parents of preschoolers know, young children love to learn, explore and try new things; and when you use a fun, hands-on approach to teaching, kids are more likely to enjoy what they are learning and have an easier time understanding the concepts being taught.
Here are five fun math games for preschoolers that you can easily and inexpensively make at home so you can both enjoy playing and learning the basic skills needed for succeeding in math:
Fishing for Numbers
A fun way to practice number recognition and matching the number of items to the correct number. This is two games in one.
- Construction paper in various colors
- Scissors (and a pair of child safety scissors if you want help making the game)
- Markers or sets of matching stickers
- A wooden dowel or stick for the fishing pole
- Paper Clips
- Yarn or string
- A magnet
- Hole Punch
Cut out 20 fish from the different colored construction paper.
On the first 10 fish, write the numbers 1 through 10, one number per fish
On the second set of 10, make designs using different shapes and colors, or use the stickers. Make sure that the number of shapes/stickers on each fish matches the numbers on the other set. For example, on one fish you may have one star, on the next, two circles, on the next, three smiley faces, and so on until you get to 10.
Punch a hole near the mouth area on each fish. Slide a paper clip through the hole, then secure with tape on the back side.
For the fishing pole: tie a long piece of string to the end of the stick or dowel and secure with tape. Secure the magnet on the other end of the string by tying tightly, using tape or even use super glue or hot glue.
Instructions to Play:
Go Fish! Now you have two games you can play using either the numbers or the fish with the shapes or stickers – or even both together!
Version One: scatter the fish around on the floor so that the numbers are facing up. Ask your child to go fish for the number 3, and show them how to lower the magnet until it catches the fish. Play until all fish are “caught”.
Version Two: Scatter the fish so that the shapes or stickers are clearly visible. Ask your child to go fish for the fish with six stars on it. Repeat until all fish are caught.
There are really so many ways you can play this game, and it doesn’t even seem like a math lesson! You can make fish based on color and go fish for colors. Draw large shapes on each fish and go fish for specific shapes, fish for the letters of the alphabet, or even basic addition by asking your child to find the fish that has the answer to 1 plus 1. Be creative and have fun!
Muffin Tin Math
A simple, yet fun activity that teaches several basic math skills. It can easily be adapted for different skill levels and to teach other concepts such as number recognition, counting, basic addition and subtraction, more than/less than (does muffin tin number 3 have more or less beans than number 7?), putting like objects together, color matching (instead of numbers on the liners, draw a red circle on one, an orange circle on another and use jelly beans to match the colors ) and much more. Get creative!
- A muffin tin
- Muffin liners
- Buttons, beans or other small materials to use as counters
Using the marker, write a number on each muffin liner using the numbers 1 through 10 (or higher for more of a challenge)
Place the numbered muffin liners in the muffin tin.
Instructions for Play:
Give your child an assortment of buttons or other small objects and have him or her put the appropriate number into each muffin tin.
Once filled, be sure to have him check his work by dumping out the objects and counting.
As your child’s skills improve, replace the liners with liners that have higher numbers. For example, start off using numbers 1 through 6 (or however many holes your tin has), then use liners with numbers 7 through 12, then 13 through 19, etc. Work on specific skills such as number awareness by having your child tell you what each number is, and asking him or her what the number is that you are pointing to. Work on one to one correspondence by saying things like: “let’s count out 3 buttons” or “add one more button to make 7”.
Remember that Number!
Another fun number memory game that helps kids with their number recognition and memory skills.
- Index cards
Instructions to Make Game:
On the first ten index cards write the numbers 1 through 10 so that each card has one number on it. Make another identical set.
Instructions for Playing:
M&M Math Fun
A sweet way to teach several math skills such as counting, sorting, more than/less than, colors and more! Not to mention it works on listening skills, following directions, small muscle coordination, and others.
- A large bag of M&M’s
- Clean Surface
Empty the bag on a paper plate and start separating into groups based on different math concepts.
Ask your child to make a group of five M&M’s, a group of 10, a group of 2, etc. Ask your child to separate the M&M”s into groups based on color. Ask your child to make a group of 5 RED M&M’s, a group of 4 YELLOW M&M’s, etc.
Advanced Skills: You can even adapt this game for older children by doing addition, subtraction and multiplication. Ask your child to make a group of 8, then take away 2 and tell you how many are left! It is okay for them to count to see how many are left! Ask your child to make a group of 4 M&M’s then add 3 and tell you how many there are.
Divide the M&M’s into two groups, each with a different amount of candies, and work on More Than and Less Than.
Work on patterns! Red-blue-orange-red-blue-orange.
Popsicle Stick Math
A simple and fun way to teach number recognition and practice counting using nothing more than popsicle/craft sticks and markers.
- 20 craft sticks
- Colored Markers or tiny stickers in sets
Instructions for Making the Game:
Number the first 10 craft sticks using the numbers 1 to 10. Write them in big, bold letters, making sure the sticks are vertical. On the other ten sticks, make designs using different shapes and colors, or use the stickers. Just be sure that the number of shapes on each stick matches the numbers on the other set. For example, on one stick you may have one fish, on the next, two circles, on the next, three smiley faces, and so on until you get to 10.
Instructions for Play:
Mix the sticks up and give them to your child, encouraging him or her to pair the numbered sticks with their matching counterparts.