What do cooking, sorting laundry, setting a table, and unpacking groceries have in common? They are all preschool math activities to help young children understand mathematical concepts and ideas that they can learn at home. Here’s how to turn everyday chores into learning activities.
Cooking Up Some Fun
Math involves so much more than counting. Shopping and meal preparation can offer great everyday learning to bolster a child’s understanding.
- At the grocery store, a child can help count and put fruits and vegetables into plastic bags. Compare the different sized containers and cans. At home, a child can help unpack the groceries, sorting them to be put away (kitchen items, bathroom items, cleaning items, and so on). These activities help children to explore the foundations of math.
- When cooking, let the child help measure cups and spoonfuls of ingredients. When chopping vegetables, invite children to separate the veggies by size, color, and texture. The ability to sort and organize is a fundamental math skill.
- Setting the table for a meal teaches one-to-one correspondence. Each place setting needs a plate, glass, fork, knife, spoon, and napkin. Does the number of settings match the number of people in the family? Make placemats on construction paper by tracing the plates and utensils. This makes setting the table easy for young children as they match the utensils to their spot on the mat. Cover the mat with clear adhesive plastic for easy clean up and extended use.
Laundry Day Learning
Invite the child to help measure and pour the detergent when washing clothes. Later, when folding the laundry, sort and classify the clothes with the child. Together, put towels in one pile, blue things in another. Compare the piles. Which is the highest? Heaviest? Use words like many and few. Are there more clothes in the hamper or in the pile ready to be put away? Being able to make comparisons and express differences is a critical early math skill.
Clip and Count
Believe it or not, coupon clipping is educational. And kids love it! Gather up the advertising sections from your Sunday newspaper and allow the children to do the clipping (with blunt-edge safety scissors). This will help them improve fine motor skills as they cut.
Once there is a nice pile, coupons can be sorted by product type or money value. Since preschool children can only count in small numbers, together count up the cent value and see if both parent and child can reach a dollar. Matching games can also be played such as concentration, or even a version of the old card game, Go Fish, using coupons. Got any 10-cent coupons?
Objects Around the House
There are many objects around the house that will give children math practice. Here are a few:
- Clocks help with number recognition and measurement of time.
- Using money helps to practice counting skills and exchange values (ten pennies equal a dime).
- A telephone helps a child with number recognition and numbers in sequence.
- Looking at the radio or television remote teaches number recognition.
- A ruler or yardstick is mainly used to measure height, width, and length that is far too advanced for Preschool children. Young children can make a personal measuring tool that is fun and the beginning of learning how to measure. Trace the child’s hand on a sheet of cardboard. Cut this out together with safety scissors. Invite the child to use this hand template to see how tall his toys are. Ask how many hands high is the toy? Or, how many hands does it take to measure from the chair to the table. Show the children how to place the hand (one above the other) to measure an object.
Without realizing it, parents have been teaching their children math skills while doing simple chores around the house. A child can learn at home using simple preschool math activities that can foster these skills in a fun way. As the saying goes, “play is a child’s work and their first job is to learn how to get along in this world.” 
-  Dr. Jean Piaget (statement taken from pages 10-11) Parent’s & Kids Together Everyday by Lisa Lyons Durkin; First Teacher Press; 1991
- Photo Credits: www.flickr.com (andjelica and LZBone)