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Activities to Introduce Math Concepts to Toddlers

written by: Bonnie • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/6/2012

These activities can be used by teachers or parents to begin teaching toddlers basic math. Play number games, or count together with your toddler. These activities are sure to be enjoyed by teacher and student alike.

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    Toddler Number Activities

    Toddlers are not too young to be introduced to concepts of math and number activities. In fact, being exposed to mathematical reasoning at an early age can help to increase a child’s math skills throughout his or her life. You do not need a textbook or a chalk board to teach a young child. There are many fun activities that you can sprinkle into day-to-day life that will foster skills and confidence in math. Try some of the following activities with your own child or students.

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    Counting Cheerios: For breakfast or snack pour a small amount of Cheerios or any appropriate finger food (Goldfish, Fruit Puffs) onto the table. Have the child try to count the item before eating it.

    *Literacy Connection: Cheerios has an interactive board book, Cheerios 1 2 3 ,using this concept.

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    Bowling: Collect between 3-10 empty soda bottles and any ball that can knock over the bottles. The child can practice rolling the ball toward the bottles (bowling pins). If the child knocks any over, have him or her come over to the pins and help count how many fell down. Try starting with about three pins and progressively move up to ten over time. Trying to roll the ball toward the pins helps develop gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Another idea that will build these skills is to toss bean bags into a bucket or hole. Count the bags as they are thrown. Count them again when it is time to pick them up.

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    Climbing Stairs: How many times do you walk up the stairs everyday with your child (or with your students)? Make it a habit to count the stairs as you walk up them. Encourage your child to join you as you model. This is a simple activity but will help immensely in instilling number sense in your child.

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    Stacking Blocks: Toddlers should have blocks available for playtime at daycare, school, and home. A great game to play with children is block stacking. Build a tower of blocks as high as you can counting the blocks as you go. When your tower tumbles you can say, "My tower was eight blocks high!" You can also build a tower with the child taking turns to add each block or have the child make his or her own tower. Block play is a great activity for building fine motor skills. Another idea to build both fine motor skills and number sense is to put straws into a cup and count them using one-to-one correspondence

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    Ten Little Monkeys: There are many songs and rhymes that include counting. Rhythms found in simple, catchy music and poems help will children memorize number order. There are books available to help teach these rhymes. Read them before nap/ bedtime or just for fun to promote bonding and reading skills. A popular example for this age-group is Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

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    Tactile Numbers: Get 10 large index cards or pieces of card stock. Write or use puffy paint to make the numbers 1-10 on each. Glue the corresponding amount of items (buttons, noodles, dots of puffy paint) onto the paper. The child can count the items with you and see what the number looks like.

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    These are some simple examples of math activities. I'm sure you have thought up some of your own already. Make them fun, and stress-free, so you can instill a love of math rather than dread in children. You should do a lot of modeling and encourage the child to join in but do not place pressure on the child. We all learn at our own pace. Young children will increase their mathematical skills when they are ready and these number activities can be useful tools to point them in the right direction.