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Block Play for Preschoolers at Home: Pre-math Activities

written by: Tania Cowling • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 6/6/2012

Parents have endless opportunities to help their children learn at home. Bring out the blocks and practice these activities that will help foster pre-math development with young children. Read on for some fun ideas.

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    Why Play With Blocks?

    october 27 067 Blocks have been one of the best early learning toys for generations. The variety of shapes, colors, and textures make these toys suited for children to learn through their senses. Block play for preschoolers also helps children learn to problem-solve. They are able to see their product (how they are doing), make their own corrections, and they are also developing independence and self-confidence. During block play children are able to practice many concepts and skills they will use in math in the near future at school. You will find a variety of activities below that are not only fun but educational as well.

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    Pre-math Activities With Blocks

    Counting - Encourage children to count the blocks for practice in one-to-one correspondence. Ask them, "How many more blocks do you need? How many blocks did you use to build _____? (name of project)."

    Sorting/Classifying - Blocks can be sorted or put into groups. For example, sorting the blocks by shape, color, or size allows a child to practice classifying. Which blocks are round? Which ones are square? How are they alike? How are they different? Use this sorting activity for an easy clean-up as well. Put them into a bin during this sorting activity.

    Patterning - Arrange a pattern of blocks on the floor. For example, place a long rectangle, a square, a cylinder, and a triangle block in a row. First have the children practice copying the pattern right below it. Then ask them, "What comes next?" Later, have the children create a pattern of their own. While playing using the terms "alike" and "different" making sure the children understand what you are trying to point out.

    Measuring - Use blocks to measure your child and other objects. For an example, "How many blocks tall is Susie?" Stack the blocks up to Susie's height. Count the blocks and discover that Susie is twenty blocks tall. Use your child's name in place of Susie in this activity.

    Comparing - Put blocks into two piles. Discover which pile has "more" blocks and which pile has "less." You can show children real examples of shorter, longer, equal, and same as, with blocks. Use your bathroom scale to find out which blocks are "heavier" or "lighter."

    Shape and Space - Point out the shapes of blocks - the triangles, squares, rectangles, cylinders, curves, arches, and angles. Note the position of the blocks as the children place other blocks over, under, above, below, and between the first set. Children discover distance as they put blocks near, far, and close by. Space is made and changed by placing blocks in ways that fit a space and enclose it. This is the beginning of Geometry.

    Ordering - Blocks can be arranged in sequence in many ways. They can be arranged by size, from long to short, thin to fat, or large to small. Make groups of blocks counting each group and arrange them from least to most, and vice versa. Finally put the blocks in a row and talk about the first block, the second block, and so on. What do they look like? How are they placed according to order?

    Problem Solving - Through active play with blocks, children can relate math to the real world. They are using real objects to discover solutions to problems. This prepares them for the many math problems they will solve later in their school years.

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    Invest in good set of blocks for educational play at home. There are many different kinds of blocks available at local toys stores and early childhood catalogs. From small table blocks to interlocking blocks to large hollow floor blocks, these toys will provide hours offun and learning. Solid wood construction blocks may have a higher price tag initially but with proper care and handling, these toys will last for decades.


  • Block Adventures by Karen Stephens [First Teacher Press]
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