Math is not just about numbers. It is about noticing patterns, connecting the dots or finding the exception and making these things visible through numbers. This is why hands-on experiences that involve comparing, grouping or patterning become key to build a solid foundation for future math skills. They give children a feeling for what math is used for and help them visualize concepts without abstract symbols.
Children naturally engage in these types of experiences early on. We’ve seen both my daughters sort sticks from rocks or order them from small to big. However, if you want to further support your kids and help them develop these key early numeracy skills we got you! We have put together 7 simple ideas that you can do on a regular basis and even take outdoors!! You don’t always have to do them but they are a great toolkit to carry around in case the moment presents itself.
How To Develop Early Math Skills Outdoors
That’s it! Simple activities you can do on a regular basis with your kids to help them develop early math skills. And build a solid foundation for all the numbers to come.
Stencils are an easy and fun way to engage in creative art projects with your kids. They can be made out of cheap materials you probably have at home and used more than once. Using shapes to create geometric art is a beautiful way to find the art in math! In this post I will explain how to create some shape stencils for your kids and how to create some math art with them. I will also give you a fun follow-up activity with questions to help sneak in some math skills and vocabulary. An easy math art project that can be used for quiet time and as a bonus, it is fun and relaxing for adults too!
Creating your shape stencils for your math art project
The first step is to create some stencils! If your kids are old enough they can definitely help with this part too! Here are the materials you will need:
Materials to make stencils:
Paper/poster paper/construction paper
Self-adhesive laminating paper (optional)
I made stencils out of paper that I laminated because that is what I had at home at the time. You can use thicker paper or if you don’t want to laminate but would like to reuse your stencils here are some great options:
Old waterproof/leakproof tablecloth or placemats
Plastic sleeves (the sturdier the better)
Materials for your math art:
Colors (paint, markers, crayons…)
Paper/Canvas/Construction paper/Cardboard box (anything to draw on)
Steps to create easy shape stencils:
Decide how many and how big your stencils will be and create a grid on your paper*
Within each space draw or trace a shape
Cut along the grid lines
If you are planning to laminate your stencils go ahead and do that before cutting out the shapes. If you are using waterproof or plastic material skip this step
Cut out your shapes
*If you are planning to use normal paper and have a printer at hand you can use my free template. It has all the shapes ready to go! Just print, cut, and laminate. For added fun print them on colorful paper! Click on the image to get the pdf:
Math art project with DIY Shape stencils
How to create math art with your shape stencils:
Now that you have prepared your stencils, have your child choose some shapes to start their project
Have them use the stencils to fill their paper by just tracing within the stencil but not coloring it in
Have the shapes overlap and turned around in different positions for fun effects
Let kids explore and use their imagination to create beautiful designs. They can try for patterns, abstract art, or create objects or sceneries
Once the paper is full of the outlined shapes or the design is finished, have your kid color the spaces between shapes! Colorful or monochrome… there are many possibilities to explore!
Depending on your child’s age you can sneak in some math skills and vocabulary through questions. Here are some suggestions to get the conversation going while you admire the art:
Can you see any parallel/perpendicular/interescting lines?
What shapes do you see the most?
Can you find any right/obtuse/acute angles?
Are there any complementary/supplementary angles?
Math Art Gallery Follow-up Activity
If you are doing this in a classroom or with more than one kid you can showcase your childrens’ art and have some fun answering these questions and talking about art as you walk around the room. Just like in an art gallery! Get all dressed up, role play, make it fun and you will find your kids having fun with math!
Store those lovely stencils and make sure to reuse them to create more beautiful math art projects with your kids!
Introducing math skills at an early age should definitely be done through fun activities. Connecting math to positive feelings is great for confidence and self-esteem. Bath time at our house is a happy moment. The warm water, the bubbles, the warm bathroom. It is a moment that gives us all peace. As the kids splash around and play in the warmth I get a moment to pause for the day. In this moment of comfort it is possible to sneak in some math for toddlers through play with an easy low-prep activity that requires materials you probably already have at home. It has so much learning potential; color mixing, math and even literacy skills can be practiced. So read on to find out how you can create some bath paint and use the wall as a learning canvas to get their little minds working.
Easy Sensory Bath Time Activity
Important! If you are doing this with young kids that still put things in their mouth be very careful and pay attention so that they don’t eat it. I personally would do this activity once they are over with the sticking-everything-in-their-mouth phase
Baking pan for cupcakes/Ice cube tray
Optional paint brush (playing with your hands is always more fun for kids!)
You can prepare the tray with the colors and the shaving cream beforehand and have it as a surprise (we did this the first time with our kid and she was really excited) or you can prepare it together. Preparing it together gives you the chance to talk about color mixing! Either way, here are the steps for the preparation:
Squeeze some drops of food coloring into each shape. Mix different primary colors to create a whole variety of colors. Remember you are mixing with white so you will be getting different color tones too! Explore and see what color palette appears on your tray
Next add some shaving cream to each shape.
Mix it with your child and watch the colors appear “magically”
Usually the blue color is overwhelmingly strong when mixing with the other colors so use less than you think, you can always add more later.
Math For Toddlers
Now it’s time to sneak in some math for your young toddlers! But first of all, let your child explore by themselves with this new bath time paint. When I tried the activity for the first time my daughter loved the different colors but didn’t know what to do with them. Painting at bath time? A bit out of context… Having a bath had always been about getting clean not painting. So I showed her how she could use it on her body as well as on the wall. Then I let her take over and she was happily playing by herself for a long time.
