Help Your Child Develop Early Math Skills [Updated 2021]

Do you want your child to develop early math skills? Are you looking for ways on how to give your child a head start on math and prepare them for school? We have listed the best approaches you can take and effective methods to help your child improve their early math skills from an early age.

It is never too early to teach the basics of math to your infants and toddlers. Children learn math skills just like they learn the language, through their everyday interactions. Children are much smarter than you think, and they actually start learning math skills from a very young age. Even without your teaching them, they will have already grasped simple math concepts. Children use these mathematics skills every day to count and perform simple addition and subtraction. For example: Your child may ask you for 3 cookies, which means that your child knows how to count and can understand what quantity 3 implies. 

Learning math is important for children in the early years as it plays a vital role in child development and provides them with important life skills. Learning preschool math concepts helps a child make sense of the world around them and communicate their observations from a young age. Math builds skills that help children learn how to solve a problem, measure, estimate and compare objects, and understand shapes and recognize patterns, etc. It also helps develop logical as well as spatial thinking in children. In addition, it will also help your children understand math better and be more confident when they join school.

Below we have made a list of math skills that are important to teach your child along with activities to help develop and enhance their early math skills. These early math skills have been divided into three categories: Number Sense, Shapes & Patterns, and Estimation

Early math skills

Numbers Sense

Number sense is an important skill to master for developing early math skills. Children do develop an intuition for numbers early on. Math is a subject of numbers and developing number sense is the first step in learning math skills for preschoolers. Learning this valuable skill will help the young children identify quantities, make comparisons, see relationships between numbers, make logical decisions, and communicate math. It also helps them develop critical thinking abilities and the ability to think independently.


Counting lays an essential early mathematics foundation for introducing and learning numbers. By learning this early math skill, children can begin to understand the quantity and assign a quantity to objects. It helps them be accurate in their speech and expression. 

Key Points:

  • Start with counting from 0 – 10. Focus on the correct order of numbers and ensure that the child does not miss out on any number.
  • Only when the child is fluent from 0 – 10, begin the next set 11-20. Try to cover 0-100 depending on your child’s abilities.
  • Teach your child the value of 0.
  • Explain that the numbers get bigger moving from 1 to 10.
  • Practice skip counting in 10’s. 10, 20, 30. 
  • Practice backward counting from 10 – 0

Counting Activities:

  • Use mnemonics like songs, rhymes, and acronyms to practice counting early math skills.
  • Teach children to use their fingers for counting.
  • Use real objects to practice counting like spoons, toys, marbles, twigs, pebbles, stickers, etc.
  • Teach counting using beads on an abacus.
  • Practice counting math for toddlers every day. For example: number of trees, the number of buildings, number of steps, etc.
  • Make children part of counting activities. For example: Counting plates for dinner, counting coins.
  • Conduct activities to reinforce understanding of numbers and quantity. For example: Pass me 2 apples or how many cookies are left in the jar or clap 5 times?
  • Play child math counting games where you have to group objects according to quantity. For example: Make 10 piles of 2 marbles each.
  • Practice comparing numbers. For example: Which is more: 2 or 5 or is 3 greater than 6?
  • Practice counting without sequencing to increase fluency. For example: What comes after 5, What comes before 2 or stating counting from 7 instead of 0 or 1.

Number Recognition 

Once your child can count from 1 to 10, you can introduce number identification activities. Learning to identify numbers is an essential component of early math skills. It enhances counting skills and creates a basic foundation for further math development. 

