Preschool Math Activities: Our Playful Math Curriculum

Before I taught Kindergarten I taught preschool.  I think having that experience made me a better Kindergarten teacher, as I was able to appreciate all of the playful learning that happens before children start school.  My son is of preschool age, but home with me, so I thought I would write about our homeschool preschool math activities and curriculum.

Preschool math activities

There are so many preschool math activities that it can be overwhelming.  I like to keep my focus on 6 main areas for developing math skills in 3 year olds and 4 year olds.

The 6 areas I like to focus our preschool math activities on are:

1.  Counting: saying “1, 2, 3 , 4” aloud

2. Recognizing numbers: seeing a ‘4’ and saying ‘four’

3. One-to-one correspondence: counting one object for one number – if there were seven toy cars on the table a child would point to one truck and say one, then a second truck and say two, and so on.

4. Shapes: recognizing and exploring simple shapes such as circles, squares, and triangles

5. Measuring: using different materials (such as blocks) to measure different objects and begin comparing objects in size.

6. Patterning: recognizing, extending, and creating simple repeating patterns (red, yellow, red, yellow or leaf, stick, stick, leaf, stick, stick)

The first three preschool math activities I feel the most important for wee ones to fully grasp before Kindergarten.

So many of these preschool number activities can happen naturally and in every day life.  When I do use ‘actual’ activities with my preschooler I keep them fun and meaningful.  Children are naturally curious and excited to learn – I want to keep that love and excitement for learning in my children.  So these preschool math activities are fun and hands on.  If my Sam were not interested in an activity, I would simply leave it be and introduce the concept in another way.  For each of the 6 categories I have given many preschool math activities to practice and reinforce the math concepts.

Our Homeschool Preschool Math Activities

1.  Counting.  Counting is a great place to start with math activities for preschoolers.  Counting is simply reciting the numbers aloud and can be done through songs and play.  Counting is different then seeing a ‘2’ and counting to 2 – counting is simply practicing the order of the numbers.  My favourite way to practice counting skills with preschoolers is through songs and poems.  Here are our favourite counting preschool math activities:

  • Alice the Camel, 5 little monkeys, 5 little ducks, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive
  • And should you be looking for preschool counting song lyrics or ideas you can find TONS over at Songs for Teaching – they have songs for EVERYTHING!!

2.  Recognizing Numbers.  At about the age of 3 or 4 years old preschoolers may begin to show an interest in numbers.  Learning to recognize the numbers is an important fundamental math skill.  Recognizing the numbers simply means that when my Sammy sees a ‘3’ he can say it is a ‘three’.  Here are some ways we play with recognizing numbers.

number activities for preschoolers

  • Learning numbers with painters tape: this game is a favourite at home.  We love painters tape and use it for playing pretty much daily!  For this activity I shaped the painters tape into numbers and we played lots of games!  Sam loves when I call out a number and action, like ” sit on the number 4″ or “do a donkey kick on the number 7”
  • This cloud hopping game by Learn Play Imagine is a great way to practice number recognition with preschoolers!
  • My kids love playing with blocks, and writing the numerals on the side is a great way to practice number recognition.  The Imagination Tree wrote about many math activities they use with homemade number blocks.
  • This Monster Number activity was done for Halloween, but could easily be adapted to fit any time of year!  It is a very fun a and simple craft, and excellent for practicing number recognition and tons of other math activities for preschoolers too!
  • Dot-to-dots are a great way to practice number recognition. B Inspired Mama has a fantastic idea for making a huge dot to dot perfect for preschoolers!
  • Here is a great number song for practicing number formation on Youtube by Dr. Jean.  It is also a great rhyming way to help wee ones remember which number is which!

3. One-to-one correspondence. This is an area we spend lots and lots of time with.  This skill can be tricky because it involves both counting and number recognition.  One-to-one correspondence is when a child counts one thing with each number he or she says – so if there were 6 blocks on the ground, a child would count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 pointing or touching each block one time as he or she counted.  There are tons and tons of activities that practice this skill!  Here are some fun preschool math activities to practice this math concept:

preschool math activities

  • I love this simple and nature based way for practicing numbers using sticks and spindle box from Montessori on a Budget
  • A very easy way to practice this skill is to have preschoolers help to set the table.  Counting out 5 plates, cups, forks, knives, and napkins are great math activities for preschoolers!
  • These simple math beads are sort of like an abacus for preschoolers – a great way to practice one-to-one correspondence!
  • Here are other beautiful math beads by Moon Frye.  Such a pretty way to play with numbers!
  • Crafts are always a hit with preschoolers.  One-to-one correspondence can easily be practiced with many crafts.  Here is a Halloween counting craft we did.
  • Adding some Science and magic is another playful way to practice counting.  This counting with magic activity was so much fun!

