Are you wondering about what math skills your toddler needs to be learning? Are you looking for ways to develop skills in math for toddlers?
As a parent, you may be confused about how you can teach your toddler math and what kind of math activities you should focus on. You may be wondering about how you can approach math topics with your toddler like counting or arithmetic. We are here to help you with an excellent collection of math activities for toddlers that will not only get your young one’s brains working but will also improve their fine motor skills.
Toddlers are curious and they pick up math skills early on through their daily interactions. If you observe your toddler carefully, you will find that they are actually already using various math concepts to make sense of the world. For example: they learn to identify shapes and associate them with a particular function, they learn to count, etc. So, when you are thinking of teaching math to toddlers, you should focus on polishing these inherent math skills and taking advantage of their immense curiosity.
Toddlers also tend to have a short attention span and find it difficult to stay in one place for long. Hence, you should conduct toddler maths activities in a way that are enjoyable, interesting, and engaging but have elements of math in them. You should make learning math fun. Teach math to toddlers is different, you cannot teach them directly like with older children. Keep away from books and workbooks. Instead, promote hands-on learning experience through like play, games, and fun activities.
18 Math Activities for Toddlers
We have compiled 18 amazing toddler maths games and activities that will introduce your little ones to all basic math skills they need to know. These interesting math activities for toddlers will keep your child engaged and they will have so fun!
1. Grouping Objects
Grouping activity helps the toddler identify and analyze the difference or similarities between a set of objects. It helps bring order to chaos and is basically an organization skill. Children actually begin to develop this skill as infants. This skill is also a precursor to algebra in later math.
For the grouping activity, you can give your toddler a set of different objects and ask them to sort it out based on the characteristics. Start with general items that the toddler is already familiar with like toys, food items, or other common household items. Some math ideas for toddlers to teach grouping would be:
- Sorting laundry into t-shirts, pants, socks, etc.
- Sorting plates, bowls, cups, and glasses.
- Sorting spoons and fork.
- Sorting nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
- Sorting Legos and blocks.
- Sorting toys into soft toys, action figures, animals, cars, dolls, etc.
- Sorting pencils, pens, and crayons.
- Sorting items according to color.
- Sorting twigs, pebbles, leaves, etc.
2. Shape Sort
Our world is made up of shapes and understanding of shapes is a crucial skill. It helps children make sense of the world and understand the function or properties of an object. Learning shapes develops abstract thinking in children and helps them organize information visually.
The ability to differentiate between shapes also forms the basis of all future learning like geometry. Recognizing alphabets, numbers, and symbols are all based on the identification of shapes. So, it must be included in math lesson plans for toddlers.
To begin shapes with toddlers, just focus on 2-d shapes and introduce four basic shapes – square, triangle, circle, and rectangle. Teach the properties of each shape like how many sides they have, how many points, is the edge curved or straight. Once your toddler is proficient in these basic shapes, you can gradually introduce shapes like oval, heart, star, diamond, semi-circle, crescent, pentagon, hexagon, etc.
For the shape math activities for toddlers, make your toddler sort out the shapes. You can use shape blocks or cut out the shapes yourself using chart paper, felt, contact paper, etc. You can make an outline of the shape using chalk or scotch tape or have a big cut out of the shape and ask your toddler to place the shapes inside the correct shaped boundary.
As your toddler gets better at recognizing shapes, include shapes in different forms. For example: rectangles of different lengths, triangles of different types, stars with different points, etc. Also, vary the color and the size, for example, have squares in different sizes and colors. This will help the toddler differentiate shapes by focusing only on the property of shape.
Learn about Math Milestones at Different Ages.
3. Shape Matching
When your toddler can easily differentiate between 2-d shapes, your need to teach children how objects are made up of shapes, and how shapes look like in the real world. For example: A wheel is round in shape, a cushion is square in shape or the door is rectangle in shape.
The shape matching toddler math activity can be done in two ways. For both, have a large cut out of the shapes or draw an outline of the shapes.
For the first activity, you need pictures of various objects. You can use flashcards or cut out pictures yourself from an old magazine. It could be anything like a picture of the sun, plate, fruit, mobile phone, watch, etc. Ask your toddler to look at the pictures and sort them out into the correct shape.
For the second math activities for toddlers, get your toddler to sort out real objects from around the house. You can prepare a box with differently shaped items like book, cloth hanger, plate, etc. This will develop a whole new skill in toddlers and help them understand how 2-d shapes look in the real world. For example: A ball is a circle, a birthday hat is a triangle, etc.
4. Shape maze
This is a fun math game you can play with your toddler to further reinforce their identification of shapes.
You can play this toddler math games outdoors or indoors. For the outdoor version, you can draw shapes on the ground with colored chalks and for the indoor versions, you can cut out shapes using colored chart paper. Repeat the shapes over a certain distance. You can draw and cut shapes together with your child.
