Young children develop early math skills in a variety of areas, including problem solving and reasoning, number concepts, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, and patterns & relationships.
When children learn basic math concepts early on, they generally have more positive attitudes and way more confidence with mathematics later in school. Since problem solving is key to being able to do all other aspects of mathematics, we need to be sure to provide plenty of opportunities for problem solving, and not be too quick to help when they can figure things out for themselves.
- Numbers and Operations
- Collecting and Organizing
Learning About Geometry In Family Child Care
Almost any family child care provider I talk to will tell me they work with the children, helping them to learn their shapes and colors. That’s great. But, what does that mean? What are the children really learning?
To be competitive, and to sell their programs as equals to center based programs, family child care providers need to do a better job at talking about what the children are learning in family child care. For example, when you are out on a walk with the children and talk to them about the fact that the traffic signs in the neighborhood come in all different shapes and sizes, you are working on a basic math concept – Geometry!
Shapes are everywhere in our natural environment. We know children learn through play and everyday activities and experiences. I cannot think of a better place for kids to learn about geometry than in their own home… or a family child care setting.
Geometry is learning about shapes and space and includes the following elements:
- Position in space
- Spatial relations
To help children to understand these concepts, you can do and say the following:
• Include toys and materials with different shapes and talk about what they are called and
the elements of different shapes
• Have children cut items into shapes (paper, food, etc)
• Provide nesting toys and other materials that fit into each other
• Play shape themed games (treasure hunt, etc)
• Provide large cardboard boxes for the children to crawl in and out of
• Use positional words (in, next, over, under)
• Play body games (pat-a-cake, little piggy)
A pattern is objects, events or sounds that are repeated a number of times in a particular order. Children learn to spot patterns and recognize the relationship among parts.
To help children with patterns, you can do and say:
• Sing repetitive songs
• Follow consistent routines
• Talk about events
• Read books with predictable language
• Point out patterns
• Provide toys and materials children can use to make patterns -Rhythm Sticks are one of my favorites!
• Make a pattern and ask children to keep it going
There is a great article from NAEYC called The Patterns of Music -Young Children Learning Mathematics through Beat, Rhythm, and Melody that includes Tips for Using Music to Engage Children in Mathematics.
I’m guessing you are already doing many of these.
- Hellos and Good-Byes
• Point out the time on the clock and talk about what time Mom or Dad is coming back
• Match and/ or sort socks, shoes or even mittens upon arrivals, or to get ready to go outside or at the end of the day
• Blow ____ number of kisses bye-bye
• Let the children sign in and out on their own sign in sheets (Children love this and will remind Mom or Dad. It also promotes early literacy and writing skills!)
• Set the table –match plates, etc to shapes drawn on table – you could use tape to draw the shapes or have paper place settings with the shapes drawn on them
• Count how many settings
• Sort – silverware, cups, ec.
• Compare – Big /Little – plates, cups, bowls…
• Match -silverware, plates, cups…
• Shapes- plates cups and bowls are circles, napkins are squares, etc..
• Set up a pattern – with dishes or even food (my kids loved to do this with fruit snacks)
- Diapering and Toileting
• Count fingers and toes
• Count while washing hands
- Sleeping and Resting
• Count how many children – so how many cots do we need?
• Sort blankets and sheets
• Match teddy bears to nappers
• Count sheep
• Read a book on counting
What are some other activities you do that you can share with other providers to promote early numeracy?