Key Points:

  • Start by introducing numbers to the children. Let the child master numbers one by one and do not rush.
  • Start with 1 – 5. Write numbers on the board or paper or use number cards or charts. Say each number out loud as you point to the number. 
  • Once the child is fluent in 1-5 in the correct sequence, make the child recognize the number randomly. When the child is perfect in identifying numbers individually, only then proceed to the next sequence.
  • Discuss each number and teach the child math in a way so they can make a visual connection to the number. For example: When you are teaching 1, you can show 1 finger or 1 block or 1 dot or draw 2 apples. 
  • Connect counting with numbers. For example: When you are teaching two, let the child take out 2 marbles one at a time.
  • Focus on number sequencing. You can let your child organize number cards in sequence or find out the mistake in a sequence. 
  • Show children how counting sequence is related and repeated. For example 1, 2, 3 and 11, 12, 13 or 21, 22, 23 or 31, 32, 33.

Recognizing numerals Activities:

  • Use picture books, coloring numbers activity, and number puzzle.
  • Make use of various objects like flashcards, playing cards, number charts, etc.
  • Point our numbers to children whenever you can. For example: date in the calendar, digital clock, car number, house number, phone number, cost of items, etc.
  • Join the dots activity.
  • Draw or stick numbers on the ground. Call out a number and ask your child to step on the correct number. Switch roles.
  • Play games to associate numbers with quantity. For example: sticking the correct number of stickers in the number chart, putting correct numbers of marbles in numbered baskets, etc.
  • To teach your number mathematics skills, you can also play Number-based games like UNO cards, snakes and ladders, dominos, numbered blocks, etc. 

Read more about how young children approach math.

Number Writing

Once the child can identify numbers from 1-10 easily, you can begin with practicing writing numbers as part of early math skills development. Writing also improves motor skills and engrains numbers in visual form in the child’s memory.

Key Points:

  • Use mnemonics to helps your child remember the writing process. For example: Straight line down and now we’re done – now we have the number 1.
  • Practice writing numbers in the air and have your child copy your movement.
  • Start by guiding the child’s hand and tracing numbers before moving on to independent number writing.
  • Have the children pronounce the numbers clearly while writing math skills for preschoolers.
  • Observe how your child is writing numbers and correct any mistakes immediately.
  • Learn one number at a time. Move on to the next number only when the previous number of writing has been mastered.

Number writing Activities:

  • To break monotony while teaching math to toddlers, practice with various mediums like pencil, colored pens, crayons, chalk, and paintbrush.
  • Practice numbers while having fun. Write with a twig on the sand, write with hand on flour, etc.
  • Add the element of fun by involving arts and crafts. Use glitter and colors and construct numbers using matchsticks etc.
  • Practice writing numbers randomly and just in sequence. For example: Ask your child to write 5 directly instead of beginning from 1 to 5.

Read about math games for toddlers.

Basic Arithmetic (Addition & Substation)

Arithmetic is a set of important mathematics skills that is useful in everyday lives. It is also a skill that all advanced math is based on. For young children, you can just focus on two arithmetic operations: addition and subtraction. Arithmetic will help your child deepen their understanding of numbers. These early math skills in arithmetic also show children the relationship between numbers and how it can be manipulated. 

Key Points:

  • Start arithmetic lessons only after your child is proficient in counting.
  • While teaching your child math, first teach addition from 0 to 10.
  • After the kids master addition, you can teach subtraction from numbers 0-10
  • Tell them the meaning of add and subtract clearly. For example: To add means more and to subtract means less.
  • Use counting to establish arithmetic skills. In addition, you can use forward counting. For subtraction, you can use backward counting.
  • While teaching your child mathematics, incorporate the counting on method. This means that instead of beginning from 1, let your child start counting from the number itself. For example: If the question is 5 + 2, instead of counting 1, 2,3…7 to get the answer, have them count directly from 5, 6,7 to get the answer. This will improve fluency in addition.
  • Explain the relationship between addition and subtraction to children. 