Now ask your toddler to stand at one end of the maze and ask them to reach to the other end by stepping only on the circle. You can repeat the same with triangle, square, etc. You can call out instructions like hop, jump, and skip with each step to make the game more engaging.
To make the math games for toddlers harder, you can call out the shapes your child must step on to navigate the maze with every single step. For example: when you call a circle, the child must step on the circle, if you call out triangle next, the child must step on the triangle.
5. Shape making
With the above toddler mathematics activities, your toddler will be proficient at identifying shapes. The next step is to learn to construct the shapes using manipulative. You can turn this activity into a fun arts and crafts session for your toddler.
Incorporate creating an outline of shapes as well as making 3-shapes. You can use various manipulative to construct an outline of shapes like toothpicks, ice cream sticks, play dough, yarn, straws, etc. For the 3-d shapes, play dough will work best as it is easy to manipulate. This activity will not only enhance your toddler’s understanding of shape but will improve their fine motor skills.
In the beginning, you can draw outlines of shape and ask your toddler to line the manipulative on top of the outline. Next, teach your toddler to construct outlines of shapes by themselves.
While conducting math activities for toddlers, show your toddler how joining 3 sticks together gives a triangle or joining 4 sticks together gives a square. Teach them how they can manipulate the shapes. For example: By adding more sticks to the triangle, you can give rise to square, pentagon, hexagon, etc.
Next, show your toddler to make 3-d shapes with play dough. Teach them how to manipulate shapes- placing two squares side by side gives a rectangle, placing two triangles side by side gives a square.
You can also teach your toddler to organize shapes together to create meaningful objects like house, tree, etc.
6. Size Arrangement
Understanding sizes helps the toddler distinguish between objects and is a great toddler math activity to improve comparison skills. You can do two different activities to learn about sizes.
For their first activity, you can ask the toddler to sort objects into small, medium, and large sizes. You need to draw outlines of small, medium, and large shapes and ask the toddler to place the sorted items within the right outline. You can use items from around the house for this activity or you can ask the toddler to sort their toys. Make sure to have items varying in size. For example: Pillow will go inside the large shape, a book will go in the medium shape and a coin will go in the small shape.
This next math activities for toddlers introduces your toddler to ascending and descending order. You can begin with similar items like balls of different sizes or sticks of different sizes. Ask your toddler to arrange the items according to size from “big to small” or “small to big”. Once your toddler starts understanding sizes easily, use a combination of objects. Make sure to use a group of similar items that is easy to measure and compare. For example: You can have a comb, spoon, pencil, spatula, ruler or you can have a cup and glasses of different sizes.
Puzzles are a wonderful activity to impose logical and thinking skills in young children. It teaches them to make connections between pieces, find themes, and get a meaningful form. Playing with puzzles teaches children to manipulate shapes and sizes and develop strategies to piece them together. So, make puzzles a part of math lesson plans for toddlers.
For your toddler, you can start with 2 piece puzzles with straight cuts. Use simple shapes or pictures. You can cut out pictures into half and make simple puzzles on your own. Once your toddler gets the hang of puzzles, you can then progress to 4 or 6 piece jigsaw puzzles with cut out slots and with more complex pictures.
There are various kinds of math puzzle toys available in the market you can utilize as math games for toddlers. For example: Puzzle blocks or shape puzzles in which the child will need to figure out which shape goes into which space.
Patterns give form and structure to our world. Recognizing patterns is also the first step for solving any math problems. Hence, pattern is an important toddler math. It develops spatial and logical thinking and helps the children navigate the world more efficiently. There are a few math activities for toddlers you can do with patterns.
For the first activity, you will just introduce your toddler to pattern through movement and sound. For example: stand, sit, stand, sit (AB pattern) or clap clap stomp, clap clap stomp (AAB, AAB pattern)
In the next math ideas for toddlers, get your toddler to copy or continue the pattern. You can start with a simple AB sequence and progress to ABC, AABB, AAB, ABB sequences. Then you can move on and use various objects to learn patterns like stickers, colored beads and fruit loops, stamps, blocks, lego, etc. You can make patterns based on different attributes like shape, color, size, properties, etc.
Once your toddler gets the hang of patterns, you can encourage them to make their own patterns. You can use toys, pebbles, shells, etc. to make patterns.
You can also make a pattern with some missing pieces and ask your toddler to guess the missing piece. This is more difficult and requires your toddler to not only identify the pattern but understand it thoroughly.
9. Build Structures
Building structures and towers is a highly engaging toddler math activities. It develops multiple skills at once. Building requires an understanding of shapes, sizes, and forms. It needs hand-eye coordination, reasoning, and abstract thinking skills. It has been found to enhance focus, creativity, and engineering skill.
