8 Preschool Math Activities And Ideas For Emerging Learners

Little blond toddler child playing with lots of colorful plastic digits or numbers, indoor. Kid boy wearing colorful shirt and having fun with learning math

Young children love counting (even though they may do so in their own unique ways), learning about shapes, and feeling like math “experts.” Preschool math opens up even more opportunities for them to explore and grow mathematically!

Your child will learn so many things both inside and outside of the classroom. Their early exposure to math and reading is essential to their developing brain. And we have 8 amazing math ideas for supporting their learning at home!

Preschool Math Goals

Preschool kids using hands to add up numbers

The goal for preschoolers is to learn five essential math skills. Let’s take a look at those skills below!

Numbers And Counting

Your child will focus a lot of their energy on counting numbers between 1 and 10. They’ll learn how to recognize them, read them, and write them.

They’ll also be exposed to the concept of one-to-one correspondence — the idea that you can only count each object in a set one time and, therefore, each number only represents one value.

Addition And Subtraction

Your child will learn the basics of adding two numbers together and subtracting small numbers from a larger group.

Sorting And Patterns

Patterns are not only pleasing, but they also help us understand our world. Your child sees patterns every day without always observing them: tiles on a kitchen floor and designs on fabric, for example.

Preschool is a time to help children to both observe patterns in their world and learn to extend patterns they see or create patterns of their own.

In addition to identifying patterns, preschoolers will also gradually learn how to sort a group of objects based on a given pattern.

Geometry And Spatial Reasoning

Shapes are everywhere! Your child will learn how to consistently and correctly identify them.

They’ll also be exposed to spatial reasoning cues. They’ll understand what people mean when they describe things as big or small, or as far away or nearby.

The Language Of Math

Preschoolers won’t just learn how to walk the walk — they’ll also learn how to talk the talk!

Your child will learn what words to use to describe math activities, like “adding” and “subtracting,” whether there are “more” or “less” of certain objects, and so on.

One thing to note here, though, is that sometimes it may be easiest to use terms your child will understand while they’re learning. For instance, if you have four cookies and you “take away” (instead of “subtract”) one, how many are left?

The best way to work on the language of math at home is by talking in math terms! When you’re having an afternoon snack together, you might point out that you have fewer grapes than your child or ask who has the most grapes.

Incorporating these and other math words into your conversations will get their mathematician brains rolling:

  • Less
  • More
  • Least
  • Most
  • Taller
  • Shorter
  • Equal to

Games For Preschool Math Practice

Cute little girl playing with abacus for preschool math

Numbers And Counting Activities

1) Counting The Rooms

This is an easy and fun activity to do in the comfort of your home! You and your child will walk around and investigate the quantities that make your house unique.

How many sinks do you have? How many couches are there? Do you have lots of posters and paintings all over the house? How many? What about the number of pets or stuffed animals on your child’s bed?

The possibilities are endless!

As you do this, you can carry around a post-it note and marker. After correctly counting the number of a certain object, write down the number and item and stick it on the wall or a piece of paper. That way, in the end, you can compare how many numbers “live” in your home!

2) Exercise Counting

Want to break a little sweat or get some energy out? Why not turn math into your own personal jazzercise session!

For this activity, you don’t need anything except for some open space and maybe some music to get your child excited.

You and your child will take turns picking a “move.” For example, the move could be jumping jacks. You will shout out, “Two jumping jacks!” Then your child will perform the move and count out loud.

So many exercises can be done this way; don’t be afraid to get silly! You can pull on earlobes, wiggle your fingers, karate chop invisible foes — whatever gets your child giggling and excited about numbers!

Addition And Subtraction Games

Pretty preschool teacher helping students with some preschool math

3) How Many Are Hiding?

For this game, you’ll need at least 5 (and up to 10) of the same small item. You could use Lego pieces, paper clips, dried kidney beans, and so on. The items should be small enough to easily hide under your palm or beneath a sheet of paper!

Start out by showing your child the total amount of items you’re playing with. In our example, we will play with 5 toy cars. Count out the total number of cars with your child.

Then, with their eyes closed, hide a portion of the cars under your hand or beneath the sheet of paper. Once they open their eyes, ask them, “How many cars are missing?”

They will count out how many cars are left. Then you can help them figure out how many cars are “missing” and needed to make the total number whole again.

You may need to help them out for the first couple of tries, but they will get the hang of it!

Sorting And Pattern Games

Little boy doing some preschool math at school

4) Making Patterned Bracelets

For this activity, you’ll need at least 10 colored beads of two different colors, some string, two markers (corresponding with your bead colors), and a pair of scissors. In our example, we will use the colors red and blue.

Draw out 10 even circles on a piece of paper. You and your child will use this to make a “pattern planner” for their beautiful bracelet!

Once they have colored in the circles and decided their pattern, they will have an idea of how to assemble their bracelet. They may have chosen a constant pattern, like alternating between red and blue, or randomized the pattern.

As long as they follow the pattern planner, they should get the idea!

5) Match The Pattern

For this activity, you can either draw a pattern on a piece of paper or get a bit more physical with it. Whichever you think sounds more fun for your child!

In our example, we will use clapping and jumping. Start by telling your child the pattern you created. For example, our pattern is clap, clap, jump!

Repeat the pattern with your child a couple of times. Then, once they have the hang of it, say, “Whoops! I forgot the pattern. I know it’s clap, clap, but what comes next?”

Your child will giggle and probably respond with something like, “Jump, silly!” Then you’ll jump together, completing the pattern.

This activity is great because your child will likely want to take a turn creating their own pattern for you two to follow. Allow their imagination to grow, as well as their pattern-making skills!

Geometry And Spatial Reasoning Activities

Smiling boy having a rest among heap of stationery

6) Shape Mobile

To get started with this activity, bend a wire hanger into a V shape. Then cut out circles, triangles, rectangles, ovals, and squares from colorful construction paper or let your child color the shapes on white paper.

Finally, punch a hole in each shape and use colorful ribbon to hang the shapes from the hanger. Now your child has a fun decorative piece to help them remember different shapes!

7) Shape Castles

For this activity, you’ll need to cut out a variety of shapes from different colored pieces of construction paper. Then, together, you will glue the shapes onto a blank sheet of paper to create a towering castle!

You can help your child out by providing reference pictures. Or, if you prefer a mess-free version, your child can try out the Castle Creator activity on our Learn & Grow App!

Math Language Activities

As we mentioned earlier, we believe the best way to help your child learn the language of math is by using it in your everyday life. But throwing in a fun game every once in a while couldn’t hurt!

Here’s an easy one you can try.

8) Ball Toss

For this game, you’ll write out several math symbols that coincide with terms your child is learning (+, -, =, >, <) onto separate sticky notes. Then place those notes on the floor or the wall.

Next, make a ball out of socks or use a small bouncy ball you already have at home. You will call out a math language term and your child will try to hit the symbol that matches it (+ for “add”) with their ball.

This activity may seem a bit advanced at first, but the more you talk about math with your child the better they will become at knowing which symbol to aim for all on their own!

Preschool Math Activities Can Be Fun And Effective

child kid boy and mother play colorful clay toy to learn preschool math

We hope these activities help you and your child in their journey to learn about numbers and counting, adding and subtracting, shapes, patterns, and speaking like a little mathematician!

All of these skills take time and practice to develop. We know by trying out a couple of these activities during the week, your child will develop a love of and confidence in math on their learning journey!

And don’t forget, for those afternoons when you want to change up your routine or let your child play independently, our Learn & Grow app is always available to support your child’s learning with personalized preschool math games (and more!).