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
- Shaving cream
- Food Coloring
- 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.
More Fun Activities and Games:
- Milk The Cow STEM Challenge: Can You Mimic Nature?
- Hands-on Activities For Preschoolers: STEM Nature Eggs
- STEM Nature Box: Sort, Categorize And Learn
- String Rainbow Art Project: Explore Shapes With String
- Stay At Home Math: Fun Games For Movement And Learning
- STEM Game: The Sound and Feel of Materials
- STEM challenge: The Tower of Random Things