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April 15, 2024

Pre-K Math Activities: Hands-On Learning for Kids

BFIN Pre K Math

Hands-On Learning for Kids

We're excited to share a wealth of activities and ideas to spark your child's mathematical curiosity and set them on a path of lifelong learning.

From counting colorful objects to exploring patterns and shapes, we'll dive into a variety of fun and interactive experiences designed to make math engaging for young learners.

But it's not just about mastering numbers and shapes—it's about instilling a positive attitude towards math from an early age.

By fostering a love for math, we empower children to excel academically and thrive in all areas of their development. So let's make math fun and watch our children grow into confident and enthusiastic learners.

Pre-K Math Basics

When children enter pre-K, they can start to understand some basic math skills. A few skills they can learn at this age are:

  • Understanding the difference between first and last.

  • Number recognition and understanding patterns.

  • Identifying when something has been added or subtracted.

  • Noticing more and less, bigger and smaller.

  • Seeing differences and similarities between shapes, colors and sizes.

  • Understanding routines.

Using examples of things children do every day can help them better relate to math and understand these skills. Using their toys, foods, books and even their fingers and toes, they can learn and understand math through different patterns and repetition.

For more information about the skills and milestones for your child's age, check out our developmental milestones resource page.

16 Pre-K Math Activities Kids Will Love

Counting and Number Recognition

Counting skills and number recognition are important for preschoolers to learn because, at this age, their brains are like sponges soaking up all sorts of knowledge!

Building strong counting skills and recognizing numbers early on sets them up for future success in math and problem-solving.

Wack the Dough!

Materials needed:

  • Play-Doh

  • Dice

Your child will take the Play-Doh and make as many small balls of dough as they want. The more, the better!

Then, one person rolls the dice. The number it lands on will be the number of pieces of Play-Doh they will squish. Encourage your child to count along.

You can play this with two or more people and keep going until all the dough pieces are flattened.

This game can help your child develop both their number recognition using the dice and their counting skills. By giving them a fun, interactive way of counting, they can use muscle memory to better develop these skills.

Number Actions

Materials needed:

  • 6 numbered flashcards marked 0–5

For each number, create different motions to act out the number and a funny way to say that number at the same time. It helps if your actions visually resemble the numbers.

Show each flashcard and have them do the assigned action and say the number in the voices you picked together. Use these examples or create your own, but the most important thing is to have fun.

This game helps associate numbers with a movement so they can learn with more involvement by being active. This can also help them better visualize the shape of each number and can make it more fun and engaging for them by using silly sounds and actions. 

Car Park Game

Materials needed:

  • Piece of paper or whiteboard

  • Marker

  • Toy cars

*If you don’t have toy cars, you can make your own! Cut out small rectangles with paper and draw a car on each one.

On your sheet of paper, you are going to draw a series of parking spots and assign each one a number. Then, ask your child to park the car into one of the numbered spots.

For example, “Can you park your car in spot number 4?” They will have to find spot number 4 and “drive” their car into that spot. To help keep them interested, you can also cater to their interests by using toy trains, airplanes, etc.

This game can help them recognize numbers by identifying the written number when they hear it.

Asking them to park the car in a spot you’ve already done can also help them remember each number through repetition. Plus, using cars in different colors can help teach them to recognize colors, as well! 

Number Hunt

No materials needed.

Go on a walk with your child in the park, in your neighborhood, through the grocery store or around your house. You can play this game anywhere!

You and your toddler will be going on a scavenger hunt for numbers in order. For example, if your child sees the number 1 on a sign, label, mailbox, etc., they will have to point to where they found it and shout, “One!”

You’ll want them to call these out in numerical order and stop when they reach their limit of numbers. If you want to level up, try playing the same game, but have the goal be recognizing different amounts. If they see two birds on a park bench, have them point and shout, “Two!”

If they get stuck, you can point one out to show them what it looks like. Then, stay on that number until your child finds one of their own.

This game can help your child recognize numbers out in the world and requires them to know what they’re looking for and search for each one. This can help them learn number sequence, recognize amounts and help them relate to math as they see it all around them.

Shape and Space Awareness

For preschoolers, developing spatial awareness is key to understanding the world around them.

Activities that teach them about shapes, space, position and movement in a fun and practical way can help their creative expression, build up their math skills and encourage this development.

Shape Sorter

Materials needed:

  • Cardboard box

  • Construction paper

  • Scissors

  • Tape

  • Tupperware lids in different sizes

Create your own shape sorter toy from home! Use colorful construction paper to cut out the shapes of your Tupperware lids and tape them on either side.

Cut out slits of each size lid on the top of your cardboard box. Your child must match the shape to the hole and drop the lid into the box. You can also use blocks in different sizes.

This game can help your child recognize shapes and sizes and teach them how to categorize these basic forms. As they learn this at home, they will begin to see this in their surroundings. 

Indoor Obstacle Course

Materials needed:

  • Household items

Set up an indoor obstacle course with everyday household items. Use chairs, pillows, blankets and more to form barriers for your child to crawl under or hop over, or avoid.

Creating an obstacle course can help introduce your child to spatial awareness and understand the relationship between their bodies and the world around them. 

Spatial Awareness Simon Says

No materials required.

"Simon Says" is great for teaching preschoolers about spatial awareness. Incorporate location-based commands like "Simon says, touch your toes" or "Simon says, stand behind the chair."

Add objects like toys or cushions to make the game more dynamic. You can introduce words like "beside," "underneath" or "between" to help them grasp different spatial concepts in a fun way.