You can ask your toddler to build structures using various materials like shape blocks, legos, paper cups, straws, Zenga blocks, etc. You can also save up cardboard boxes, gift boxes, juice cartons, etc. for this toddler math activity.
For this math activity for toddlers , you can begin with teaching your toddler to stack. Show them how having a larger block or more blocks at the bottom creates a more stable foundation or if your toddler wants to build a tall tower, show them how using squares and flat-surfaced blocks is better than using triangular or circular blocks for stability. You can ask your toddler to build houses, animals, etc. or let them explore their creativity on their own.
Learn about Preschool Maths Lesson Plans & Activities.
10. Measuring & Compare
Learning to measure is an important skill that is useful for future math and understanding metrics. Understanding of measurement also improves comparison and estimation skills.
You can practice measurement toddler math activities using connecting blocks. This will be perfect for measuring length and height. In this case, the length or height of the objects will be the number of blocks. Ask your child questions like “The book is how many blocks long” or “the table is how many blocks tall”.
To measure the diameter of round objects or outlines of objects, you can teach your toddler to use yarn or ribbon.
Ask your toddler to measure 2-3 objects and compare their findings. You can teach them to place the blocks or ribbons side by side to find out which objects is the largest or smallest.
You can send you toddler on measuring spree and your toddler will have so much fun measuring objects around the house like toys, books, and even arms and hand.
To improve measurement and comparison skills, you can also cut straws in different lengths and draw lines on a chart corresponding to the lengths of straws. Ask your toddler to compare the straws with the lines and place the correct length straws on the correct lines.
Another fun math activities for toddlers is to give your toddler measuring cups, different sized containers. You can use rice, sand, or water for filling and pouring. Let the toddler explore on their own filling and emptying the containers. You can ask your child to fill a small container and use this small container to fill the large container. Count with your toddler how many small containers were needed to fill the large container. You can also practice estimation with this activity by playing a guessing game like how many times a small container would fill the large container in half.
11. Verbal counting
Counting can be considered as the first step to learn math. Math is based on numbers and counting introduces children to numbers, the most basic foundation for math. Counting is also important as it is needed in our everyday lives and helps us make sense of quantity.
For counting activities for toddlers, start with counting from 1-5 and then slowly build up to 10. Depending on your child’s capacity, you can even teach counting until 20 or 30. Also, teach your toddler the value of 0.
Children learn better through fun activities. Singing songs and rhymes is a great way to practice counting. Sing numbers with your toddler. You can find plenty of catchy tunes for counting and learning numbers on the internet. You can include clapping and other fun actions alongside counting. Make counting an everyday habit and keep repeating until your toddler is fluent.
Learn about When Do Kids Learn To Count
12. Number Identification
After counting math activities for toddlers, the next step is teaching your toddlers to identify numbers. This will also enhance counting skills.
Start introducing numbers to your toddler one by one. You can use flashcards, number charts, or teach by writing numbers. As you show and point to the number, say the number aloud and get your toddler to repeat with you.
Involve your toddler in number sorting activities. Use a variety of mediums like number blocks, UNO cards, Number cards, or cut-outs of numbers. You can also ask your toddler to match numbers. Encourage your toddler to say out the number aloud with each step.
Next step in number activities for toddlers is to help your toddlers understand the shape of numbers. Make use of number shaped blocks and let your kids actually get the feel of the shapes of numbers. You can show your toddler to draw numbers in the air, on a salt tray or sand. You can also conduct number coloring activity or trace outlines of numbers with play dough, yarn, etc. This will help your toddler when it comes to actually write numbers.
For toddlers, make use of mnemonics to recognize and write numbers. For example: Around and around we go, and now we have 0, a straight line and we have number 1, etc.
13. Number Game
This fun math game will reinforce number identification skills in toddlers while having tons of fun and getting some exercise.
For this number activity for toddlers, you can make hopscotch with numbers or make a number line. Ask your toddler to step on a particular number and give instructions like “Go to number 4”, now jump to 5, Hop to 7, etc. You can have small rewards like sweets placed on certain numbers to make the game more rewarding.
14. Number sequence
While learning numbers, correct sequencing is important. This counting activities for toddlers will help your toddler perfect number sequencing and enhance their number recognition skills.
For math activities for toddlers, you can ask your toddler to sequence numbers using number cards, UNO cards, number blocks etc.
Also, introduce your toddler to the number line. For the number line activity, you can draw a line on a chart paper using a marker or on the floor with scotch tape or chalk. Have your toddler arrange the sequence of numbers on the line. Making number lines will be useful for performing arithmetic using number lines later on.
You can also deliberately leave out a number and ask your toddler to check if the number line is missing any number.
15. Numbers & Quantity
Counting is the precursor for arithmetic skills. While conducting counting math lesson plans for toddlers, it is essential to teach your toddler the relationship between numbers and quantity.
