Early math is more than numbers

“1…2…3…” you say as you count your baby’s toys for them. Though she can’t solve equations, or even speak yet, with each number she hears, she is building early math and language skills.

And you don’t need to stop at numbers—there are many early math concepts that you can introduce to your young child, simply through language and play.

Here are some activity ideas to get you started:

1. Discover geometry: Shapes are a big part of geometry. Labeling different shapes— from squares to circles to stars—will help your child start to associate the words with the shapes, setting the early foundation of geometry. With toddlers and preschoolers, look at two and three dimensional shapes, so they can see how each object looks and functions. Blocks in different shapes are a great tool to use for this.

2. Play with volume: If you cook in the kitchen, you are already using volume. For babies and toddlers, start by using words like teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, pint and quart while you are cooking to get them familiar with the terms. Preschoolers can help you measure out ingredients using measuring cups and spoons. You can play fun games that teach incremental volume: how many tablespoons does it take to fill a quarter cup? How many cups go into your quart measuring cup?

3. Use comparisons: Many math lessons will involve word problems and comparisons as early as kindergarten. The more familiarity that your child has with comparison terms, the easier it will be for him to understand the word problems. You can create opportunities for your child to learn to compare by using toys of different sizes and words like more, less, lighter, heavier, bigger and smaller.

4. See how tall they are: Most children become interested in how tall and how heavy they are by the time they are preschoolers. One idea to talk about height is to chart their growth on a wall to show how tall they are each year. For preschoolers, you can teach inches and feet, as well, by helping them use a ruler to measure how much they have grown.

Through simple language and play, young children will start to learn essential early math skills. And remember, especially for babies and toddlers, just hearing these words early and often is planting the seed for your future mathematician.