Basic Arithmetic Activities:

  • Practice arithmetic through the use of fingers and counting, folding, and unfolding fingers to denote numbers. 
  • Use abacus to practice arithmetic early math skills.
  • Use visual methods like the dot method, arrays to practice arithmetic. This will improve their understanding of arithmetic.
  • Use manipulative like colorful blocks, Legos, straws, marbles, money, etc. to practice arithmetic. This will help improve understanding of the relationship between numbers, arithmetic, and quantities. For example: Give 5 marbles to kids and ask them to count, again add 2 more marbles and get the sum, again take 4 marbles and ask them to find the difference. 
  • Practice arithmetic in daily activities for child math development. Ask your child questions like: I am giving your 4 sweets if you give 1 to your dad. How much will you have left? Or You are now 5 years old, what old were you 2 years ago?
  • Teach the ten frames method. In this method, you will make a table with 2 rows and 2 columns. You can draw dots, use stickers, or color the boxes to denote numbers.
  • Make use of math apps and colorful worksheets.
  • Turn arithmetic into a game. Use UNO cards, playing cards, dice, and dominoes to practice arithmetic.
  • Make use of flashcards to improve fluency in arithmetic.
  • Make use of number bonds and number lines to teach number relationships to children. This will also show them the inverse relationship between addition and substation. For example: 4+3=7, 3+4=7, 7-3 = 4, 7-4=3

Shapes and Patterns

Understanding shapes and patterns are an important part of early math skills and help children navigate the world. It also helps develop spatial and abstract thinking in children. It gives structure and form to the world around them and enhances their understanding of objects.


Recognition shapes is an important preschool math concepts for children to learn and forms the basis for geometry in mathematics. It helps them differentiate, categorize, and organize, and make sense of the world. 

Key Points:

  • Start with basic shapes like a square, circle, triangle, and rectangle. 
  • Move on to shapes like diamond, heart, star, oval, etc. 
  • Once your child masters this, you can even move on to shapes like pentagon and hexagon depending on your child’s abilities. 

Shape Activities: 

  • To practice this early math skills, Point our shapes to your child as you go on about your daily activities. For example: The ice-cream is a cone, the pencil box is a rectangle, the slipper is flat, or the ball is round.
  • Ask questions to your child about shapes. For example: What shape is a watermelon or can you pass me the square tray.
  • Play a guessing game of Eye spy with your child. For example: I see a circle that is yellow in color or I see a triangle near the cupboard.
  • Have your child draw shapes or trace them, and color the shapes with crayons, markers, slitter, etc.
  • While teaching mathematical skills, have your child study the shape and get a feel of the shape by closing their eyes.
  • Play shape-hunting game. Give your child cut out of shapes and ask them to find or collect objects corresponding to that shape inside or outside the house.
  • Cut out shapes out of colored paper. Use real objects like jar lids, blocks to trace the shapes. Arrange the shapes to form various objects.
  • Read books on shapes. There are many kid’s books teaching shapes through fun stories and visuals. Invest in some shape-based educational toys.
  • Use various mediums to draw shapes like with a chalk on the ground or with a twig on the beach.
  • Play shape puzzles where you have to complete the shape or match a shape to similarly shaped objects to enhance knowledge of shape early math skill.
  • Make use of blocks to practice shapes. Get different shaped blocks. Mix it together and ask your child to sort out the blocks according to shapes.
  • Explain to your child about each shape, demonstrate how many sides they have or how many corners they have. 
  • On a big chart, draw outlines of various shapes like triangle, circle, etc. Have various objects like marcels, pebbles, blocks, etc. and ask your child to place the objects in the right shape box. 
  • Construct shapes with your child. You can use matchsticks, toothpicks, or Q-tips for this. You can also teach your child how by removing or adding a piece, you can create a completely new shape.
  • Draw shapes with colorful chalk on the ground. Ask your child to hop on the shape you call out. You can also switch roles and have your child call out the name of shapes. 
  • You can also use origami to teach shape. Use simple designs and make sure to incorporate shape in the instructions like: Fold it in a triangle shape or now you get a square.
  • Use tangram and jigsaw puzzles to develop logical skills and help with math development.