4.  Shapes.  Exploring and recognizing shapes is another important activity for preschoolers.  Preschool is a great time to introduce the concepts of sides, angles, and corners.  Here are some playful preschool math activities for practicing shapes:

math activities for preschoolers

  • Since most preschoolers love snack time, these snack shapers are a great way to introduce your preschooler to different shapes!
  • Going on a shape hunt was always a big hit in my Kindergarten class – and it is super fun for preschoolers too.  The Pleasantest Thing has a great post on a shape hunt.
  • This fun sidewalk chalk shape game by Baby Boy Bakery is a fun way to practice shapes – and could easily be made trickier by adjusting what you call.  Instead of saying step on a square, you could stay step on a shape with 4 sides or 4 corners.

5. measuring.  Learning about sizes and how to measure and compare things are very fun math activities for preschoolers. Using a tape measure is ALWAYS fun, but for these wee ones it is great to practice measuring in many different ways – like by using their feet, blocks, or bodies!

preschool math activities

  • Measuring with Lego is a favourite around here!  Nurture store has a great post on how they use Lego for measuring!
  • Measuring with playdough inchworms by Teach Preschool is a fabulous way to introduce measuring to preschoolers.

6.  Patterning.  Preschoolers tend to pick up on patterning quickly, perhaps because of all of the songs and poems they hear.  Whatever the reason, it makes it a great time to introduce this math concept! Here are some fun ways to practice patterns:

  • Using contact paper is a great base for practicing patterning with lots of different materials.  We made a patterning sticky snowman this winter.
  • These simple pattern towers by Frugal Fun for Boys are a great way to practice creating or extending patterns!
  • Tutus and Tea Parties uses threading beads on pipe cleaners to practice patterns.  Add some numerals on the end of those pipe cleaners and it is great for one-to-one correspondence too!
  • This is such a fun way to practice patterns (and so many other math activities for preschoolers too) by No Time for Flashcards!  Playdough Kabobs. 

As you can see, there are so very many ways to playfully introduce preschoolers to math activities.  I love working with 3 and 4 year olds because they truly love learning.

They are so inquisitive and interested in experimenting and playing with anything!  This playful preschool math curriculum draws on this natural curiosity and wonder and sets up preschoolers for success and a love of math!

Be sure to check out my post on Alphabet Recognition for preschoolers as well!

If you spend your days with a preschooler or two, be sure to check out my Book and eBook – perfect for busy preschoolers! A Year of Educational Quiet Bins: The secret to peaceful days at home with kids.

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  1. says

    I love the idea of learning numbers with painters tape. What a great idea!
    I know a preschool mom that would benefit from this post, I am directing her to check this out.

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

  2. Michelle says

    I have just found your blog and I am so excited! I can’t wait to try some of these activities out with my 3 1/2 year old! I am curious as to what number you aim to have them counting up to? My little guy is good to count to about 17 and then gets bogged down and just yells out numbers. I was thinking of trying to focus more now on one to one correspondence. I’m noticing that is where he needs some work.

    • Sarah says

      Hi Michelle~ I am so excited that you found us as well!
      When teaching numbers I like to focus on the first 10 for quite awhile, really getting to know what they mean, including a lot of the one-to-one correspondence activities. I take a lot of different opportunities to count higher naturally (like when we are going up stairs, counting berries on a tree, or something in a book). Just having little ones hear the numbers higher than 10 for awhile is often enough for them to start picking it up. Counting up to 17 is great! I love that you are responding to his cues and not pushing him past that number. For the preschool years (and in fact most of kindergarten, if not higher) I think (as a Teacher and a Mama) the goal is to simply expose children to many different activities and experiences – with numbers and so much more. It is tough to give a number goal, since each little one is so different and grow and learn in so many different ways. My 4 year old couldn’t count past about 14 accurately until about a month ago when (suddenly) all his experiences and learning clicked and he can now sail past 50. Other little ones I have worked with could simply count to 100, but didn’t really have a solid understanding of number concepts and relationships. I have found that once little ones learn to count to 20 the rest of the numbers come quite simply. Sorry, that is likely not much help! I love the idea of focusing on one-to-one correspondence though :)

  3. Nicole martin says

    Love this post… found it on pinterest. I have a 2 1/2 year old. She will be going to preschool this fall, but I still love doing learning activities with her. Are these skills in random order or is this usually how preschoolers develop math skills? She is learning to count while also learning to identify numbers 1-10. She also knows her shapes pretty well. Just wondering if this is how development typically occurs or what I should focus on next with her.

    • Sarah says

      Hi Nicole, so glad you found my space! These skills are definitely in random order. Great to dabble in with preschoolers – a bit from one area, a bit from another, building on skills as little ones master them and gain an interest. I like to stay with one area for a little while (any area) and then take a break moving to a different topic to let the last learning really solidify before building on it. Hope this is helpful! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

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