Maths Skills For Toddlers

Maths Skills For Toddlers

You may not realise but your toddler is acquiring maths skills every day. From shopping at the supermarket to cooking and gardening, your little one is beginning to understand the meaning of weight, size and numbers. Pretty amazing when you think about it!


Maths for young children isn’t just about numbers, although of course they are an important part, but about getting to grips with some of those slightly more abstract concepts like shape or relative sizes and positions. There are plenty of opportunities to help develop their awareness of these ideas by carrying out simple activities and routines well before they can start to count.


Toddlers pick up so much of their information about the world from hearing you describe things and beginning to relate those words to what they see in front of them so don’t hold back on the adjectives. Narrate your way through the day, talking about the big dog in the park and his little puppy friend, looking up at the tall building or pushing the buggy through a narrow doorway. You can then move on to talking about the impact of size, for example ‘the ball is too big to fit into that hole’.


It can be tricky to understand that weight is not dependant on size. You’ll often see a toddler surprised that they can’t pick up a small rock in the garden when they can pick up a football that to them looks bigger. Again, your early descriptions will be helpful here but this is a concept that needs to be felt ‘hands on’. Unpacking the shopping can be a great opportunity to hold lots of different items and separate them into ‘heavy’ items which can be placed on the floor and ‘light’ items which can be passed up to mum or dad to put on the table/work top. Baths are also the perfect time to examine which toys float and which sink. Handfuls of bubbles can be blown up into the air to show how light they are.


There are so many words to describe position that it can be confusing for toddlers so make up a game to practice. Turn a transparent plastic box or crate upside down and put a favourite toy or character in various positions around it. ‘Let’s put teddy on the box’, ‘can you hide teddy under the box?’, ‘where’s teddy gone? Oh he’s behind the box!’ or ‘shall we put him inside the box?’ 


Shapes are all around us but meal times offer a particularly good chance to talk about them. Some food is naturally a particular shape, round tomato slices or square blocks of cheese but you can also cut up items like sandwiches or use cookie cutters to get other shapes. Silicone bakeware now lets you cook star-shaped cupcakes or you can fry a heart shaped egg with a metal mould. Another fun game is to try and ‘be’ a shape, standing up tall with arms at your sides to be a rectangle or putting hands on hips and blowing out cheeks to be a circle.


Many complex mathematical ideas have their root in identifying groups of things with similar characteristics, like odd numbers, prime numbers, symmetrical shapes etc so practice talking about what makes things the same or different and grouping similar things together. This can be a handy game when tidying up when you can put all the animals in one box and the cars in another or collect up all the books first, then the jigsaw pieces. You can also see how things can fit into different groups by splitting them up first by colour for example but then mixing everything up again and splitting by size instead.


A helping hand
There are many maths apps available for small children that can complement what you are teaching them at home. The right apps can make learning basic maths not only easy but fun too. For more maths practice why not get your little one to play Numbers World at Nick Jr. Leap - link


Above all, talking about the world around you will help your child gain confidence in their ability to understand what they see and to feel able to ask questions, two really important factors in continuing to enjoy learning.


For more maths practice why not play Nick Jr. Leap