Pattern Activities:

Patterns are about making connections and links. It is important early math skills for children to understand the relationship between objects and sequencing. Patterns are present all around us and understanding patterns helps develop logical skills in children and make predictions on what comes next. Understanding patterns will help in developing early math skills in children and enhance their ability to solve complex mathematical operations in their later lives and come to a logical conclusion. 

Key Points:

  • Start with sorting, grouping, and sequencing activities before moving on to pattern-based activities.
  • To practice this, use everyday objects such as blocks, toys, buttons, clothes, etc. to Sort objects by number, size, color, category, function, or shape. 
  • When you are outdoors, collect items like twigs, stones, flows, leaves, and sort them out.
  • Teach different types of pattern sequencing. Here are some sequences you can try in order using the activities mentioned below.
  • AB AB

Pattern Activities:

  • Point out patterns all around while teaching math to toddlers. For example: the patterns on clothes, patterns on the tiles, patterns in nature like petals, leaves, etc.
  • Use toys, color tiles, pattern blocks, etc. to make patterns. For example: stacking square and cylindrical blocks on repeat or red blue tiles.
  • Utilize various household objects to learn patterns. For example: book, copy book copy, small cushion big cushion small cushion big cushion.  
  • During snack time, use food to learn patterns before eating like apple banana apple banana or cashew cashew almonds cashew cashew almonds etc.
  • Use stickers to make patterns based on colors or shape or type or size.
  • Use different colored crayons to draw simple patterns or use coloring activity to learn patterns.  
  • Learn patterns though actions like jump jump squat, jump jump squat etc.
  • Learn pattern through sounds like clap clap stomp, shout bang shout bang,
  • Create patterns in nature through the use of pebbles, shells, twig, etc. For example: layout a pebble, twig, and leaf and ask your child to repeat the pattern.
  • Involve your child in daily activities like setting up with a table during dinner. For example: fork, spoon, plate, glass etc. 
  • Try crafts with your child to enhance pattern recognition mathematical skills. Use items like play dough, dry macaroni, beads, etc. to learn patterns.
  • Try to get your kid to find mistakes or fill out the missing pattern to further enhance their sense of patterns.

Learn more about preschool math activities.


Estimation can be a difficult concept to understand especially for young children but it is important to make estimation a part of early math skills. Developing a sense of estimation requires practice and a keen sense of logic-based connections between quantity, value, numbers, etc. Estimation is actually an important mathematical skill and is useful in situations to save time and energy where the accurate answer is not required.  For example: estimating the shopping bills or estimating ingredients while cooking for three people etc. 

Key Points:

  • Make your child apart a day to day estimation activities.
  • Make sure to make the questions simple.
  • Take a guesswork based approach with children.
  • Emphasize the need for estimation, not counting or calculation.
  • Practice until your child gets the hang of it
  • Make sure that your child’s answer is based on logic and not random guesswork.
  • Make sure the answer is as accurate as possible. Double-check to check accuracy.
  • Try to involve different types of estimation like weight, measurement, distance, volume, etc.
  • Teach comparison terms to children such as long, short, bigger, smaller, greater than, near, far. Use it in daily conversations. For example: This jar has more cookies than this one.
  • Focus on the vocabulary of estimation like about, around, approximately, less than, more than, etc.
  • Teach visual isolation to your child so they can filter our unnecessary information to estimate correctly.

Estimation Activities  

  • Let your child organize objects according to size or stacks blocks according to size and make it as high as possible. 
  • Let your child organize items according to weight. Check the weights afterward to find out if it is correct.
  • Ask questions based on how much and how many. Example: How many coins do you think is in this jar or you weigh 25 pounds, how much do you think your dad weighs?
  • Involve your child in estimation decisions for developing early math skills. For example: How many glasses will be filled by this bottle of water or Do you think this statue will fit in this box?
  • Try different types of estimation activities.

Quantity: How many marbles in the jar?

Volume: Which bottle has more liquid?

Length/Diameter: What length of rope can wrap the object?

Estimating distances: How much time do you think it will take us to reach the mall?

