Math Games for Toddlers

By Rachel McMinn, Early Childhood Educator, Buckle My Shoe Preschool August 2, 2021

There are so many simple and wonderful ways to introduce math games to your toddler. The goal is to make math and all learning fun and engaging with no pressure on right or wrong, just simply being present and joyful during the experience. Associating math with fun is so important for young learners! 

Have your toddler set up a tea party

How is a tea party math? Simple: you are asking your child to display one-to-one correspondence. Each teddy bear and baby doll will receive one of each item: one plate, one cup, one treat, one napkin, etc. You can also build in basic counting as you go around and decide how many guests to serve. 

Use dice to make a fun movement game

For each roll of the dice, create a fun movement to go along with it. For example, if you roll a one, your child needs to jump up and down ten times. When you roll a two, do a bear walk across the apartment. Make sure your child is helping you count the dots on the di and before you know it, they will be telling you what they rolled!

Movement ideas:

  • Walk on tiptoes
  • Clap your hands
  • Do a crab walk
  • High five a sibling or parent
  • Flap like a butterfly
  • Downward dog pose
  • Spin around in a circle
  • Tickle your tummy
  • Dance like a robot
  • Stretch like a giraffe 

Cut out and decorate a pizza to learn basic fractions

Using cardboard or thick construction paper, create a large circle. Cut it into eight equal slices. Draw the numerals and make dots (or “toppings”) on each slice to indicate which piece it is, 1-8. This introduces the basic idea of fractions as your child realizes that each slice helps to create the whole pizza. 

Count your snack

Set up a buffet-style snack for your toddler. For example, include 1 graham cracker, 2 raspberries, 3 cheddar bunnies, 4 blueberries, and 5 raisins. Count each set of items before eating. Point out how the number decreases as your child eats. You can also discuss which snacks are large and which are small. Maybe you can have your child rearrange them in size order. There’s so much you can learn just by observing and tinkering, even with your snack. 

Symmetry painting

This is a personal favorite of mine. Art and math mix so beautifully together! Using a white piece of paper, oriented horizontally, fold it in half. Open it back up. Allow your child to squeeze a few drops of tempera paint in about four different colors onto the crease in the center of the paper. Once all of the drips of paint are there, re-fold the paper. Have your child help count to ten as you rub the to halves of the paper together and effectively move the paint around. Once you reach ten, open the paper back up. Your child will gasp in amazement – these always come out so beautifully! They often look like butterflies or other insects. And this is how you introduce symmetry to young children. What happens on one side of the paper happens on the other side, too.

Rachel McMinn is an early childhood educator at Buckle My School Preschool in Tribeca, who has taught the young 2-year-olds for almost ten years. She holds a Masters in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a Writing degree from Pratt Institute. She lives in Brooklyn with her infant daughter, her post-production & screenwriting husband, and two attention-seeking cats. 
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