Wondering how to teach math to toddlers? Build your little one’s skills with these easy and entertaining activities.

By The Editors of Parents Magazine
Updated April 15, 2020
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From around the age of 2, your child is developmentally ready to understand the one-to-one relationship between a numeral and objects. He knows, for instance, that two is more than one. To teach him important concepts and prepare him for school, consider playing the following eight games that double as math lessons for toddlers.

1. Count Together

Learning to count is a great introduction to mathematics for toddlers. Counting fingers and toes from one to ten is particularly fun when accompanied by rhymes such as "one, two, buckle my shoe." 

2. Sort Objects

To help your child understand groups, you can sort things based on category. For instance, have him separate his toy cars from his toy airplanes, and then count how many are in each group.

3. Set the Table

Teach your child that mathematics has real-life applications too! Setting one plate (preferably non-breakable) for one person, two cups for two people, and so on helps your toddler learn important skills.

4. Name Shapes

The naming of shapes is fundamental to your child's understanding of math. Play a game of finding squares and circles around the house (for example, point out your circular clock, square blocks, etc.) Also show how triangles can fit together to make a square.

5. Teach Spatial Relationships

Play games that teach the concepts of “near and far” or “under and over.” (For example: Walk towards me when I say “near,” and backwards when I say “far.” Climb over the chair and under the table.) Also, let your toddler practice volume and quantity by filling cups with water or sand, and transferring contents from one container to another.

6. Compare Sizes

Here’s a math game for toddlers that teaches size: Ask your child to gather his stuffed animals, then line them up from smallest to largest. You can also encourage your child to stretch as big as he can and then curl up to make himself tiny.

7. Teach Patterns

Patterns are also an important math concept for toddlers. Let your child arrange blocks in alternating color or shape patterns.

8. Use Math Concept Words

Phrases that denote quantity, like "a lot" and "a few," begin to take on meaning when used in everyday conversations. Make a point to include these phrases while grocery shopping, eating dinner, and playing games.

From The Parents Book of Lists: From Birth to Age Three, by the editors of Parents magazine with Marge Kennedy. Copyright © 2000

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