Estimating time: What time do you think it is?

  • Come up with creative methods like using hands, blocks, etc. to measure items.
  • Use a number line to help children learn maths and develop number estimation. Make a blank line with 0 at one end and 10, 100 on the other end. You can make the child guess the position of numbers approximately. 
  • Focus on visual isolation games. For example: Mix two different colored marbles together and ask the child to estimate only marbles of one color.  
  • Use flashcards or a picture with multiple objects for a few seconds. Ask the child to estimate the number of objects.  

Using educational apps and games

Technology plays an integral role in today’s world including education. The educational system in many schools no longer rely on the old traditional methods and is becoming increasingly integrated with technology. It makes sense to introduce your children to technology early on for learning. Children already love their devices- phone, and tablets and why not take advantage of this to help children learn maths in a hands-on way.

There are amazing math apps and games that have been developed to help your children develop early math skills. These apps are great as it will make learning engaging and fun through the use of game-based interfaces, colorful animations, adorable characters, and catchy tunes. Math apps are versatile and customizable and at each various child math skills such as counting, number identification, basic arithmetic, shapes, and sorting.

Math apps are an effective learning tool to boost math abilities in young children. These apps also track your child’s progress and identify the key areas your child is having trouble with. Apps are also a wonderful substitute to teach your kids on days when you are busy.  All you need to do is download the apps. 

There are plenty of apps in the market suitable for early childhood education. To make it easier for you, we have listed the top 15 math apps in the market today to help your child develop early math skills.

  1. Khan Academy
  2. Marble Math Junior
  3. Math Tree
  4. Counting Caterpillar
  5. Bugs & Numbers
  6. Doodle Math: Numbers
  7. Bedtime Math
  8. Montessori Numbers
  9. Moose Math
  10. Math kids
  11. Endless Numbers
  12. Monkey Math School Sunshine
  13. Quick Math Jr.
  14. DragonBox Numbers
  15. Preschool Math Games for Kids

Helpful tips to boost math learning

  • Don’t rush and don’t cramp concepts together while teaching your child mathematics. 
  • Be patient with your child and let them learn mathematics skills at their own pace.
  • Don’t be hard on your child and always demonstrate an encouraging attitude.
  • Encourage your child to think independently and solve problems on their own.
  • Make learning concepts and skills math a light-hearted and natural activity.
  • Use games, toys, music to make learning math fun, engaging, and entertaining.
  • Involve math in everyday activities and make it a hands-on activity.
  • Correct any mistakes immediately rather than correcting at the end.
  • Recognize and reward your child’s progress.
  • If your child is struggling with math, find out the root cause, and provide the right support and guidance to your child.
  • Talk math to your child and help them develop a sound math vocabulary.
  • Involve math in day to day activities like shopping, cooking, playtime, etc.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat to increase fluency in math facts, and enhance math development.
  • Ensure that your child understands each math concept properly before moving on to the next one.
  • Focus on the basics and create a solid math foundation for your child.
  • Show your child the relevance of math in day to day lives.


We understand that many parents may be intimidated and confused about teaching math to their children. Teaching math to young children should not be done as a lesson but rather through informal activities and games. 

Between the ages of one to five, it is vital to introduce your child to basic math skills. Their immense natural curiosity at this age combined with their rapidly developing brain makes this an ideal time. Learning math provides opportunities for children to develop skills that are important in later life. It teaches reasoning abilities and strategic thinking, which is essential to solving up a problem, find meaningful solutions, and make wise decisions. Learning math at an early age also lays a foundation for math in schools and beyond. 

Parents should talk math to their children and involve them every day in math-related activities. It could be as simple as counting money or cookies. Parents should also engage their children in purposeful games and activities involving early math skills. This way you can help your young child master basic math concepts without forcing them to learn. Making math a natural activity and playing enjoyable games will boost your children’s math skills in no time.

Try out these methods outlined above and have fun teaching early math skills to your child!

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