This game helps understand body movements and positions. Adding objects and spatial vocabulary allows them to practice following directions, learn about spatial relationships between objects and expand their spatial vocabulary.

I Spy a Shape

No materials required.

Prompt your child to identify shapes at home, in the park or even while browsing through a picture book. You can make it an ongoing game by turning the game into an interactive version of I Spy.

This game encourages young children to actively seek out shapes in their everyday environment. Making a game out of these observations adds an extra layer of fun to the way your child learns their shapes.

Measurement and Size

Measurement and size are fundamental concepts for preschoolers to grasp as they navigate the world around them.

Understanding how to measure and differentiate sizes lays the groundwork for various skills later in life. Engaging in activities that involve comparing lengths, sorting objects by size and even incorporating everyday tasks like laundry or mealtime can help children develop these essential skills while having fun.

Apple Math Measurement

Materials needed:

  • String

  • Tape

  • Marker

  • Apple

  • Scissors

  • Assorted items of your choosing

First, use the string to wrap around an apple, then cut the string so it’s the exact length of the apple’s circumference. Next, add a piece of tape to one end of the string and write the name of what you measured. Repeat this process, measuring things large and small.

When you’re done, line up the strings so your child can see all the different lengths and ask your child to put them in order from shortest to longest.

In this game, your child can see a visual representation of length. Kids can clearly see the difference between a long string and a short string, and therefore, they will be able to learn the different measurements and sizes between various items. 

Sort the Straws

Materials needed:

  • Straws cut to different lengths

Line up straws of different lengths and ask your toddler to put the straws in order by size. You can start by asking them to put them in order from smallest to biggest. Then, you can mix them up and try asking them to put the straws in order from biggest to smallest.

This game is to help introduce them to “big” and “small” while teaching them about measuring length and sorting. 

Sock Match-Up

Materials needed:

  • Socks from clean laundry

Make a game out of sorting your family’s laundry. Use descriptive language to include your child to sneak in a math lesson.

Ask questions like, “Can you find all the tiny white socks? They are for your baby sister.” “Can you find your grandpa’s big blue-striped sock? It’s missing!”

In this game, you can turn a necessary chore into a fun learning opportunity. Your child can practice their understanding of different sizes, shapes and colors, while also feeling included and responsible for helping with the chores. 

Mealtime Math

Materials needed:

  • Any plate of food during mealtime

Make mealtime interactive and build skills in the process. Ask your child, “Do you have more crackers or carrots on your plate?”

Then, take away (or eat) an item on the plate. Work together to count how many items are left, and then ask, “How many do we have left? You had five crackers, and I took away two. Now you have three crackers!”

This game can help your child start to understand addition and subtraction right from the dinner table.

By seeing the addition and subtraction happen in front of them, that can help them visualize and start to better understand it. (You can make this extra fun by letting your child subtract a bite from your plate or add the food item that is their favorite!)

Lightning Sort

Materials needed:

  • Your child’s favorite toys

Go to your child’s room or playroom where their toys are kept. Start a 2-minute timer and have your child run around their room and pick their four favorite toys.

When the time is up, ask them to line them up in order from smallest to biggest. You can also set a timer and say, “Find a toy that is really small” or “Find a toy that is round.”

This game allows kids to be active and create a new game out of their favorite toys. They can also practice sizes by getting to know “big” and “small” things, and you can keep the game going by practicing their shapes.

Patterns and Sequencing

Patterns and sequencing are crucial skills for preschoolers as they form the building blocks of mathematical and cognitive development.

Recognizing patterns helps children make predictions, solve problems and understand the world around them.

Engaging in pattern-related activities not only stimulates their minds but also fosters creativity and critical thinking.

Nature Patterns

Materials needed:

  • Paper plate

  • Glue

  • Leaves and flowers from outdoors

Go outdoors and collect natural materials together. Start a simple pattern: leaf, flower, leaf, flower, leaf, flower. Bring your collections home, and have your kids create a paper plate collage by gluing their items on the paper plate in the same pattern.

This game is a great way to get your child to identify and follow a pattern. Then, they can take what they find and make a pattern into a work of art.

It can help kids see the things they are learning in the world around them. This way, they can start to notice patterns on their own.

Block Patterns

Materials needed:

  • Set of different colored blocks

Build the beginning of a pattern and ask your child to continue it. Ask them if they can tell you what the rule is (one red block, two yellow blocks, one red block, two yellow blocks).

Start with a simple pattern and add complexity as you go along. You can choose to change the colors, the shapes or the sizes. Challenge them to create a pattern of their own.

In this game, your child can learn about patterns in all different forms. This can be a simple exercise, but it also has room to get more complex as your child grows and learns more about patterns.

Cereal Loops

Materials needed:

  • Colorful cereal loops

  • String

In a pattern sequence, thread cereal loops on a string and ask them to add to it and call out the pattern you’re making together. For younger children, you’ll want to start with two colors. Then, you can make edible necklaces and bracelets out of them!

In this game, your child can have a fun, edible way to learn patterns. Not only can you teach your child how to recognize patterns, they get creative and make some of their own!

The Importance of Teaching Kids to Love Math Early On

In this article, we've explored fun activities to introduce preschoolers to key math concepts like counting, patterns, shapes and spatial awareness.

By integrating math into everyday experiences, we lay a strong foundation for future academic success and cognitive development. Playful engagement with math can help children develop critical thinking skills and gain confidence in problem-solving.

Fostering a positive attitude towards math from an early age not only boosts academic achievement but also cultivates a lifelong love for learning. Let's embrace the joy of math and watch our children thrive in their educational journey and beyond.