Math at Home - DuPage Children's Museum

Members-Only Night: Bubbles | Friday, June 7

Come Play!
Close button
November 19, 2015

By: Alix Tonsgrad | DuPage Children’s Museum Early Learning Specialist

Last week we talked about the importance of early math and the math experiences here at DCM. Since children’s parents and primary caregivers are their most important first teachers and role models, I thought it was important to follow up this week with ways to support you outside of the Museum. The thought of doing math at home with your toddler might seem daunting; however, something as simple as counting the stairs as you go up and down with your children can give them a jump-start on the more formal math instruction they will encounter in school.

Where do you start?

Key early math concepts and skills that will be built upon later in school have been identified as including;

  • Understanding size, shape, pattern, position, and direction. In the early years we refer to this as spatial sense. These are important foundational concepts for learning geometry.
  • Counting verbally (first forward, then backward)
  • Recognizing numerals
  • Identifying more and less of a quantity
  • Problem-solving

What you can do

It is important to remember that a children’s first experiences with math have the potential to impact how they feel about and approach the subject later in life.  That being said, one of the most important things we can do for our little ones is provide them with opportunities to have fun with math. My best advice –

    • Unless math is your favorite thing, try to forget about your own feelings about math and your ability to do math.
    • Keep it simple! You don’t need to be an early childhood expert or a mathematician to give your child the tools to succeed in school. Stick to what you are comfortable with. Count anything and everything, talk about the shapes you see while walking to the park, use words like on top of, next to, under. These things alone will benefit your child later on.
    • Capitalize on your child’s interests and strengths: whether it’s dress-up, pretend play, physical activity, helping in the kitchen, or Legos, hone in on what they love the most. See my ideas below to get you started.
    • Have fun!

Try this at home

Shapes Challenge – Cut large shapes out of colored construction paper and challenge your child to jump on the circle, walk around the square, etc.

Shape Hokey Pokey – Use the large construction paper shapes instead of body parts – “you put your triangle in, you put your triangle out, you put your triangle in, and you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about!”

Color Race – Lay large Duplos or any other solid color toy on one side of the room or backyard. Tell your child, “On the count of three we are going to run, grab something yellow, and bring it back here.” Afterwards you can sort the toys and then count how many of each color they ended up with.

Kitchen Helper – Filling measuring cups, pouring dry ingredients into the bowl, and stirring are all great ways to naturally learn about counting, measuring, adding, and estimation.

Teddy Bear Picnic – Set up a teddy bear picnic and make it rich with math talk. How many plates and cups do we need? Do you want more tea? You can also act out familiar stories. Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Three Billy Goats Gruff are all rich with math.

I think you will begin to see that throughout the day we all do a lot of math without even realizing it. You will see opportunities for teachable moments during everyday routines and you will also see your child doing math on their own during unstructured play.

Looking for more ideas? I stumbled across a blog written by a parent called “talking math with your kids.” You can follow it as is or search for posts by age group starting as young as one year.

Have a favorite math activity you want to share? Maybe you tried something new? We would love to hear about it! You can post a comment here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.


Bowman, B.T., Donovan, M.S., (Eds.). (2001). Eager to Learn: Educating our preschoolers. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.