You are your child’s first teacher, which comes with the enormous responsibility of making your home stimulating enough to keep your children’s minds alert and active. “It must be safe, yet challenging. Organised but not too restrictive. Intriguing but not overwhelming,” says specialist educator Julia Gorham.
You may think maths and science activities should be put off until later in life, but there are a variety of ways to peak your little one’s interest in these areas at the preschool level. Educational psychologist Carina van Vuuren says children learn best through play. “If you provide enough opportunity for children to play and you talk them through their play processes, developmental milestones come naturally and easily.
“As a parent, it is your responsibility to offer your little one activities that foster exploration, hands-on experience and learning. Realise you are a model for your child’s high intellectual potential,” says Julia.
These are a few expert-approved ways your child can learn math through play:
Strive to create opportunities to help your child grasp numbers in the home. Incorporating learning into your day can be as simple as counting as you walk up the stairs with your child, and encouraging him to count his toys as he packs them away.
Your daily commute with your little one is another excellent opportunity to engage him and spark his curiosity. Ask him how many cars he can spot on the road, and encourage him to count the trees, for example. During mealtimes, ask him what shape his plate is as well as the shape of the food on his plate, like fish fingers and peas, for example. You can also ask him to count the number of utensils on the dinner table.
Here are some fun ways to stimulate your little one’s mind at home:
- Block play is one of the best ways to improve early maths skills. Your little one will be learning to count while comparing height and volume as he uses his imagination to build different shapes like skyscrapers, castles and unicorns.
A research study titled “Block Play Performance among Preschoolers as a Predictor of Later School Achievement in Mathematics”, published in the Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, shows block play during the preschool years leads to higher maths achievement in high school.
The researchers also prove that playing with blocks and puzzles is a way of supporting not only spatial thinking, but mathematical thinking too. The areas of mathematical learning in which block play plays a role include algebra, geometry, measurement as well as data analysis and probability.
- Puzzles present an opportunity for your little one to problem-solve, and because the main objective is to complete it, the process usually entails coming up with strategies of how to achieve this goal, which further develops your child’s reasoning skills. “Parents who spend time with their children completing puzzles, building with blocks, playing games and reading to them are helping them intellectually,” says Julia.
- Dominoes offers your preschooler the opportunity to explore and learn basic number sense as well as counting, matching, sorting and classifying.
- Card games, board games and apps that focus on numbers also help to improve your little one’s math skills.
Thobeka Phanyeko is mom to Oratile, 4. She is a journalist with a BA in Media studies from the University of Cape Town and has extensive experience as a journalist and content producer which she gained from Reuters, eNCA and Caxton Magazines. She is also a life coach and NLP Practitioner and is passionate about motherhood and women empowerment.