At one point I asked her if I could paint too. We created a big happy mess on the wall and all the colors ended up mixed together, creating a brownish-grey mush. At that moment I realized that the wall had become a learning canvas. We could draw numbers and letters, erasing and repeating all the time. Great for motor skills and perfect for sneaking in some STEM through play!
How To Create An Educational Experience
There is so much you can do with that lovely learning canvas depending on your child’s age! However, if you are looking for math ideas for toddlers here are some suggestions to inspire you:
Draw a number on the wall and have them trace it with their finger
Explore shapes: prepare a shape matching game by drawing pairs of shapes that they have to match
Counting practice. Draw a number of circles and ask your kid to count them or ask them to make a number of lines. Connect this with the number by using an extra blank canvas. Draw a number of circles and then the number on the other one. Ask them to count and then trace the number.
Patterns: create simple patterns with dots and lines and say them out loud together
In terms of math skills, there is not much more to explore at this age, so just focus on developing their vocabulary by talking about shapes, numbers and counting.
If you are reading this and thinking of doing it with older kids here are some more ideas:
Ask your kids to draw their own numbers. This can be done by asking different questions that have a number as an answer such as how many pets do you have? or how many times do you brush your teeth?
Bring in some equations and ask them to solve them! They can use an extra blank canvas if they need some assistance in figuring it out. For example, on one canvas you can write the equation 4-2= and on the other one draw 4 circles and they can erase 2 to find the solution. With adding, they just draw extra circles and count how many they get in total.
Connecting Math To A Quality Moment
By doing this with your child you are connecting math to a quality moment within their comfort zone. There is no better way for a child’s mind to learn than when they feel safe, happy and motivated. Use this moment to have fun, explore together and to boost confidence in their math abilities.
Once the fun is over, I do recommend that you quickly rinse your child off so they don’t smell like a freshly shaved man. It comes off easily from the body and wall. Also, this activity does not need to be just at bath time, it’s just easier to clean up. You can also just use some trays as your learning canvases and do this math for toddlers activity outside. I hope you can get into it in whatever way you choose and can share the excitement your child will show. They will be thankful you made the extra effort that day.
If you are stuck at home and want to find fun and engaging ways to sneak in some math I have your back! I have gathered some fun home math games that you can do with your children (mostly toddler and preschooler level) that require minimum preparation and are fun for all. The idea behind this post is not to have an extensive list of activities but rather to collect just a few different games to sneak in some learning. The home math games I have selected get your kids moving and learning at the same time and require materials that you have at home or that can easily be replaced. I even hope that they might inspire you to create your own games with the materials you have at home. I have also added some observations and suggestions for each activity on how you can guide the learning and make it an educational experience. So keep reading and reconnect with your family through play.
A fun twist on Twister! This is a great opportunity to get your children moving a bit and sneaking in some adding practice. If your child is still too young for adding you can just do it with number recognition in the following way:
Each time you play you can let each color represent different numbers (for example, 1 to 4 the first time you play 5 to 8 the next time)
Cover the circles on the mat with the numbers and then start playing
Use the spinner or just call out numbers and body parts: this is a great way to be creative and mix it up especially if your kids don’t know right from left so just go with the flow and don’t be afraid to call out elbow to 3!
If you don’t have the game of Twister at home you can make it yourself! It is pretty simple to make but here are a few suggestions to include your kids. You can also just prepare everything yourself and have it as a surprise for them:
Collect colored paper (If you don’t have colored paper just plain paper and color it yourself): 6 red, 6 green, 6 blue and 6 yellow
Optional: Outline the number for each color on the paper and have your kids trace the numbers with whatever you have (colored pencils, paint, stickers). You can also do this yourself
Optional: Let your kids cut around the numbers
Tape the numbers to the floor and start the fun!
I plastified the numbers to be able to use more than once and for other games on this post (takes a bit longer but is worth the effort)
The good thing about making it yourself is you can use the numbers for the other games or find other ways to use them. You can also make it smaller for smaller kids! Also, if you are making this yourself you can create a “shapes twister”. Instead of having each color represent a number have each color be a shape! Square, circle, triangle and rectangle.
Fun and fast paced game that will help your children with number recognition! If you don’t have enough fly swatters at home you can just use your hands to slap the number. You can make your own number cards:
My suggestion would be to have the numeral (1,2,3…) on one side and dots on the other side so you can change it around.
Additionally it is best to color-code each different number. So for example, all ones are green and all twos are red and so on. Color coding will help your child learn and remember things easier.
If you don’t have dice, prepare additional number cards that you can flip
Great game to get your kids moving around and learning math! I love this one and it is very well explained and even offers cards to print. If you don’t have enough baskets or don’t have snowballs here are my suggestions:
If you don’t have baskets use shoe boxes, pots, empty some drawers… I’m sure you can find things around your house
If you don’t have snowballs the writer recommends using rolled up socks! Great idea!
4. Shape race from the web (I have not been able to find the original source)
The link for this game is just a photograph. I have not been able to find the original source but it is quite clear how you can prepare and play this game:
Collect 4 sets of colored paper or color your own paper
For each color, cut out a shape (square, circle, triangle, and rectangle)
Make a big dice: click here for a tutorial for making paper dice
You have four shapes and six sides on the dice so here are a few suggestions for what you could put on those extra sides:
All shapes on both extra
Two shapes on one side and the other two on the other one (for example, circle and square on one side and triangle and rectangle on the other)
Choose a shape and stand at the beginning
Roll the dice
First one to the end wins!
That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this round-up and that you have found some inspiration for some fun Stay At Home Math! Get your kids moving and learning and reconnect as a family.