8 Easy Math Games for Toddlers

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

Boy and girl excited about playing with toys
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It's never too early for kids to start learning about math. From around the age of 2, your child is developmentally ready to understand the one-to-one relationship between a numeral and objects. They know, for instance, that two is more than one. To teach them important concepts and prepare them 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." Aim to work counting in throughout your day, such as lining up toys on the floor or pieces of finger food on their plates for them to add up.

2. Sort Objects

To help your child understand groups, you can sort things based on categories, such as color, size, shape, texture, or use. For instance, have them separate their toy cars from toy airplanes or spoons from forks. They can also sort building blocks by color or size, 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. They can also help with cooking, such as asking them to get four carrots, three apples, or two eggs.

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, rectangular toaster, etc. Also, show them how triangles can fit together to make a square and smaller objects can fit inside larger ones, such as bowls or cups.

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 backward 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 their stuffed animals, then line them up from smallest to largest. You can also encourage your child to stretch as big as they can and then curl up to make themself tiny. Talk about how people of different ages have different sizes, pointing out that toddlers are smaller than elementary school students but bigger than babies.

7. Teach Patterns

Patterns are also an important math concept for toddlers. Let your child arrange blocks or other toys in alternating color or shape patterns. Puzzles, building bricks, magnetic building tiles, and lacing toys also build on these skills of observation, repetition, and construction.

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. Ask your child how many of an item they can see or whether they have more of one type of item or another.

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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