Start with finger counting to associate quantity with numbers. For example: When saying 1, show 1 finger, when saying 2, show 2 fingers. This will help your toddler understand that the numbers get bigger moving from 1 to 10 and bigger numbers means bigger quantity. You can do various counting activities with your toddler to perfect this skill.
Give your toddler a bowl of marbles, blocks, beads, etc. Label 10 bowls from 0 to 10. Ask your toddler to fill the correct quantity of items in each bowl. The bowl labeled 0 will be kept empty, the bowl labeled 1 will have 1 marble, and the bowl labeled 2 will have 2 marbles, and so on.
Another math activities for toddlers would be to make tables and write numbers from 0 to 10 on a chart paper. Have your toddler paste the right number of stickers corresponding to the numbers. 1 sticker for number 1, 2 stickers for number 2, and so on.
To make this activity harder, jumble up the numbers, and ask your child to determine the quantity. This will strengthen your toddler’s number identification skills.
You can also play this counting activity for toddlers in reverse. In this case, you can have bowls with marbles and number blocks OR tables with a different number of dots and sticky numbers. In this case, the toddler will have to count the quantity and then match it with the correct number.
Learn about how young children approach math.
16. Color & Number sorting
This is a fun toddler math activity to improve sorting skills in toddlers. This activity combines two elements- color and number together thus adding an extra challenge.
For this counting math ideas for toddlers, you can use counting bears or colored blocks or legos. Stick different colored charts on the floor and write numbers on them from 0 to 10. Jumble the order of numbers.
Ask your toddler to place the correct number of objects corresponding to the correct number but also making sure they match the color.
17. Graphing games
Graphing is important for organizing, keeping track of multiple objects, and making comparisons. Hence, why not include it in toddler maths. For your young ones, graphing should be kept very simple.
Graphing might be a difficult concept. To introduce your toddler to graphing, let’s use candy bars that will attract your toddler’s attention immediately. Make sure to have around 3-5 varieties of candy bars in different quantities Ask your toddler to count the number of candy bars according to the type and tell them how it can difficult to keep track of all counting. But, there is a simple way to do this!
For the graphing math activities for toddlers, make columns on a chart or on the floor. Now, ask the toddler to sort out the candy bars, one type in each column. Once they complete the task, show them how by just arranging the candy bars this way, they can now track the quantity easily and also compare which candy bar they have the most of and which is the least.
You can also use various objects like colored snacks, unifix blocks, pictures etc. for graphing.
18. Basic Arithmetic
Young children begin to add and subtract early on. So, it makes sense to build upon this valuable skill as part of a number of activities for toddlers. Learning arithmetic teaches kids the relationship between numbers and how to manipulate them, and this is indeed an important foundational math skill.
For toddlers, we will just focus on simple addition and subtraction using numbers from 0 to 10 only. Keep the value of the sum up to 10 and difference up to 0.
The best way to introduce arithmetic to your toddlers is through hands-on toddler math activities. Introduce your toddler to addition first and incorporate subtraction only when the toddler is proficient in addition.
Begin to teach arithmetic by using the finger method. For addition, teach the toddler to open up their fingers. For example: To add 2 and 5, show your toddler to open up two fingers first and then continue to open five more fingers. Now, count the total number of open fingers to get the sum. Also, teach your toddler the counting on method which means that after your toddler opens 2 fingers, start counting from 3 and not again from 1. This way, the last count will be the sum.
Teach subtraction in the same way using fingers. For example: If 2 needs to be subtracted from 5, show your toddler to first open up 5 fingers first, then fold 2 fingers back. Now, they can count the remaining open fingers to get the answer.
You can also use manipulative like blocks, legos, marbles, or real objects like fruits, snacks, etc. to practice arithmetic math activities for toddlers with toddlers. You can use the same principle above as in finger counting to perform addition and subtraction.
We hope that these amazing math activities for toddlers will help your little ones get started on their journey to developing early math skills.
Math is important for everyday life. Teaching toddler math has many benefits. It gives them a head start in school, makes learning easier, and prevents struggle with math. In Addition, it also aids brain development and enhances their experience of the world. Lastly, it also enhances their logical and critical thinking skills as well as boosts memory skills.
Approaching math for toddlers is not that difficult. Apart from the activities listed above, you can actually integrate math easily in day to day activities and explore various math concepts with your toddler. Here are some ideas for you.
- Counting the number of steps, houses, trees, etc.
- Counting plates, glasses, spoons during dinner.
- Sorting toys or sorting clothes during laundry.
- Pointing to different shapes and colors.
- Pointing out numbers. Example: House number, Car number, Phone number etc.
- Playing comparison games. Example: Which building is taller?
- Playing estimation games. Example: Guess how many sweets I can fit in my hand?
Have fun learning math with these toddler maths activities!
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