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Young children are learning maths all the time through a wide variety of play experiences. From the time they are born, babies are surrounded by sense impressions. Shapes in particular are of immediate importance: babies react instinctively to the arrangement of shapes which make up the human face.


Children have many mathematical experiences in their home environment. For example:

• they learn about money as they go shopping with parents

• become aware of numbers as they count the stairs to bed

• start to understand the concept of time as they become familiar with the routine of their day – wash, dress, breakfast etc.


A child’s daily life offers many practical opportunities to learn about number, shape, space, sorting and matching. For instance:

• setting places at the table – a cup for me, a cup for you

• playing with water • steering the pram

• helping to sort the washing, matching socks, big shirt / small shirt

• tidying up – putting similar items together

• matching lids to saucepans


Here are a few ways in which you can use play to learn mathematical concepts at home


Books and Rhymes Enjoy stories and rhymes with your child that has a mathematical element, e.g. “One-two, Buckle my Shoe”, This can also help to develop literacy skills by showing your child that the print reads from left to right. Let your child count out items in the books – how many animals are on the page, how many items are blue. Using rhymes can also help develop your Childs awareness of sequencing.


Physical Play

• Develop fine motor skills through physical activity, e.g. Sorting out a jigsaw, Threading beads • Block play or playing with toy cars can help to develop sequencing by encouraging your child to sequence according to size, colour, use (e.g. bike, car, lorry) • Playing with different sized blocks can help to develop an understanding of weight and dimensions. • Tidying toys away allows children to sort into different sizes and colours. • It can also develop mathematical language – fi rst, second, third, how many are blue, which is largest / smallest.


Imaginative Play

• Simple activities like letting your child set the table for dinner can help develop counting skills, e.g. getting out three pieces of cutlery.

• Involve your child with household activities. After washing, allow your child to sort clothes into different colours, or different types of clothes, e.g. t-shirts and socks. This will help to develop a child’s knowledge of shapes and colours.